29
May
10

Basic economics: it works, bitches

Every once in a while I have the Libertarian Drug Legalization Debate with someone.  You know how this goes: you make a comment about stupid-harsh penalties for, say, simple possession; they assume you just love teh ebil drug gangz0rz; you comment that those gangs are only interested in drugs because their illegality drives up the price; they swear up and down that things would only get cataclysmically worse should drug laws be loosened; you bring up Prohibition; they put on their serious face and say “that’s different!”

Well, let me put this delicately…

I fuckin’ told you so!

Okay, forget “delicately”.

Let’s begin at the beginning — where our intrepid NPR reporter demonstrates an understanding of basic economics nearly unknown elsewhere in public reporting:

For decades, illegal marijuana cultivation has been an economic lifeblood for three counties in northern California known as the Emerald Triangle.

The war on drugs and frequent raids by federal drug agents have helped support the local economy — keeping prices for street sales of pot high and keeping profits rich.

But holy shit, dude, CA is now admitting legitimate businesscritters to the pot market via medical dispensaries.  And look what it’s doing to the poor weed-growing hippies:

“There’s a tremendous amount of concern, borderlining on fear,” says the former underground grower who now cultivates medical marijuana.

He says the drop in pot prices is in part the result of more growers and a more tolerant legal landscape. But he says another factor is quality. Indoor-grown marijuana is increasingly favored by dispensaries and consumers for its looks, consistence and potency. It costs more to produce than pot grown under the sun, but commands as much as double the price. That’s one reason retail prices haven’t hit the skids.

“What’s happening is the people that don’t have quality product aren’t selling it,” Blake says. “So they’re the ones that are creating this panic. So it really comes back down to that, just like in every other agricultural industry. When you get too many vineyards and too many people growing vines out there, then only the good ones make it.”

What a fuckin’ tragedy.

But as usual, when an industry is threatened by sudden change, members of that industry rise up to demand that government protect them from the realities of a free and competitive market.  Even when that “protection” involves that government kicking down the industry’s own doors and — we presume — shooting their dogs:

In recent weeks the upheaval has spurred a series of unprecedented public forums about where things are headed for the marijuana industry, especially if Californians vote to legalize pot this fall.

“The displacement of persons deriving supplemental income through clipping, gardening and distribution of marijuana dwarfs the number of growers who will lose their income entirely,” says local activist Anna Hamilton, who organized a gathering in Garberville. She says the broader community is already feeling the ripple effects of falling pot prices.

“There are business foreclosures, storefronts closing. There’s a lot of instability and anxiety,” she says.

So, your carefully cultivated bubble’s about to burst?

Given the way politics usually plays out, though, I imagine we’ll start seeing subsidies for artisan pot growers in the Farm Bill within the decade.

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2 Responses to “Basic economics: it works, bitches”


  1. 1 aczarnowski
    May 30, 2010 at 08:26

    You’d think the journalists and social busybodies would have at least watched Weeds. I mean, it’s on TV and everything.

    [Disclaimer, I’m only through season 1 and I wouldn’t be surprised if it devolves into “is everybody in CA a whack job?” like Six Feet Under did, but the first season alone shows most of this in play pretty nicely. Besides, Mary-Louise Parker is on the list and it is laminated.]

    But thanks for the links too. Handy for those superior types that try to stomp the conversation with “well what proof do YOU have” never mind their inability to produce any.

    • May 30, 2010 at 20:18

      But That’s Different(tm)! (And you may have just provoked a blog post.)

      You’re very welcome for the links. I doubt the smug “Oh yeah? What’s your plan, then, huh?” types are likely to be persuaded by an NPR article, but at least it’ll shut ’em up for a bit.


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