This post was published in November of 2007. Reposted on this date, with comments included.
SIX REASONS TO LEGALIZE POT
The War on Drugs is lost. Our nation has spent nearly a trillion dollars since the 1970’s trying to enforce unenforceable laws, which have only served to fuel the black market and incarcerate millions of otherwise non-violent offenders.
If a football coach sends in a losing play, game after game, and never gains ground, he must either change the strategy or find another job. Lawmakers in America continue with the same losing strategy, year after year, while we pay for it with billions in tax dollars and human life. Tell me please, how much sense that makes.
The drug laws are in dire need of revision. Sitting atop the list: Marijuana.
In an open letter to the president, congress, governors and state legislatures, Harvard Economist Professor Jeffrey A. Miron called for the legalization of marijuana and replacing it with a system of taxation and regulation. More than five hundred distinguished economists from around the nation signed off on that letter, including the most notable, Milt Friedman.
In essence, he claims the combined savings from enforcement and revenues would reap upwards of $14 billion a year.
During my thirty years in law enforcement, I was never in a position to jail anyone for disputable statutes, i.e. prostitution, gambling or drugs. I was lucky. Murder, rape and robbery are indisputable crimes. But drug possession, prostitution and gambling, outside of man’s subjective determination, does not necessarily constitute criminal behavior.
It is more of an abomination against humanity to incarcerate human beings for years upon years in stinking cages and destroying lives for behavior that can be treated in more constructive, and less costly ways. We are a vengeful society who believes the only solution to undesirable behavior is to lock ‘em up and throw away the key. We are supposed to be civilized?
After seven decades of deeming these acts illegal, we should ask the question: Have laws prohibiting these behaviors produced the desired effect? Has it deterred people from engaging in the use of marijuana? We all know the answer.
Alcohol prohibition of the 1920s not only failed to stop people from drinking, it fostered the emergence of organized crime syndicates as we still know them today. Black markets can only exist at the behest of law makers. Cartel leaders and crime syndicates thrive on laws that keep drugs illegal. I know. In the 1950’s, my bookie stepfather funneled big money to state politicians every election year for one purpose: To keep gambling illegal.
I am not an advocate nor a user of marijuana. I abhor drugs. My own family has been touched with the horror of drug addiction. Well-intended but ineffective laws that kept marijuana illegal did him more harm than good. It certainly prevented nothing.
I concede, that marijuana may damage short-term memory, impair judgment, alter heart rates and has the potential to create anxiety, paranoia and lethargy. But there is no data available to suggest one death has been caused by cannabis. Diseases related to nicotine are responsible for over 430,000 deaths a year, yet cigarettes are not only legal, the tobacco industry has been subsidized by the government for many years.
I am among the groundswell that is growing in America to decriminalize marijuana. So are more than five thousand former law enforcement officers and prosecutors that belong to an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Visit: www.leap.cc
Besides the economists lobby, there are six solid reasons to legalize marijuana:
1 – Taxpayer waste. The direct costs involved in the federal enforcement of marijuana laws extend beyond $7.5 billion annually. That doesn’t mention the huge costs to state and local law enforcement which is double that. Add: the costs of court, prison and parole. At a time when a real war is being waged around the globe to protect our nation, we are chasing around after pot-heads and pot sellers who, in reality, present little danger to anyone except themselves.
2 – Wasted lives. With less than five percent of the world’s population, the United States houses 25 percent of the world’s prison inmates. Nearly 60 percent of inmates are in prison for drug related offenses, more than half of them, marijuana possession and/or smuggling. The annual cost for housing over two million inmates is $50 billion per year. This does not include ripple effect costs, such as lost wages, welfare to their families, broken homes, single-parent kids, plus the cost of courts, defense lawyers, probation and parole.
The true cost is more than $100 billion a year.
3 – The law is meaningless. Despite all the tax monies spent for interdiction, enforcement and incarceration, marijuana remains the third most popular recreational drug of choice behind alcohol and tobacco products. After seventy years of criminal prohibition, 15 to 20 million Americans are users of marijuana, while 70 million have inhaled pot sometime in their lives.
4 – The law creates criminals. Laws against marijuana fuel the black market and keep the criminals in business. And with those laws come the inherent dangers to police officers in every jurisdiction in America. They clog the court system, cost billions, incite corruption and create cynicism among the general public. With new laws that regulate and permit sale, marijuana smugglers and dealers will be out of business.
5 – It sets a poor example to the young. Opponents invariably argue that legalizing marijuana will send the wrong signals to kids. That doesn’t happen. Kids in every high school in America know how easy it is to buy a joint or an ounce of grass. It’s at their beckon call. It sends a signal that the law is impotent and easily broken. Those who believes that the illegality of marijuana has been a deterrent to pot smokers are living in dreamland.
6 – Medical marijuana. Twelve states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, with more to surely follow. Yet, the federal government continues to usurp states rights by enforcing federal statues prohibiting doctors from prescribing cannabis to patients suffering from disease-related pain, nausea, eye disease, epilepsy and other diseases. There can be no other explanation, other than corruption in government and intervention of the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. Visit:Factbook: Medical Marijuana
I could tell horror stories about young men and women who are needlessly spending many years behind bars, people who made mistakes, people who needed treatment for their own foibles, people who otherwise could contribute to society and bring joy to others in this world, people who are basically harmless to you and I, but will not see the light of freedom for much of their lives, detached from families and relegated to dependency on the state — you and me — for sustenance.
Milt Friedman and the 500 plus economists are correct. Will anyone lend an ear?
I’m not holding my breath.