Forget about “The War on Drugs”, how about a “The War on Alcohol”. Great article over at Slate arguing that alcohol taxes should be tripled, among other things.
The columnist Reihan Salam advocates a Prohibition Lite; raising the alcohol tax to a point just shy of where large numbers of people will start making moonshine in their bathtubs. With marijuana laws being eased around the country and the regulation of legal weed becoming an increasingly hot topic of politicians and lawmakers, he thinks it’s a good time to revisit how we regulate alcohol sales.
Salam points out new Pew data that 69 percent of Americans believe that alcohol is more harmful to society than marijuana; and when asked if alcohol would still be more harmful to society than marijuana, if marijuana were just as easy to get a hold of as alcohol is now, 63 percent said that yes, it would be.
Most people see marijuana’s relative harmlessness as a reason for us to regulate marijuana as lightly as we regulate alcohol. I see things differently. The fact that alcohol is more harmful to society than marijuana is a reason to regulate alcohol more stringently than we regulate marijuana. In other words, let’s ease up on marijuana Prohibition and ramp up good old-fashioned alcohol Prohibition.
Mark Kleiman, a public policy professor at UCLA and his colleagues Jonathan P. Caulkins and Angela Hawken have suggested tripling the federal alcohol tax from 10 cents a drink to 30 cents a drink, an increase that they estimate would prevent 6 percent of homicides and 6 percent of motor vehicle deaths, thus sparing 3,000 lives (1,000 from the drop in homicides, 2,000 from safer highways) every year. Charging two-drink-per-day drinkers an extra $12 per month seems like a laughably small price to pay to deter binge drinking. Then, of course, there is the fact that a higher alcohol tax would also raise revenue. If you’re going to tax tanning beds and sugary soft drinks, why on earth wouldn’t you raise alcohol taxes too?
Kleiman et al. have also suggested creating separate “drinking licenses.” Bars wouldn’t just check the IDs of the young-looking. They’d check everyone’s drinking licenses, and those who’ve had them revoked for some reason (drunk driving, let’s say) would be bounced.
Maybe the politicians could tie some of these stricter regulations or laws on alcohol use into the ones that are making it easier to use marijuana. Just a thought.