The High Cost of Shutting Down One Medical Marijuana Operation

When Matthew R. Davies was growing and selling medical marijuana in California, the 34-year-old father of two “hired accountants, compliance lawyers, managers, a staff of 75 and a payroll firm. He paid California sales tax and filed for state and local business permits,” the New York Times reports. Unfortunately for him, federal agents raided his business, and “the United States attorney for the Eastern District of California, Benjamin B. Wagner, a 2009 Obama appointee, wants Mr. Davies to agree to a plea that includes a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.” Let’s set the legal questions aside and think through the costs of this course:

– The opportunity cost of focusing on other crimes

– $235,000 in incarceration costs

– Two young girls with an absent father

– Substantial lost tax revenue from his operation

– Other marijuana sellers going underground

– Less savory drug dealers, including violent cartels, getting more business

– More of a hassle for sick medical marijuana patients to get their prescription filled

Doesn’t that seem awfully “expensive” when the only real benefit is sending the message that you can’t get away with openly flouting federal drug laws? If that’s the biggest benefit you can plausibly claim, isn’t that a sign that the law should change? After all, it isn’t as if anyone believes that sending Davies to jail is going to make victory in the drug war any more plausible. Or appreciably decrease the number of people smoking marijuana. Or even significantly diminish the supply, since there’s always another person growing on the black market.

– Read the entire article at The Atlantic.