I recently had a conversation with a friend who works for the Republican Party. This friend is genuinely conservative, but unlike many people who claim to be conservative, they were not against decriminalizing marijuana. That said, they were against legalization.

Coming from a somewhat libertarian perspective, this person believed that legalization would: 1. Increase the size of government by making it regulate marijuana, and 2. Open up the market for a major corporate marijuana investment (think Marlboro or Monsanto). While I struggled to combat these arguments at first, I have now remembered why I consistently support legalization over decriminalization.

Black markets

If marijuana is decriminalized and not legalized, the effect will be the continuance of marijuana black markets. If the only way to get marijuana is through a doctor, which is more difficult in some states than others, people will continue to sell marijuana on the street. The effect of that is the furthering of violence and other problems presented by many groups that currently sell marijuana illegally.

Big Marijuana is coming

While the thought of a pack of Marlboro Mary Janes makes me cringe, I fear it’s coming no matter what. That said, the scenario that would make that possible isn’t necessarily bad. While we can expect major companies to get involved in the marijuana industry once it’s legal nationwide, the most important thing to focus on is keeping small operations healthy and prevalent across the country.

Just like there is a Budweiser but there is also a ton of craft breweries and home beer brewers, the regulations around the marijuana industry must protect home growers and small marijuana companies. As long as it’s not too difficult for me to start growing 10-20 plants at home and sell what I don’t want for profit, then I think we’re in a good place.

Small government isn’t always the answer

While I do sympathize with some libertarian ideals, like not growing the government needlessly, I think there are certain areas where we need a decent-sized government involved. If we have to expand our current regulatory agencies a bit to include legal marijuana in the mix, I’m pretty okay with that. A regulated marijuana industry will be safer, more fair and more legitimate overall. Let’s not pretend everything is better when an industry behaves like it’s in the Wild West.

[Photo by Justin Henry/Flickr]

About The Author

Thor Benson is a traveling writer currently based in Los Angeles. His writing has been featured in Vice, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast and elsewhere. He can be found in a run-down whiskey bar. Follow him on Twitter at: @thor_benson.

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