Politicians are still stuck on the ban

Few of the explanations for Prohibition’s ultimate uselessness are better than those found in the 1969 song Creedence Clearwater Revival, Contraband: “Take yourself a glass of water, do it against the law.” See how good water tastes when you can’t have it at all. Bootleg, bootleg, bootleg, scream. “

That’s a good way to say that when the government bans stuff people always want it and they will do almost anything to get it. If you don’t believe CCR lyricists, you haven’t watched Netflix enough shows on the Mexican Drug Trade, which shows how drug eradication efforts drive demand, bribe government officials, and reward the most ruthless suppliers.

We have known these lessons for a long time. Eighty-eight years ago last Sunday two alcoholic states, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and another, Utah, approved the 21st Amendment to the Constitution repealing the 18th Amendment ban on the manufacture, sale and transport of intoxicating beverages. This ended a 14-year experiment in madness.

“By the 1930s, it was clear that Prohibition had become a failure of public policy,” History.com Noted. Adopted against a backdrop of progressive welfare, the ban “did little to curb” alcohol consumption and much to create modern organized crime syndicates. Stuck in the Depression, “money took precedence over morals, and the federal government turned to alcohol to quench its thirst for the taxpayer money it desperately needed.”

At that time, the only groups supporting prohibition were “Baptists and smugglers “– the first for religious reasons and the second because it protected their territory. There’s nothing a cartel hates more (even more than G-men) than legal competition, where disputes are settled by dragging competitors to court rather than throwing their corpses at bridges.

Cutting government profits often protects an industry, in a similar way that paying “protection money” to the Mafiosi keeps a business going. In California, however, the government has grown too greedy in its management of its emerging cannabis industry, thus defeating the goal of legalization.

Californians spent the Proposition 64 Weed legalization measure in 2016. Its proponents made the appropriate conceptual argument: legalization would turn off the black market and provide revenue that funds government programs. Income was much lower than expected.

The “legal weed industry has struggled with high taxes, opposition from local governments and heavy regulation,” according to the libertarian Cato institute. Explain. “As a result, a large part of the market remains underground…. Estimates (E) from 2018 suggest that legal sales represent only 20-25% of total sales. “

The problem is not legalization, which is sound policy that reduces the cost and injustice of prosecuting people for victimless “crimes”. The problem is the persistence of prohibitionist restrictions, which keep the underground economy flourishing. At least Proposition 64 attempted to legalize more a product.

What explains California’s efforts to impose new bans on highly addictive products that are currently legal? Governor Gavin Newsom signed last year Senate Bill 793, which banned the sale of flavored tobacco products. He is awaiting a referendum next November.

This is a ban in its own right and will have the fully predictable consequences that come with government bans. The law aims menthol cigarettes, as well as vaping and various smokeless tobacco products such as Swedish snus.

There is no doubt that tobacco companies have targeted African Americans in marketing menthol, but an outright ban on sales will lead to black markets, such as peddling. “Loosies” in the streets of downtown neighborhoods (and all the potentially dangerous police encounters that will result).

“Economic studies show that cigarettes and e-cigarettes substitute for each other. ” wrote public health professor Kenneth Warner in the Washington Post. “(I) if the prices of electronic cigarettes increase relative to the prices of cigarettes … some people will smoke cigarettes that would otherwise have used electronic cigarettes.”

He was referring to the Biden administration’s misguided attempt to increase taxes on nicotine alternatives which are, according to the top british health agency, 95 percent safer than cigarettes. Imagine how many smokers will revert to their deadly habit if California bans their sale, or how many underground contractors will find ways to smuggle them into the state.

In terms of alcohol policy, California regulators have done a decent job of learning the lessons of prohibition, given that alcohol sales are not hampered here by many prudish regulations that are commmon in more conservative states. I recently visited Pennsylvania, which requires hard liquor to be sold in state-run stores with the choice and vibe you’d expect in a DMV office.

The ban does not apply only to “sin” products and services such as alcohol, drugs and prostitution. As these editorial pages have frequently detailed, California prohibits honest labor through the limits of Assembly Bill 5 on independent contracts and through professional licensing rules that turn tinkerers into thugs. Instead of legalizing honest work, the state punishes “economic crimes”.

Like tobacco and other addictive substances, labor is very similar to water. People will do whatever they need to do to find it. The only real beneficiaries of all the bans are smugglers.

This column was first publication in the Orange County Register.

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