Once again the mass media are wringing their hands over damage to national forests and parks caused by clandestine marijuana farms, particularly in California. And yes, there are problems — damage caused by pesticides and rat poison used to keep animals away, not to mention the fact that the untaxed proceeds often go to some pretty unsavory characters.
But — and we’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again — these problems have nothing to do with marijuana and everything to do with foolish laws that consign this very large industry to the criminal underground, guaranteeing that it is completely unregulated and untaxed. California, after all, is a leading producer of two psychoactive drugs, marijuana and wine. The legally regulated wine industry is a boon to the state, producing tax revenues, tourism, and prestige. The state is, in effect, running a controlled experiment comparing prohibition to regulation, and it’s not hard to see which system works better.