t this point, most people who have studied this issue (including Mr. Sabet) agree that the prohibition of marijuana has been a catastrophe. Police make hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests each year—663,000 in 2018 alone—wasting time that could be spent solving and preventing serious crime. Black people are arrested at many times the rate of white people, though both groups use marijuana at about the same rates. And these arrests follow young people for life, preventing them from finding jobs, housing, college scholarships and eligibility for loans. Their opportunities to succeed become greatly reduced, often pushing them down the wrong path. It’s a disaster.
Where Mr. Sabet and I differ is on what system should replace prohibition. He argues that we should decriminalize marijuana (“decrim”) so that using it is legal, but selling it is not. On its face, that seems to make sense. But this betrays a deep misunderstanding of how the criminal justice actually works. And by the way, “decrim” was the failed alcohol model during Prohibition.