The Anarchist Case Against Cannabis Legalization

November 21st, 2014   Submitted by M.K. Lords

TrapMarijuana is wonderful at best, and harmless at worst. Making this plant illegal has led to an increase in violence from government agencies and cartels, and people in every state are realizing what a mistake criminalization has been. In the recent midterm elections legislation passed legalizing the plant on various levels. Florida, where I live, narrowly missed the 60% supermajority needed to add a medical marijuana amendment to the state constitution. Many were disappointed and irritated, blaming young people for not turning out to vote on this very important measure. As one of those non voting “youths” (albeit narrowly), I feel that the ire of pro-legalization voters is undeserved. You see, legalization is a trap.

There Are Anarchists in My Minarchy!

I expect outrage from minarchists, but was surprised to catch so much flak from anarchists about my inaction. An anarchist acquaintance of mine laid into me about the importance of the state recognizing that marijuana is a plant people should be allowed to smoke. It sounded an awful lot like asking permission to do something I don’t need permission for. Every day thousands of people “vote” for legalization in the privacy of their own homes, despite it being illegal most places where this civil disobedience takes place. Apparently my encouragement of civil disobedience wasn’t enough.

Now, there’s a bit of a problem here because specificity of what is being legalized needs to be taken into account if we are to make a solid argument either way. I want to examine some of the trees in the forest of legalization.

Legalization of medicinal marijuana is different from decriminalization or even legalization of recreational cannabis. Each of these categories has nuances that deserve to be explored. The amendment proposed in Florida was limited to medical marijuana specifically.

Current Cannabis Laws in Florida

States have recognized that people suffering from some medical complications benefit from certain components in cannabis, specifically the non-psychoactive CBD compound. Even Florida, notorious for its incompetence at nearly every level of governance, has a law allowing the use of pharmaceutical grade CBD oil if you attain the correct documentation. But, advocates argue this leaves out many people who could use marijuana for medicinal purposes, so they supported Amendment 2, which would have “legalized and regulated” medical marijuana. From the description of the bill:

“In addition to considering various medical marijuana provisions, the legislature was presented with legislation that would have taxed and regulated marijuana like Colorado, a public policy proposal that St. Pete’s Polls found 58.8% of Floridians support.”

Decriminalization vs. Legalization

This language is problematic to anarchists, no? Those little words “taxed” and “regulated” leave the law open to tampering, and the creation of more laws. The law does not decriminalize cannabis in any way; it’s simply re-categorizing criminality. Overturning the law that makes the substance illegal would be preferable, but let’s be real; the state won’t consider legalization of any kind unless it benefits the state apparatus. Decriminalizing cannabis provides no benefit for the state. That is why you see its boot licking cousin “legalization” instead. Legalization at the state level happens in stages once the bureaucrats figure out how they and their friends in certain industries can benefit from it.

Democrats want to tax and regulate because it will generate revenue, but what is the revenue for? In Escambia County, the poorest county in Florida, as of 2012, 49.3% of taxes went to the county sheriff’s office, whose deputies frequently harass the homeless population. When the county cops aren’t busy slashing tarps and tents, the city police are stealing their blankets. I don’t want any money going to an increasingly militarized police force, or a county sheriff’s office under investigation by the DOJ for inhumane jail conditions. Unlike Democrats, I don’t want a more efficient government, nor do I think throwing more taxpayer money at it will make it more ethical.

Militarization of the Police? Not in My Legalization!

Legalization of marijuana would strengthen these irreparably corrupt police departments, and that is something no anarchist should support. Militarizing the police with increased tax revenues (and don’t pretend that revenue wouldn’t go directly to law enforcement) is the unseen consequence of legalization.

If we look at the bigger picture, legalization has boosted revenues for local and state governments in Washington, Colorado, and California. Even the District of Criminals legalized the plant for recreational use to get in on this cash crop. Do you really think it’s because they want to reduce the amount of people in jail?

D.C. has a piss poor track record of police brutality. If we take into account that a large percentage of federal taxes go to war, how counterproductive is it to support a law that increases funding for the warfare state?

Suppose that tax revenue goes to barbaric agencies like the DEA, who will continue the drug war on the federal level. Who do you think cops use their second hand military weaponry on? The answer hardly requires imagination.

Speaking of military weaponry, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 19% of taxes went to warfare spending in 2013. That is $643 billion. An anarchist of any stripe should be against boosting the funding of the war machine. Taxes already support the spread of the massive empire, and I see no reason to encourage that kind of antisocial behavior.

