The yes case for marijuana legalisation has the type of friends that make people prefer their enemies. In a few short months, they turned favourable polling into likely defeat.
The latest poll has them losing 51 per cent to 39 per cent. The reason is their arguments do not pass the laugh test.
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The first of these arguments is the carry on about the 870 people currently in prison for low-level drug offences. The effective yes case slogan is "too many drug dealers are locked-up".
Barely half a dozen go to prison each year solely for marijuana drug possession. The maximum term for marijuana possession is three months. Given that, you might suspect that these half-dozen people were gang members on the receiving end of some well-deserved police harassment.
Next up, we have Chloe Swarbrick tying herself into knots arguing that a legal market for dope will be smaller than the current illegal market. That is straight after arguing that prohibition failed to contain the illegal market. Somehow lifting prohibition will reduce marijuana consumption.
In California, 400 legal marijuana dispensaries are on Google maps along with at least 4000 illegal dispensaries. Stoners don't like to pay tax, so they keep buying from illegal suppliers.
Prohibition reduces consumption but at what cost? Alcohol prohibition in the US in the 1920s reduced consumption by one-third according to the best estimates. Prohibition also greatly reduced public drunkenness and hospital admissions for alcohol-related liver and other diseases. Violence and murder rates were ambiguous because there was a lot less alcohol-related domestic violence.
Prohibition ended because so many people were still drinking that the public corruption and gang violence was unpopular. Also, prohibition repeal advocates campaigned carrying feisty signs saying, "we want beer". They were willing to take the good with the bad from the end of prohibition. The fact that 1930s depression-hit governments were short of tax revenues was important too.
The no case is middle-class, dope-smoking successful professionals still want to be able to say marijuana is illegal when feuding with their kids about falling grades. These successful professionals light up on a Saturday night, but remember from their youth a few friends drifting off into a haze of smoke. Like every helicopter parent, they don't want their spoilt kids going the same way and dropping out.
The yes case can win by focusing on getting gangs out of the supply chain. Right now, because the gangs are in the supply chain, young people are offered free samples of harder drugs all too often.
The middle-aged, middle-class voters who are the swinging voters in the referendum fear hard drugs far more than they fear their kids smoking a little bit too much puff.
If young people are to be the face of the yes case, they need a comeback to Mike Hosking shouting to Chloe Swarbrick: "You are young, you know nothing, and you have never raised a family. Come back when you have done all that."
The answer is older people are more experienced but can be a bit out of touch. Young people know that when they buy marijuana, they can be offered harder drugs as a free sample. That is not like the long-time suppliers to equally middle-aged, middle-class dope smokers planning to vote no.
Young people know that some of their friends will be tempted to try these free samples of harder drugs. Let young people buy at legal suppliers who won't lead them into this temptation.
• Jim Rose is an economic consultant who blogs at utopiayouarestandinginit.com