The cost of cannabis captures

A recent article on Stuff pointed out that there has been a number of police raids of cannabis plantations over the past few months. The justification for this is that cannabis is an illegal drug – and it has been made illegal because people believe that this is socially optimal. (Image source SMBC)

However, when I read the story this isn’t what went through my head. My first thought was crap – that will definitely drive up the demand for other drugs!

How does this work? Well cannabis is one in a array of drugs (including alcohol) which could be used for recreation – as a result these drugs are substitutes. If we increase the price of cannabis, then we increase the demand for other drugs. As these raids are destroying supplies, this will increase the price of cannabis – having that exact effect.

This concerns me, as I’m more concerned about individuals consuming and becoming addicted to higher level drugs (such as P) than I am about people getting stoned. As a result, I can easily conceive of a situation where these raids are not in the social interest.

Note:  The purpose of the image is to create a counter-argument you can use to argue with me – and also because I find it funny in its sarcasm 🙂

  • Every year it’s the same; police bust this, police uproot that, police destroy the other.

    This concerns me, as I’m more concerned about individuals consuming and becoming addicted to higher level drugs (such as P) than I am about people getting stoned.

    If alcohol were classed on a harm index basis, it would be a Class B drug (such as E or cannabis oil). Cannabis (Class C) destruction encourages more harmful drug substitution and consumption of alcohol.

  • It’s certainly possible, but I think that cannabis is a very imperfect substitute for hard drugs: it just doesn’t provide the same stimulus.

    Where do you think the threshold is that the quantity of cannabis in a tinnie gets small enough that people consider switching to harder (and far more expensive) drugs?

  • MikeE

    “This concerns me, as I’m more concerned about individuals consuming and becoming addicted to higher level drugs (such as P) than I am about people getting stoned.”

    Thats [rubbish].

    Thats like saying increasing the price of milk will drive up the demand for alcohol as both are liquid drinks.

    Decreasing sativa availability might increase teh demand for sensimilia, but I can’t see decreasing pot availability increasing meth demand – the simply don’t compare.

    One gets you a night subtle high and the munchies, makes you a little relaxed and music sound freaking awesome, and the other makes you awake for days in end and gives you a tonne of energy.

    Not all drugs are perfect (or even imperfect) substitutes for each other.

    The only reason pot is (or can be) a gateway drug, is because you have to deal with criminals to access it, and they often have other substances. If it was legal, it wouldn’t be any more of a gateway drug than beer or ciggarettes.

    Edited for language. Please avoid foul language in comments. – TVHE.

  • mary f

    I am a mother…. and i would gladly see my somone have a drink ( get drunk) and wake with a hangover. what i dont need to see is a person loosing his life to a peice of shit.. instead of living life this shit is ruling life… and god knows what it leads too.
    What you dont realise is that you think it relaxes you. It makes you paronide which keeps you alert. then the sleeping tablets are needed.thus the cocktail begins. Sleep 12 hours smoke 12…..
    But have you ever seen it make you smile……
    You can spend your life living or spend your life dying, and thats my view ” wake up and smell the roses “

  • mary foster

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I am a mother…. and i would gladly see my somone have a drink ( get drunk) and wake with a hangover. what i dont need to see is a person loosing his life to a peice of shit.. instead of living life this shit is ruling life… and god knows what it leads too.
    What you dont realise is that you think it relaxes you. It makes you paronide which keeps you alert. then the sleeping tablets are needed.thus the cocktail begins. Sleep 12 hours smoke 12…..
    But have you ever seen it make you smile……
    You can spend your life living or spend your life dying, and thats my view ” wake up and smell the roses “

  • “It’s certainly possible, but I think that cannabis is a very imperfect substitute for hard drugs”

    Agreed, it was an extreme example. However, even so there is some margin over which they are substitutes – if that effect exceeds any complementarity then we end up in a situation where this is suboptimal.

  • “Thats [rubbish].

    Thats like saying increasing the price of milk will drive up the demand for alcohol as both are liquid drinks. ”

    Yes – but at the same time that is partially true …

    “Not all drugs are perfect (or even imperfect) substitutes for each other. ”

    Definitely – but there is still some degree of substitutability.

    “The only reason pot is (or can be) a gateway drug, is because you have to deal with criminals to access it, and they often have other substances. If it was legal, it wouldn’t be any more of a gateway drug than beer or ciggarettes.”

