The marijuana revolution

Pot is a more complicated issue, given its essential harmlessness for many users and the crying need to lock up fewer Americans for nonviolent offenses. But one can support decriminalizing marijuana possession, as many states have done, while still doubting the prudence of legalizing (and, of course, taxing) its open manufacture and sale.

Whatever benefits legalization brings with it, it will almost certainly increase marijuana use, which has already risen sharply in the last decade. And as purely recreational as a joint may be for casual tokers, steady use isn’t always so harmless: it can limit educational attainment, and with it economic mobility, to an extent that mirrors the impact of growing up in a single-parent home.

Perhaps these costs are just the price we pay for liberty, in the same way that certain social liberals and libertarians regard the costs of family breakdown as a price worth paying for emancipation from sexual repression.

But liberals especially, given their anxieties about inequality, should be attuned to the way that some liberties can grease the skids for exploitation, with a revenue-hungry state partnering with the private sector to profiteer off human weakness.