California's Proposition 19
By David Henderson
A commenter on my post yesterday asked me what I thought about California’s Proposition 19, which would relax state and local government restrictions on marijuana. I voted for it because I want the government to let people do, in the late Leonard Read’s inimitable phrase, “anything that’s peaceful.”
But I did have doubts and my doubts are due mainly to this one passage of the law:
11304 (c) No person shall be punished, fined, discriminated against, or be denied any right or privilege for lawfully engaging in any conduct permitted by this act or authorized pursuant to Section 11301. Provided, however, that the existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs job performance by an employee shall not be affected.
I have been arguing this with my anti-drug war allies for a while now. I wrote a piece on the issue in July 2008 that pointed out that a clause like the above is wrong and counterproductive. Here’s how I began the piece:
Imagine that you work for an employer whom you respect, and you like your job. Then you find out that your employer uses marijuana for a medical condition. On further inquiry, you learn that he uses it completely legally and, as far as you can tell, it doesn’t affect his performance as an employer. Should you be allowed to quit your job?
If that gets you interested, read on. I ended as follows:
One thing most advocates of drug criminalization insist on is that employers be free not to hire those who use drugs, even if they don’t use them on the job. In advocating drug freedom, I have always assured people that I also advocate freedom of association for employers. But the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project have confirmed some of the worst fears of legalization’s opponents. The impression one gets is that these two organizations care only about drug freedom and are willing to trample on other freedoms. If they succeed in further restricting freedom of association, then, whatever their intent, they will make the drug-legalization hill even steeper.
If Proposition 19 is defeated, as I believe it will be, then, like Francisco d’Anconia, one of the characters in Atlas Shrugged, I will say to its proponents, although without any pleasure “Brother, you asked for it.”
Update: Some of the comments below, in particular, those of Seth and chipotle, show that they didn’t read my article I linked to. As regular readers know, I tend to answer commenters fairly often. I draw the line, however, when people’s comments show that they didn’t read the items I linked to. In chipotle’s case, there’s an outside chance that he/she did read the article but ignored it in raising his/her hypothetical.