    I actually agree with that myself – it is really just like prohibition. However, I wasn’t making the case for it being a gateway drug – I was hoping someone else would try to make the case.

    The primary argument against legalising weed is that it “normalises” drug taking. Ok I can buy it. However, doesn’t this also imply that legal alcohol and smokes should normalise drug taking as well? When I put it that way suddenly the argument becomes less convincing …

    “Edited for language. Please avoid foul language in comments. – TVHE.”

    When did that happen 🙂

  • “What you dont realise is that you think it relaxes you. It makes you paronide which keeps you alert. then the sleeping tablets are needed.thus the cocktail begins”

    Marijuana? Are it paranoia effects any more than the crushing depression that people can get from drinking alcohol?

    Personally I think legal marijuana with good education and information (and some high taxes) would be the best way to minimise any negative effects from the drug – just like with alcohol.

    When I think whether a drug should be illegal I try to think of its impact on “other people” – as if a person screws up their own life it really is their own fault. Marijuana appears to have less externalities than alchohol – so I can’t really understand why one is banned above the other …

  • insider

    “Marijuana appears to have less externalities than alchohol – so I can’t really understand why one is banned above the other …”

    Well about 10,000 years of alcohol integration into daily culture probably plays a part…

    “If it was legal, it wouldn’t be any more of a gateway drug than beer or ciggarettes.”

    THey are gateway drugs. How many drug users didn’t start with those two?

  • MikeE

    “Well about 10,000 years of alcohol integration into daily culture probably plays a part…”

    Theres about the same with Cannabis.

    Its been consumed by cultures all over the world without the cataclismic harm that the anti drug brigade think it causes for thousands of years.

    “What you dont realise is that you think it relaxes you. It makes you paronide which keeps you alert. then the sleeping tablets are needed.thus the cocktail begins”

    Mary F – have you ever even met someoen who has consumed drugs? Just out of curiousity?

    I’d be willing to bet that with yoru comments, you probably don’t even know the difference in effects of Cannabis vs Meth vs Ket vs MDMA etc.. I’m guessing that in yoru mind they are all equally “evil” – yet the considerably more harmful tabacco and alcahol aren’t.

  • Michael

    I like to think of drugs as complimentary rather than substitutions.

    If there’s a shortage of marijuana, the whiskey just won’t be the same.
    And without whiskey and reefer, I won’t even mention the cocaine.

  • insider

    MikeE

    While you may be right about the comparative lengths of use, the level of consumption and penetration of alcohol use into popular culture and cultural rituals is of a magnitude far beyond any other drug so your comparison doesn’t really hold up.

    We have widespread and plentiful written accounts back almost to the birth of writing of alcohol manufacture and its consumption by the general population. I don;t believe we have the same for C, notwithstanding its limited geographic spread

  • “Well about 10,000 years of alcohol integration into daily culture probably plays a part…”

    That is a very good point insider. However, if the use of other drugs could be legalized and incorporated into culture we wouldn’t need to think about this after a generation or two. Fundamentally, I’m interested in what is the optimal type of laws once all the social rules have settled back down – the steady state.

    I realise this can be too simplistic if the costs of transition are too high – however, are they in this case?

    “THey are gateway drugs. How many drug users didn’t start with those two?”

    Then they should really be held to the same standards as cannabis shouldn’t they?

  • “I like to think of drugs as complimentary rather than substitutions.”

    That is a dirty old spanner in the works. If they are complements in consumption there will be issues. However, if we tax each for their externality then the “complementarity” merely tells us that the legalization will help to increase welfare in two ways: By increasing choice, and by increasing the value of the current set of choices.

  • “Its been consumed by cultures all over the world without the cataclismic harm that the anti drug brigade think it causes for thousands of years.”

    “While you may be right about the comparative lengths of use, the level of consumption and penetration of alcohol use into popular culture and cultural rituals is of a magnitude far beyond any other drug so your comparison doesn’t really hold up.”

    I think Insider is right here MikeE – general society has a lot more experience with alcohol and tobacco than with cannabis.

    Think of it this way – if alcohol was JUST discovered, they would want to ban it too. Fundamentally, the set of drugs that can be legally consumed is path dependent.

    However, this path dependence suggests to me that “maybe” the set of laws we have now will not be socially optimal – I’m not sure.