Bryan Caplan  

What Is Tyler Smoking?

There are two kinds of people ... Conservative Authoritarianism:...
Am I the only person who's noticed that Tyler has gone straight from predicting that marijuana legalization would never happen to Straussian fretting about the large effect of legalization on use

Tyler's original prediction was based on a strange voting model:
When it comes to marijuana legalization, I believe that the "anti-" forces will muster as many parental votes as they need to, to defeat it when they need to.  The elasticity of supply is nearly infinite at relevant margins.  Legalization may appear "close" for a long time, but in equilibrium it will not spread very far.  The "no" votes will pop up as needed.
I found this story absurd because...
...voter turnout isn't very flexible in general, probably isn't very flexible with respect to one marginal issue, and almost certainly falls far short of "nearly infinite" elasticity.  I strongly prefer the common-sense view that when legalization appears close, it is close.
True, Tyler could double down on his original story.  Maybe the large increase in use will galvanize parental voters, triggering re-criminalization.  But I'm happy to bet against this scenario.  The large increase in pot use notwithstanding, legalization will spread - not retreat.

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COMMENTS (4 to date)

There's a very simple way to keep marijuana legalization from causing large increases in pot us. Legalize untrendy drugs as well. As long as some drugs are legal and some illegal, the legal drugs will be the Official Mind-Altering Chemicals That Must Not Be Criticized. When heroin and crack are legal too, that's less likely.

kylind writes:

Some countries do seem to follow that pattern of always staying close to legalization, but never taking the jump.

Here in Germany, opinions have kind of stagnated over the last generation. It was one of the big political issues of the Greens, but it never took off.
If you look at opinion polls now, the 14-29 years olds don't differ from the 40-49 year olds on legalization.
That means it isn't solely about parents being against it, but the climb in popularity can stall out.

jb writes:

Most of the middle-class, college-educated, likely-to-vote parents I know would be happy if pot was legalized. Maybe this falls into the "nobody I know voted for Nixon" fallacy, but I consume all sorts of news and opinion from around the world, and legalized pot is not considered a big deal by anyone. Tea Partiers are mad about ACA and immigration, liberals and socialists are mad about inequality and corporate stinginess, fundamentalists are mad about gay marriage and abortion, and democrats are mad that everyone else isn't just submitting to their smug intellectual superiority.

No one is fussing loudly about pot at all.

NZ writes:

It's easy for things to become illegal and stay that way for the wrong reasons, but I'm not as sure about whether this works in reverse. Marijuana is becoming legal (again) for the wrong reasons...what makes you so sure it will stay that way?

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