Tim Herdt has a piece today on the politics of legalizing marijuana:

“Forget Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom. It says here that the most interesting political issue in California next June might not be the Republican and Democratic nominations for governor, but possibly a ballot proposition with the following title: “Changes California Law to Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed.””

The piece is here.

For an economist, none of the proposals goes far enough. Prohibition never works, and black markets are always a response to missing or inefficient markets, and they are always an improvement. The costs of prohibition are well known. They include law enforcement, corruption, increased crime, more prisons, lost taxes and the like.

As Tim describes it, the proposals “would legalize possession statewide, but declares that the buying and selling of marijuana would be allowed only in those cities that choose to permit, regulate and tax such activities.”

That’s fine, but it doesn’t go far enough.

What we need to do is completely legalize and regulate the production and sale of marijuana. Based on newspaper reports of drug raids, the stuff grows like a weed in California. Legalizing it and regulating it exactly the way we regulate tobacco and alcohol production and sale would reduce its availability to kids, decrease crime, reduce prison and law-enforcement costs, increase agricultural production and profits, and generate large revenues for the state.

Imagine fields of cannabis in our Central Valley. It’s easy if you try.