Milton Friedman Comes Out for Pot

Milton Friedman, one of the doyens of the economics profession, is one of 500 economists who has just come out in favour of legalising marijuana. The push is centred around a new study by Boston University’s Jeffrey Miron, which looks at the costs and benefits of legalisation, and concludes that the savings of legalisation will be about $7.7 billion. The signatories include a healthy smattering of top US economists.

In a Forbes report on the study, Friedman is quoted as saying:

"There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana. $7.7 billion is a lot of money, but that is one of the lesser evils. Our failure to successfully enforce these laws is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Colombia. I haven’t even included the harm to young people. It’s absolutely disgraceful to think of picking up a 22-year-old for smoking pot. More disgraceful is the denial of marijuana for medical purposes."

Just as interesting in the Forbes report is a discussion of which large US agricultural companies would dive into the market first.

The "multiple signatory letter from the nation’s top economists" is a hardy perennial in US public debate, but I don’t recall the last time we had one in Australia. Can anyone jog my memory?

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2 Responses to Milton Friedman Comes Out for Pot

  1. Brenton Caffin says:


    The ‘five economists’ (Peter Dawkins, John Freebairn, Ross Garnaut, Michael Keating, Chris Richardson) wrote an open letter in The Australian to the PM in October 1998 entitled, “Dear John: how to create more jobs”.


  2. Andrew Leigh says:

    Yes, I suppose that’s the most prominent, isn’t it? But it was quite a different beast, as they didn’t call for others in the profession to join them.

    Incidentally, Mike Keating is in the office next to mine.

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