Thursday, December 04, 2014

Gun Free Zones, Wal-Mart Free Zones and Marijuana Free Zones

This should work out just about as well as a gun-free zone, or a Wal-Mart free zone.

Smoking pot is not a good idea. Study after study has revealed that regular marijuana use depresses brain activity, sometimes permanently. A marijuana user is less likely to attain a college degree and can expect a lower net income than an abstainer. Marijuana users are more likely to spend time on the unemployment and, not coincidentally, are more likely to rely upon welfare. Dopers are less likely to find satisfactory personal relationships and are generally less satisfied with their lives than are non-users.

But those arguments have not dissuaded a great many pot smokers. And why should that surprise anyone? Despite a clear link between tobacco consumption and a prolonged, agonizing, lingering death from lung cancer or emphysema, tens of millions of Americans persist in smoking cigarettes or begin smoking cigarettes.

And there’s clear evidence that Washington’s decriminalization of marijuana has increased consumption. In the year before the implementation of Washington’s Initiative 502, just over 18% of blood tests taken from suspected impaired drivers in Washington revealed evidence of marijuana consumption. During the first year after the law took effect, that number rose to 25%, indicating a significant increase in usage.

I am going to grant the Clarkston City Council the benefit of the doubt and give its members credit for having taken all of these factors into account when they voted to forbid the sale of legal marijuana within the city limits.

But even if they did, their vote represents a fine example of a fool’s errand.

Back during the prosperous days of the Bush Administration, when everybody had jobs and city coffers were overflowing with tax revenues, the Moscow City Council snobocracy decided that they didn’t want a Wal-Mart super store operating within its pristine city limits. Wal-Mart already had one of its smaller stores conducting business in town, but the company sought to replace it with one of its much larger stores. The snobs said, “no.”

So Latah County stepped forward and said that they’d be happy to collect the tax revenues that a big box store would generate and quickly approved construction right on the Moscow City limits.

It never happened, but the episode showed the futility of Moscow’s action.

Something similar occurred in Chicago, IL. When Wal-Mart asked permission to build a superstore within the city limits, the Board of Aldermen bowed to the unions and said, “no.” So Wal-Mart built its store six inches outside the city limits.

Chicago has the distinction of demonstrating the futility of Wal-Mart free zones and gun free zones.

And so no one should be surprised to learn that another jurisdiction is stepping forward to fill the void created by the Clarkston City Council. Nature tolerates vacuums far better than free markets.

Only days after the Clarkston councilors voted to keep I-502, the initiative that decriminalized marijuana, out of town, the Asotin County commissioners decided to pursue legal marijuana sales just outside Clarkston’s city limits. And should they succeed, Asotin will collect a share of the millions of dollars in tax revenue that legalized pot is predicted to generate.

And those marijuana users who wish to make their purchases legally will simply drive into the county to make their buys.

By banning legal pot sales, Clarkston has done as much to reduce marijuana consumption with its jurisdiction as gun free zone signs have done to keep armed sociopaths out of public schools and movie theaters. We know how that worked out.

Illegal marijuana sales, which will probably make up the lion’s share of marijuana consumption (it’s cheaper I’m told), will continue unabated within the Clarkston city limits. It’s highly unlikely that the council’s vote will reduce marijuana consumption by even one gram. The sole, substantive effect of the Clarkston City Council’s vote is that the city will be left out when the tax pie is sliced.

And so Clarkston will continue to suffer all of the social and economic maladies that marijuana consumption brings, and will just have to do without the tax revenue that could be used to ameliorate those ills.

As I said earlier, I’m going to grant the Clarkston city councilors the benefit of the doubt and assume that their votes were informed by the same data that I presented above and that their vote wasn’t simply bigotry. But they still deserve an “F” for economic illiteracy.

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