Give it away, now: this clause will rescue legalization

By Jeremy Daw

High taxes, burdensome regulations, ruinous application fees, and artificial scarcity only seem like good ideas compared to prohibition. The War on Drugs has set a low bar, indeed. As political compromises, the kinds of heavy-handed rules now spun for regulated cannabis industries in Washington and Colorado were arguably worth supporting, as a way to move government incrementally away from police state mode and toward a free society. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be any fun.

Fortunately, an under-reported clause in one of the ballot-driven legalization bills holds out hope of redeeming the entire policy experiment, at least in Colorado. Amendment 64, which alters the state constitution to allow restricted sales of cannabis there, also allows another activity, almost unrestricted: to give marijuana away. Article XVIII, section 16(3)(c) of the Colorado constitution now provides that “transfer of one ounce or less of marijuana without remuneration to a person who is twenty-one years of age or older” by any adult who is also at least 21 is not a crime. And that’s it. Entrepreneurs dreaming of opening a marijuana “establishment” must face a bevy of dizzying hoops; sales are subject to outrageous taxes; civil penalties apply to anyone caught breaking the rules. But on the subject of one adult giving up to an ounce pot for free to another, the rest of the law is completely, gloriously silent.The act of giving cannabis away can take many possible forms. Most common, perhaps, may be the time-honored ritual of passing a joint around a circle of friends – a form of sharing unlikely to go away any time soon (it should be noted that many patients in medical states are restricted against even this simple act). But this is only the beginning of the possibilities. Charities can be formed to supply combat veterans and rape survivors with high-grade marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress. Those suffering from alcoholism or other forms of addiction could also avail themselves of such services, if they need a way to calm withdrawal symptoms. Not least of all, adherents to cantheist religions can finally practice their ancient sacrament almost as freely as any sect which incorporates alcohol or tobacco into their rituals.

These would all be welcome developments, but sooner or later sharing cannabis will depart from the realm of mere charity to become an overtly political act. Seasoned activists, armed with a sense of righteousness honed through decades of civil disobedience, will find a new target: high taxes, heavy-handed regulations, and maybe most of all the insensate greed which poses the only real threat to legalization still left intact. Multinational corporate conglomerates, already positioning themselves for the emergent market for legal cannabis, may resort to ugly tactics: monopolistic protectionism, price gouging, union busting, targeting addicts, targeting kids. If this happens, a grassroots movement – call it ‘Occupy the bong’ – may form to fight such blatant commercialism by creating one in which for-profit companies cannot afford to compete. Why would anyone pay for weed if they can get it for free? In an age of obvious regulatory capture, such a people’s movement provides the strongest protection of liberty.

These are dynamic times in the cannabis industry. Much has been accomplished, and much more – for both good and ill – may be just around the corner. But even as the ugly side of commercial regulation may rear its tangled head, in Colorado at least lies a corrective solution: a market for marijuana which is truly, completely free – in every sense of the word.


2 thoughts on “Give it away, now: this clause will rescue legalization

  1. “Why would anyone pay for weed if they can get it for free? In an age of obvious regulatory capture, such a people’s movement provides the strongest protection of liberty.”


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