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Bootleggers and Baptists in California

Via Kevin Drum, it seems the merry pot-growers of Humbolt County, California are getting concerned that their product might turn too legal:

Recently, “Keep Pot Illegal” bumper stickers have been seen on cars around the county. In chat rooms and on blogs, anonymous writers predict that tobacco companies will crush small farmers and take marijuana production to the Central Valley. With legalization, if residents don’t act, “we’re going to be ruined,” said Anna Hamilton, a radio host on KMUD-FM (91.1) in southern Humboldt County.

….Legalization could take many forms. But the conventional wisdom here is that fully legal weed might fetch no more than a few hundred dollars a pound, as more people grow it and police no longer pull up millions of plants a year. Illegal marijuana “is the government’s best agricultural price-support program ever,” said Gerald Myers, a retired engineer and former volunteer fire chief who moved to the county in 1970. “If they ever want to help the wheat farmers, make wheat illegal.”

This is an example of Bruce Yandle’s classic “Bootleggers and Baptists” model where the prohibitionist activists and the bootleggers together have an interest in a status quo that deters people from competing with the bootlegger. This issue with no new bars on U Street, 14th Street, or 7th Street is a similar dynamic, uniting fuddy-duddies who don’t like the idea of more nightlife coming to their neighborhood with the proprietors of incumbent nightlife establishments.

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