Now that the voters of two states (Colorado and Washington) have opted for the legalization of marijuana, it’s time for other states to examine their laws, including the U.S. government.
First, a caveat: I do not advocate for marijuana. Contrary to many arguments, I believe there can be harmful effects particularly with individuals with a predisposition toward addiction. (See link below) If it were a perfect world, pot would not exist, other than in pharmeceutical labs for development as a medical benefit. But it’s here and this isn’t China or Singapore. It’s part of every day life in America, laws or no laws. Up to twenty million people have used marijuana, which means each one of those are technically “criminals” including the president of the United States. So, let’s stop the hypocrisy.
Over forty years of a lost war on drugs have proven that strict laws, aggressive enforcement and harsh penalties are not going to put a dent into the amount of illegal drugs in our society, especially marijuana, which is the largest cash crop of the state of California. Rather, the black market thrives on draconian laws which also bring rampant murder and mayhem that would vanish the moment of legalization. No black market, no crime, no corruption, Simple as that.
So, let’s stop wasting tax dollars on enforcement and punishing people which accomplish nothing other than filling jails and attaching criminal records, often to youngsters who bear the burden for a lifetime. We can reverse the negatives by controlling the trade which would turn a tax burden into a tax plus.
According to the latest studies, taxpayers spend more than $14 billion a year enforcing marijuana laws.
More than 80,000 people a year die, directly and indirectly, from the use of alcohol.
More than 440,000 people a year die from using tobacco products.
No records exist that attribute deaths to marijuana.
Yet, because of a continuing “war on drugs,” we incarcerate nearly one million people a year for marijuana charges, 88 percent of which for mere possession.
Meanwhile, the black markets spawn public corruption. Cartel criminals support lawmakers who ensure that their underworld businesses thrive. Without those laws, there would be no cartel.
The taxpayer not only wastes $14 billion annually in law enforcement and incarceration activity, many more billions of incalculable dollars are spent on welfare, health care and residual costs of people going to jail unnecessarily. When a man or woman goes to jail, there is a ripple effect on the rest of their families, which often includes children. The taxpayer often assumes those responsibilities.
I often reflect on the North Carolina man who grew a few pot plants on the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway, cultivated for his personal use. A hard working landscaper, he had two small children and a stay-at-home wife. Honest, caring, productive, taxpaying. When he was caught and imprisoned for five years, his stay-at-home wife/mother had to go on welfare and work jobs with tips under the counter. The kids lost their mom at home and were relegated to day care centers. Medical bills were now the burden of the taxpayer via Medicaid. And the beat goes on.
Criminalizing the possession of marijuana means we create criminals out of non-criminals. And that is a crime in itself.
Yes, there are smugglers and sellers who are criminals. But they – and all the murders that are associated with them – would vanish by 90 percent or more if the black market was erased and marijuana was treated more like alcohol, controlled and taxed.
Besides saving multi-billions in criminal justice costs and relieving overwhelmed dockets in the courtroom, another $10 billion could be converted to tax revenue if marijuana was legal and available with restrictions, much like alcohol. A portion of those funds could be redirected toward improved treatment and rehabilitation programs and most importantly, educating the young much like we do with anti-cigarette campaigns.
We tried the prohibition in the 1920s. Crime soared after its inception, and crime plummeted after prohibition was repealed. We never learn.
Face facts. With two states legalizing pot, there will be more to come as the barriers to prohibition come tumbling down. So we might as well prepare for less inmates in prisons and more restrictions and laws concerning the “legal” use of the popular weed. It’s here. It’s not going away. But we can educate and stop the glamorizing in media, movies and advertisements.
The war on drugs has been deployed over forty years. It has unequivocally proven to be a losing strategy. If a football coach sent in losing plays game after game, there would be a demand for change.
We’re still sending in the same losing plays. Let’s make a change.