POWELL: State shouldn't push weed; and housing can't be a right

Published on Monday, 22 February 2021 19:49
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Does recognizing that the "war on drugs" is a failure and that people are entitled to be left alone in their personal lives require not just legalizing marijuana and taxing it heavily but also putting state government into the marijuana business and turning that business into racial political patronage?

Governor Lamont and many Democratic state legislators say yes. They support legislation directing state government to award marijuana sales licenses preferentially to members of minority groups as a matter of "equity," because those groups have been disproportionately victims of drug prosecutions. Some legislators even want state government to finance the start-up expenses for the new legal drug dealers.

The issue may be a bit academic, since marijuana is already largely legal in Connecticut, the law having been greatly weakened in recent years and the federal government declining to enforce federal law against it in states that don't much want it enforced.

But racial patronage is offensive, not just in itself but also because it would reward people for having broken the law while making no similar reparations to people who obeyed the law and forfeited their chance to profit from the contraband trade.

The vision of loads of tax revenue seems to be blinding the legislation's advocates to the damage that inevitably will be done by full legalization, making the hallucinogen more available, especially to children. Some people get dependent on if not addicted to marijuana and thereby are pushed toward more dangerous drugs and lose motivation in life. How much tax revenue is this increase in social disintegration worth? And do the disadvantaged and demoralized communities that have been so harmed by the "war on drugs" really need easier access to intoxicants?

Tax revenue estimates for legal marijuana may be high, since illegal marijuana is not taxed at all. The more legal marijuana is taxed, the less competitive it will be with underground sales.

Then there is the problem of federal law. No state's criminal laws need to match the federal government's, but a state's licensing and taxing marijuana sales and even financing marijuana businesses would nullify federal law. That Connecticut already strives to nullify federal immigration law is no excuse.

So the best policy for Connecticut on marijuana and other illegal drugs might be simply to leave them alone, to repeal the state's criminal laws against them, and let the federal government enforce here whatever of its own laws it cares to enforce, while increasing drug rehabilitation services, more of which are already needed anyway.

That might be plenty of "equity" for everybody.

State legislators are also raising a bill to make housing a "right" in Connecticut. This is just another righteous pose now that the majority in the General Assembly has moved farther left. For the bill has no practical meaning.

If housing is to be a "right," nobody should have to pay for it - housing should be free. After all, "rights" are things no one has to pay for, like freedom of expression and religion.

And if housing is to be a "right," there is no stopping there. Food and medicine are also necessities of life and must become "rights" too.

How much housing, food, and medicine should be "rights," and how should they be paid for? The bill doesn't say. Money should be a right too; it should grow on trees. But it doesn't.

And how could a state make housing a "right," or food and medicine, without inviting all the hard-luck cases in the country, or all its slackers, to relocate there?

When housing, food, and medicines become rights, there will be little incentive for anyone to work. Then who will build the housing, grow and prepare the food, and manufacture the medicine?

Parents used to warn their children that the world didn't owe them a living. The housing bill proclaims that those parents were wrong. But of course fewer people today grew up with parents, so the housing legislation may sound perfectly sensible to them.

Once the bill's sponsors get publicity for their noble intentions, maybe state government will return to a more realistic premise - that government should strive to make housing ample enough so it is less expensive and consumes less of people's income, even as people pay market rates for it.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column, Editorials on Monday, 22 February 2021 19:49. Updated: Monday, 22 February 2021 19:52.