The Republicans swept with the Democrats in yesterday’s midterm elections. Not a surprising result. The polls had been predicting more or less that outcome in the weeks before the election and it was all but unexpected. In fact, in my opinion, the interesting result of the elections had nothing to do with party candidates but with two highly debated political issues: minimum wage hikes and marijuana legalization.
Yesterday’s midterm election in the U.S. gave marijuana legalization important victories in key areas of the country: Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. This is, in my view, a very positive outcome and a move in the right direction. I am a long supporter of the legalization of all drugs and is fascinating to see how the case for legalization has been gaining ground very quickly in the U.S. and other parts of the world (e.g. Uruguay). We are seeing today what ten or fifteen years ago was simply unthinkable. At this pace, marijuana legalization could become a mainstream policy at national level in the next decade. The next big battle will have to be cocaine and the rest of the “hard” drugs.
On the other hand, yesterday’s midterm election gave minimum wage hikes a sweeping victory in Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska. While this result is not very surprising either (minimum wage hikes have always been favored at the polls), it is interesting to see this result and the one about marijuana happening at the same time (an in the case of Alaska, in the same state). We voted for liberalizing one market but for imposing controls on another. Why? One reason is that while millions of workers could directly benefit from increasing minimum wage hikes (although many others will lose their jobs precisely because of this policy), most of us do not believe that legalizing marijuana would have a direct impact on our lives. Is the marijuana vote a “might as well” type of vote then? Or is it a conscious recognition that prohibition and controls are highly inefficient? If so, how deep is that conscious recognition buried under hopeful personal incentives in the case of minimum wages?