Legalization Doesn’t Stop Federal Raids

Even if cannabis is legal in D.C., it’s still illegal at the federal level. Considering there’s no stopping federal agencies from raiding dispensaries where it is legal, it seems again counterproductive to lobby for legalization. Under this administration, we’ve seen raids on dispensaries increase 80% despite promises from President Obama that he would respect state’s rights. Even more disturbing, these agencies specifically target medical marijuana patients. We shouldn’t expect them to handle recreational use any different. Anarchists should especially know how detrimental it can be to give the state power in regulating anything.

Unintended Consequences

The most common argument I hear from anarchists engaging in politics is that legalization will reduce the number of people thrown in rape cages for a weed, so even if you’re an anarchist it is beneficial to at least vote on legalizing marijuana in any form. This assumes more government regulation will lead to less prison time for offenders.
We often view laws through our own biased lens, which is quite different from the lens of the state. From legislators’ perspective legalization has nothing to do with reducing victimless crimes. Anarchists should know better than to believe laws granting the state more power will result in less imprisonment. Consider what happens when medical marijuana is legal using existing laws in Florida. You have to file paperwork in a government database declaring yourself to be handicapped in some way. We can’t predict how this information will interact with other laws but I assume the worst.

So, if you declare yourself medically defective you are allowed to carry a substance illegal to others. But the language of the Florida amendment was very broad, requiring more specificity to come later. For example, they could prohibit people with a prescription from carrying firearms. If you’re allowing the state to give you permission to obtain a substance, you are acquiescing to the rules it sets in place governing the substance. Maybe that’s an extreme example, but how extreme is it that a plant is illegal in the first place? Knowing what we know about the inefficiency and maliciousness of government is it unrealistic to be suspicious of legalization? Stranger, less sensical laws have been passed.

Let’s look at a more realistic consequence. Purchase of medicinal marijuana would require a doctor’s prescription. Who decides which doctors are qualified? Hint: it’s not your reasonable, common sense oriented friends. Also, how will this change the classification? It’s likely marijuana would be reclassified the same as other more dangerous prescription medications, which carry far worse penalties than small amounts of cannabis under the current laws. If you’re caught with a large amount of cannabis without a prescription, would it be the same as getting pulled over with a large amount of other prescription medications? According to a criminal justice lawyer in Orlando:

“Possession of a controlled substance, with that substance being a prescription drug, is typically a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, five years probation and/or a $5,000 fine. But the real danger with prescription drug possession is just how serious it can become with only a few pills. A few prescription drugs make the list as only a misdemeanor offense, these drugs are known as “Schedule V” drugs (but arrests for these are rare). Depending upon the brand/manufacturer, certain oxycodone pills can add up to a trafficking offense carrying three years of mandatory prison, and a mandatory $50,000 fine with as few as 7 pills. These pills have a street value of roughly $150-$200, so you’re not talking about a lot of money to catch a big case. The same sort of trafficking offense for cocaine would require $10,000 worth of cocaine, and pounds and pounds of marijuana.” (emphasis mine)

In Florida the penalties for possessing small amounts of prescription painkillers have been increasing as a result of more aggressive policing. If marijuana were reclassified in this category it would take less marijuana to throw someone without a prescription in jail than it does under prohibition. Florida has some of the harshest prisons and prison sentences. Legalization could result in more arrests–and harsher punishments–for less weed.

RickThis may not be the case for other states. Classification varies by location, but Oregon has reclassified cannabis as a Schedule II drug; the same category as opiates. Were other states to follow that lead, you could see more imprisonments for possession of smaller quantities since this law interacts with already established laws. Let’s just say I don’t expect LexCorp Florida™ to be competent or non-malicious in their application of any law.

Legalization does nothing to help users who don’t want to fill out all the invasive paperwork. More importantly, highly sensitive client medical records and identities would be stored in insecure government databases which could expose people to identity theft. Remember these organizations are notorious for security compromises, even at the federal level, so a government database of highly sensitive medical information isn’t necessarily a good thing.

What’s Left Unsaid

My biggest beef with any legalization legislation isn’t what is said, but what is glaringly omitted. If anarchists want to use the argument that more people will be kept out of jail, that’s all well and nice, but what about the millions still imprisoned who aren’t set free by these laws? If something like legalization can be so delicately navigated by the state then why couldn’t prisoner emancipation? Why aren’t there bills to right the obvious wrong of imprisoning innocent people? If the goal is to keep people out of jail, and not to bolster state revenue, one would think this would be a huge demand from legalization advocates. It’s not. Freeing innocent people should be one of the main reasons for legalization if the argument is that it will keep more people out of jail. Now, advocates may be conceding to compromises to get more tepid legislation passed, but regarding anarchists, prisoner emancipation should be something that can’t be compromised. We’re not free as long as people are still sitting in jail for a substance which is now legal.

