Grover Norquist Gives Pot Taxes a High Five

| Fri Oct. 25, 2013 11:39 AM EDT

Grover Norquist must be really, really eager for marijuana to be legalized. So eager that he's willing to throw his anti-tax pledge under the bus in order to help the cause:

Norquist tells National Journal that lawmakers who signed the pledge and want to legalize and tax cannabis are in the clear. "That's not a tax increase. It's legalizing an activity and having the traditional tax applied to it," he says.

He compares legalization to changes in alcohol regulation, as when a state legalizes the sale of liquor on Sundays or allows grocery stores to sell beer and wine where they previously couldn't. "When you legalize something and more people do more of it, and the government gets more revenue because there's more of it ... that's not a tax increase," he explains. "The tax goes from 100 percent, meaning it's illegal, to whatever the tax is."

This is sophistry, of course. If the only tax on legalized marijuana was the traditional sales tax that most states already have, Norquist would be right. But that's not the plan in most places. Instead, there are special excise taxes just for pot, and those taxes are pretty high.

Of course, marijuana taxes have a few characteristics Norquist doesn't mention that might explain the real reason he's OK with them. First, they don't hit rich people very heavily. Second, they target an activity that social conservatives disapprove of. Third, the taxes primarily hit the young, not the oldsters who hold the whip hand in the conservative coalition.

Still, any port in a storm. Thanks, Grover!

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