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 and for federal lawmakers to do the same.
First, a caveat. I do not advocate for marijuana, other than medical benefits. Contrary to arguments, I believe there can be harmful effects particularly with individuals with a predisposition toward addiction. But it’s here and 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 current president of the United States. So, let’s stop the hypocrisy.
Many youngsters who went to jail for possessing pot was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They ended up with criminal records, while others went on to become politicians, journalists, educators, sports and music idols and more. One bust for possessing marijuana at age nineteen can alter the future for any kid who might otherwise have landed a government job.
In some instances, thoughtful cops kick butt and send kids home with a stern warning, saving him/her a criminal record. Other cops won’t do that, because it’s not for them to judge but to merely enforce.
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 bring associated murder and mayhem that would vanish the moment of legalization. No black market equals no associated crime, no corruption, no need for more jail space. Simple as that. The twenty-five thousand-plus murders in Mexico these past years would not never have occurred if pot was legal, licensed and controlled.
So, let’s stop wasting tax dollars on enforcement and punishing people which accomplish nothing other than attaching criminal records 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 market thrives on laws that – let’s be honest – cannot be effectively enforced. Besides criminal behavior, they spawn public corruption. Cartel criminals support lawmakers who ensure that their underworld businesses remain profitiable. Without those laws, there would be no cartel.
The taxpayer not only wastes $14 million 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. Thus, the cost to the taxpayer is probably double the official figures.
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.
This losing game plan has been deployed since 1971. 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.