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An Open Letter to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey

Mr. Ducey:

In George Will’s recent column you come across as a politician genuinely committed to free markets (March 26).  Excellent!  I warmly applaud your support, for example, of the freeing of trade made possible by NAFTA.

Yet I urge you to reconsider your opposition to the legalization of marijuana.

As reported by Mr. Will, you justify your opposition to marijuana legalization by noting that you are “the son of a cop and the father of three teenage sons.”  With respect, how many people, including cops, are gunned down by sellers of beer and whiskey today compared to the number of people who were gunned down by such ‘merchants’ during America’s era of alcohol prohibition?  You must know that the answer is “many fewer.”  Physical violence isn’t part of the business plans of sellers of legal alcohol.  Suppliers of legal drugs today, such as Anheuser-Busch and Seagrams, compete for customers peacefully rather than murdering and maiming their rivals.  There’s every reason to expect that sellers of legal marijuana would be similarly peaceful.

As for your sons, I, too, have a teenage boy.  I would support drug legalization for no reason other than my selfish – indeed, obsessive – concern for his well-being.  Were my son, Thomas, to get it into his head to use marijuana, or even stronger drugs such as cocaine, experience overwhelmingly proves that he’ll have no trouble laying his hands on some.  Given this reality, I’d much prefer that the merchants with whom he deals be legal and in the open rather than illegal and in the shadows.  Thomas’s personal safety would be far better assured under a regime of legalization than under the failed and fatality-filled system of criminalization that you support.

But there’s yet another reason why my love and respect for my son cause me to support legalization: I want to teach Thomas what it means to be a principled champion of individual liberty.  His mother and I teach him that all peaceful choices – even those that we hope he never makes for himself (such as abusing drugs) – deserve to be unobstructed by the state.  True and full freedom cannot be limited only to those actions that you or I as individuals approve of; true and full freedom requires that no peaceful actions be obstructed with the use of force.

I would be a poor father were I to teach my son that freedom is only for those who act in ways that I – or he – approves of.  Therefore, to be a good father, I teach Thomas that freedom is for every adult who acts peacefully towards others – even when we, as third-party observers, believe those actions to be self-destructive.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030