Frances Woolley at the Worthwhile Canadian Initiative blog:
Milton Friedman — Nobel Laureate in Economics and adviser to Ronald Reagan — supported legalizing and taxing marijuana. Stephen Easton’s classic paper advocating marijuana legalization was published by the Fraser Institute. Why do so many right-leaning economists favour marijuana legalization?
Conservative economists typically believe that a person is a best judge of what is in his or her own interests. From this premise it follows that the government should not try to constrain or influence people’s behaviour. Yes, marijuana use has well-documented negative side effects, from memory loss to male breast growth. Yet if fully informed individuals decide that these personal costs are worth accepting for the benefits that marijuana use brings, the government should respect that choice. As Willie Nelson says “I smoke pot and it is none of the government’s business.”
[. . .]
Another reason for conservatives to favour legalization and taxation of marijuana is that they do not like paying taxes. Criminalization costs. According to a 2005 US study, legalization would save state and local governments $5.3 billion annually in reduced enforcement costs, while the federal government would gain another $2.4 billion federally. Locking up people for possession of a small amount of marijuana is a waste of resources, and good fiscal conservatives deplore waste.Taxing marijuana would be a money-maker: $6.2 billion annually, if marijuana were taxed at rates similar to those on alcohol and tobacco, according to this same 2005 report.Those revenues could be used to reduce deficits, or fund reductions in the taxes paid by conservative economists.
Conservatives have lots of good reasons to favour legalization. The people who should be fighting legalization are the small scale growers: little family-run organic pot farms wouldn’t stand a chance against industrial scale agri-business.