The Chartreuse Lining

It comes down to whether or not you can trust a government to effectively legalize cannabis with no negative consequences, and whether this effort is worth your time. For anarchists this should be a no-brainer. An anarchist rejects the utility of the state for even the most basic goods and services. Why would this change when it comes to pet issues?

All of these critiques are potential problems as we see more states jumping on the regulation bandwagon. Let’s discuss the philosophical and tactical principles at stake in this situation. I understand why minarchists support legalization, but for an anarchist to argue for political solutions is contradictory. Maybe these anarchists aren’t aware of more effective alternatives than politics to affect change. Cultural shifts have been responsible for numerous policy changes, and for cannabis legalization this is no different. You don’t have to participate in politics at all, even if your desired outcome is legalization on the political level. Society has already voted on this issue and it is just a matter of time before the laws follow, even if they are disastrously carried out.

Guess how the failed amendment affected cannabis users in Florida? It didn’t. People will still go to their dealers and buy it regardless of whether or not it is legal. If needed for dire medical reasons, CBD is still available and there are methods of procuring other types of cannabis suited to your needs. Maybe use the dark web instead, which has actually reduced violence in the drug trade, just make sure you’re not using a site run by the Feds. If reducing violence and imprisonment is the goal of legalization, using government guns to do it seems conflicting. If you want legalization, live as if it is legal, and be careful—or don’t. It is the collective disobeying of a law that invalidates it; not magical words on paper enforced by terrorist organizations.

Let’s be realistic and not assume the mafia will be fair in its newest racket. Advocating legalization in this archaic legal system is not useful philosophically or on a tactical level. It’s totally fine if you do. It is your time to spend and I can understand why many libertarians would support legalization. Just don’t call yourself an anarchist.

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29 Responses to “The Anarchist Case Against Cannabis Legalization”

  1. Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

    Let’s consider the Geopoltical landscape for a moment. Consider the US and EU, “liberal deomcracy” where some rights are protected by the State in exchange for society regulating some parts of your life.

    The compare this to p countries that aren’t liberal democracies. Places like Chechnya, where if you’re detained you are under immediate threat of torture and murder.

    We can see that not all States are made equal. Note: Rights are a social construct, and they do not exist in the “natural” world. Any rights that you have, exist because of some form of government. Where government is regulation of the individual by society, which is caused by freedom of association. Side Point: There will always be some form government. Right now government is done by the nation-State (but there have been anarchist communities in the past, so this isn’t an argument against anarchism perse). However since competing nation-States is the current strategic imperative, being a citizen current global hegemon benefits us and I think it’s important to mention.

    The argument “weed should be legalized so that less people are incarcerated” is weak sauce imho. If we legalize murder, rape, and burglary less people will be incarcerated, I’m sure you see where this going..

    The reason weed should be legal on a federal level is to open the market up to non violent competition. This competition will eventually eliminate organized crime’s income in the USA, the largest drug market in the world.

    Should this happen organized crime will move onto other drug markets (they’re producing meth on an industrial scale in Mexico), and other markets entirely. Human trafficking is huge.

    We’ll never be able to eliminate human rights violators entirely but reducing the amount of money they make where possible seems like a good strategy for reducing their power. I wrote an article about this a while back it is here: -war/

    The goal is to get MJ legalized on the Federal Level to eliminate raids by federal agents on dispensaries. The intermediary step is to get the drug legalized or decriminalized in the various states first.

    If you google “cannabis legality by country” you can see several maps colour coordinating legal status around the globe. It’s been decriminalized in alot of SA.

    • Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

      Privately organized crime is insignificant compared to public organized crime. If rights are your concern, neither private nor public crime can be accommodated by participation. Voting is participation.

      Compromise always favors the ones with no moral base. The moral and practical never conflict. When they appear to do so, look deeper, check your perception, and know you made a mistake. Reality is not contradictory.

      • pattonNo Gravatar says:

        understanding the burden placed on the state to fund its own apparatua required it to find alternative measures to accomplish its goals which allowed for federal search and seizure, legalization as you can see is multi faceted but it allows for markets that would further challenge the state apparatus rather than accept it at face value forcing the state down a path eventually not of its choosing by laws and bylaws if we are to establish ourselves, with the eventual funding and influence to do so.
        Hindsight should always be 20/20 moving forward to help see us through without ever realizing what they did understanding the established end wasn’t a gift but always an achievement.
        none are so blind…….

      • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

        Don, you state “the moral and practical never conflict”. I just do not see this as accurate at all. For example, lets take one of the basics of Christian morality the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill”. From a practical standpoint this totally destroys one’s ability to defend one’s self. The libertarian non-aggression principle limits one’s ability to overthrow our police state. In general, absolute laws like morality normally is considered hinder one in responding to daily reality. General rules of conduct with the realization that one will need to make occasional exceptions seems much more practical to me.

        • Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

          You cannot justify the Christian moral code. It is irrational and impractical. That does not mean morality is irrational or impractical. It means the Christian code is flawed. That should be obvious by the command: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” That command assumes other gods exist, otherwise it would say: “Thou shall forsake belief in other gods.” In addition, no attempt is made to justify the code. We are supposed to accept it based on appeal to authority, i.e., obey it or be punished. This is an insult to any sovereign mind. It shows disrespect for our cognitive ability. Appeal to authority is anti-mind, anti-life.

          As for NAP not allowing overthrow of govt., you have to assume govt. is not initiating force. That is the very definition of govt.

          When you say day-day exceptions to morality are necessary, you are assuming morality is impractical. Perhaps you should reevaluate your moral code.

          • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

            Don, actually I agree with you about the government having already initiated force, but many libertarians seem to refuse to look at it that way.Also NAP supports the idea of only using force in proportion to the force used against you. That is a guarantee you will lose any conflict. It puts one always at least one step behind.

            Are not all moral codes impractical by the very nature of their being absolute and not flexible to the situation? I really do not see much difference between natural moral law and Christian morality in this sense. And if morality is practical then why worry about calling it morality? Just label it pragmatism and go on.

            • Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

              In “The Virtue of Selfishness” Ayn Rand makes the case for a rational moral code based on human nature, the need to use our mind, and work with others who recognize this and respect others sovereignty, as our only practical guide to action. Anything less is a self destructive moral code, as I think the worldwide mix of codes demonstrates with the authoritarianism giving us stagnant economies and war. Austrian economic theory, which studies decentralized economic action, also leads one to this conclusion. It is our unofficial moral code in our private lives, and responsible for all the success we enjoy. Unfortunately, it is not the code in the public sector, which is a counter force to life. If our species becomes extinct, or just reverts back to a dark age, it will be because of the lack of a rational moral code. If “rational self interest” wins out, it will take generations, or perhaps less if the internet brings worldwide uncensored communication. The best ideas only need a fighting chance to win. Censorship is anti-life.

              • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

                Don, we are mostly in agreement. I just find myself pretty cynical about your thought that the best ideas will win out if uncensored. I think most humans “thin” more with their emotions(and recent science seems to back this up) than using logic. So long as that remains true and the ruling elite have the power to spread disinformation it is hard to see the best ideas winning out. By the way, is not “rational self interest” equivalent to pragmatism?

                • Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

                  Within the last decade the word “feel” has been substituted for “think”. Is there a conspiracy to promote emotion as if a feeling were proof enough? It was observed by Ayn Rand that many got their philosophical beliefs from reading the Sunday comic strips. These beliefs were “absorbed” thru the subconscious and became guiding principles, no matter how irrational. She advised us to constantly “check your premises”, i.e., be aware of the reasons or values dictating your actions. Are they valid? Have they given satisfaction? Or, are you doing the same thing over and over, without getting the results you want? This is the argument I use when I am advised to vote. After 200+ years, democracy, i.e., rule by majority, has proven to be a failure.

                  • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

                    Don, thanks for reminding me of Ayn Rand’s advice. Being human, she also was guilty of “thinking” with her emotions at times, especially about Israel. But that does not diminish the value of this advice! Also thanks for your example. I will have to borrow it when speaking to my brother!

  2. Ben StoneNo Gravatar says:

    M.K.Lords has hit the nail directly on the head.
    Well done!
    Not to beat a dead horse by restating everything already stated, but why in the world would an anarchist trust government goons to write a “good” law?
    Imagine cattle arguing that the rancher should be trusted. Go ahead, climb up into that cattle truck. Look, free corn!


  3. Ed SiceloffNo Gravatar says:

    I am more for the repeal of government.

  4. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you very much for writing this article! Couldn’t have said it better myself!

    For all of the energy the voters will put into trying to legalize cannabis, they miss the fact that even if they “win” they are still losing on a thousand different issues every year where their rights are being violated.

    Institutions do not disappear because of greater participation. They disappear when participation dwindles to sufficiently low levels.

