Terminology Matters

Jul 03, 2008

drug war

Those of us working to reform marijuana laws often criticize government officials and the news media for using inaccurate or misleading terminology, but occasionally we pick up some of those bad habits ourselves. I just fell into this trap myself, in a column I just wrote for AlterNet about a recent WHO study and its implications for our drug laws. I used the phrase "whenever a state considers liberalizing its marijuana laws," to refer to proposals to tax and regulate marijuana like alcoholic beverages.

But, as a colleague pointed out, there is nothing either liberal or conservative about laws that simply make sense, and plenty of people on the political right, such as the late Milton Friedman, have supported such proposals. In addition, "liberalize" may be taken to mean "loosen" or "give up control," when taxing and regulating marijuana would increase control -- taking a market that's now completely unregulated and establishing commonsense rules and licensing of marijuana businesses.