  5. TimNo Gravatar says:

    Great article MK. The other aspect of these “soft legalization” ballots is the use of it for candidate “issues voting” campaigns. We’ve seen it used over and over with abortion, gay marriage and other issues, the use of such efforts to draw out voters that might give one party or the other a potential advantage. It’s not clear to me that this was the case in this recent Florida election (perhaps because I lacked any interest) but look for it to be fully exploited in 2016 on a large scale.

  6. Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you MK for pointing out the impracticality of playing politics. One would hardly think an anarchist should need to be reminded of this, but sadly that is not the case. The irony is that a statist is more likely to understand the danger to statism from decriminalization, and the benefit to statism from legalization. The collectivist mentality is deep and pervasive, even in some anarchists. Hopefully your article will help them break their mental bonds.

  7. GenghisNo Gravatar says:

    Great article.

    The only chains on us are those we put on ourselves. We are the only ones who can remove those chains.

  8. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    I suppose you think that the re-legalization of alcohol was also a trap.

  9. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    Btw, if politicians in federal office actually adhered to that document called the constitution in order to make marijuana illegal the constitution would have to be amended to state that congress has the authority to make it illegal. If the constitution had to be amended to make alcohol illegal then the same would apply to marijuana and other plants and drugs. However politicians do whatever the Hell they want to.

    • GenghisNo Gravatar says:

      HR Rearden,

      That is a very good point. “Where did the politicians get the authority to make it illegal?”

      They handed us a collar and we put it on. Our accepting what they did gave them the authority.

    • Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

      Politicians amended the constitution to ban alcohol for the same reason Obummer went to congress (NDAA) asking them to give him the power of a king. The appearance of obeying a limitation on authority while removing that limitation is a contradiction most people will not recognize. They will only remember the first part of “going thru the motions” as if it made the immoral explicit expansion of power somehow moral. Almost no one will point out that what is now explicit was always implicit and routine, e.g., kidnapping, torture, murder. That is because the majority refused to even consider the possibility of such immoral acts by TPTB. However, they do know it is happening, if only on a subconscious level, as they demonstrate when they accept the premise in books, plays, and movies, e.g., the 007 literature. It may be pointed out to the statist that they readily accept as fact that other nations’ rulers are uncivilized but allies, then enemies, then friends again. They refuse to think about or reconcile such facts. That is because they have been well indoctrinated in public school. There, thinking is discouraged, and memorization of all the myths that glorify the country are rewarded.

      This is not a static or sustainable situation. It destroys cultures, eventually. We are in the final stage as evidenced by the open rule by decree, executive order.

      • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

        Don, a real good movie about this subject is “Unthinkable” With Samuel L. Jackson. What steps would or should be taken to get info from a nuclear terrorist to save millions of innocent lives? The movie hit this question hard and should be seen by everyone in my opinion. In the movie the pragmatic torturer is held back to some degree by others who are horrified by the inhumanity of it all allowing the “terrorist” to set off a nuke. A very thought provoking, well acted movie.

  10. I support Marijuana legalization 100% mostly because there’s some evidence it lowers sperm count. 🙂 deu116.full.pdf+html

  11. Political figures revised the structure to ban liquor for the same purpose Obummer went to the legislature (NDAA) asking them to provide him the energy of a master. The overall look of paying attention to a restriction on power while eliminating that restriction is a contradiction most individuals will not identify. They will only keep in mind the first aspect of “going thru the motions” as if it created the wrong precise development of energy somehow ethical. Almost no one will factor out that what is now precise was always implied and schedule, e.g., kidnapping, pain, killing. That is because most rejected to even consider the chance of such wrong functions by TPTB.

  12. Reverend DracoNo Gravatar says:

    As D. C. is a Federal Enclave – rather than a State – the legalization vote is de facto Federal legalization.

  13. Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

    This article essentially restates the old conundrum of the gradualist versus immediate change debate anarchist have been having for a couple generations at least. It also questions whether working through a corrupt system can bring about positive change. I think the second question’s answer is normally no, but I do not wish to state that as an absolute rule. As to the gradualist approach, Rothbard wrote long ago that like it or not gradual change is the only way it will ever happen. Unfortunately, for every positive gradual change there seems to be hundreds of negative changes! Without some catastrophic occurance (EMP attack, Yellowstone going up, etc.) the probability of the ruling elite losing power to a free society is extremely small. It seems to me that freedom oriented people will do best to try to isolate from the system to the extent they can. Perhaps the survivalists have the right idea!

  14. Another reason to support Cannabis Legalization is that it’s linked to lower sperm counts.