Forget all the laws in existence. Forget the belief that using marijuana inevitably leads to stronger drugs. Look at the dollars! “the United States is… a major producer of illicit drugs, especially marijuana and amphetamines…In…the last year studied–people in the United States spent $66 billion on illicit drugs” (“Profile: United States 1). More recent figures show an even greater amount spent on marijuana alone: “Each year, Americans spend a whopping $39 billion on domestically grown marijuana, and another $7-10 billion on weed smuggled in from Canada.”(Comp para. 12). That total is about what taxpayers have to ante up to bail out the banks.
There is another good reason why, economically, legalizing marijuana makes sense. Right now, the crops grown in the U.S. are mostly grown in the poorest areas of the country. Some agricultural counties in California have found growing pot to be a tremendous “cash crop”, estimated to bring in as much money to farmers as strawberries or almonds or avocados. Then there is a lot of marijuana growing happening as well in certain poverty areas of Appalachia- that is Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee. The government considers these “High Traffic Areas.” Here is why: “Marijuana has ‘become a substantial component of the local economy, surpassing even tobacco as the largest cash crop,’ because, as the officials note, ‘in this tri-state area financial development is limited, poverty is rampant, and jobs are few'” (“Profile 18).
The door for future legalization is already open a little. This is because a number of states have approved the sale of medical marijuana, even though there are federal laws against it. “Thirteen states currently have medical marijuana laws, and President Obama’s administration has recently indicated it would not interfere with state medical marijuana laws” (Hoppin para 3). One state looks to be doing even more to eventually collect some revenues from marijuana: “An initiative in Arizona that (has been called) the ‘ideal state medical marijuana law, (is)incorporating lessons learned from other states and including dispensaries, state licenses and regularized tax collection procedures, is slated for the ballot in 2010” (Bock para 6).
At this point, one can hear some of the general public remark that just because people grow it and sell it doesn’t make it legal or morally right. Just how does the American public really feel? In the late 1960’s only about 112 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana. By 2005 that number has more than tripled. And the poll numbers show a further increase: “Another poll showed 44 percent of Americans support legalization. ‘If we continue on this curve- nd there is no reason to think we won’t- we’ll hit 58 or 60 percent by 2020,’ says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)” (Comp para. 6). There is not yet a majority favoring legalization, but the numbers are indeed moving up.
There is oine immediate eoconomic benefit. Reducing the number of offenders in prison, which surely costs tens of millioins of dollars annually. These bnasically are not hqrdened, violenmt or dangerous criominals. Even some law enforcement officials see a benefit in decriminalizing and legalizing pot. “‘Our current method of arresting, imprisoning, and prosecuting cannabis offenders all costs the taxpayer money and police officers’ time,’ says Dan Linn of the Illinois branch of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws” (Nave para. 6). The amount saved and/or recouped adds up to billions of dollars: “Do we really need to spend $8 billion a year wasting law enforcement’s time, and building and staffing huge prisons for marijuana offenders, which only serve to give them post-graduate degrees in crime? Couldn’t we find better things to do with the $14 billion a year we would reap in recouped costs and taxes?” (Farrell para 4). Further proof about how costly arrests for pot are come from California: “California reported 16,124 felony and 57,995 misdemeanor arrests linked to marijuana in 2007, the most recent statistics available´ (“Could Marijuana” para. 18
While the number of arrests and the cost of imprisonment, trials and other administrative costs may not be the main reason for lifting many restrictions on the sale and use of marijuana, there are some legislators who feel that it is time the money now being wasted could become tax income for many states that are feeling the pinch of debt. Again, California has one possible solution. There is a bill pending before the Legislature that would provide taxable income from the sale of marijuana. Basically, here is what this bill contains: “Assembly Bill 390 would charge cannabis wholesalers $5,000 initially and $2,500 annually for the right to distribute weed. Retail outlets would pay fees of $50 an ounce to generate revenue for drug education programs statewide” (“Could Marijuana” para. 16).
Chances are no legislation will pass that will completely legalize marijuana sale and use outside the medical purposes for which states now give permission. Despite the growth of poll numbers in favor of legalization, by the time conservative religious groups and concerned parents’ groups get done, nothing will happen. What needs to happen is more scientific evidence that marijuana is safe and that it does not lead to use of dangerous drugs. If there is enough evidence that might persuade the government to act. Right now there is no definitive proof about pot smoking from authorities the majority of people would believe. Still, those in favor of legalizing marijuana and taxing it feel that time is on their side. So, I guess anyone who feels that legalizing and taxing marijuana will help the economy and not damage the users and maybe reduce the criminal element of dealers and importers will simply say that time will tell.
Bock, Alan: “A new leaf?” The OrangeCountyRegister,
April 12, 2009 retrieved May 2, 2009 on
Comp, Nathan: “An end to the war on weed? Retr.May 2. 2009 on
“Could Marijuana Help the U.S. Economy?” March 30, 2009
Farrell. John Aloysius: “Marijuana: Tax It, Regulate It,
But Legalize It” U. S. News and World Report Mat 2, 2009
Hoppin, Jason: “Medical marijuana bill passes Senate”
The America‘s Intelligence Wire, April 29, 2009
Nave, R. L. “The economic argument for legalization” Feb. 26,
2009 on www.illinoistimes.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A9596
“Profile: United States”. (Drug Economies of the Americas).”
NACLA Report on the Americas 36.2 (Sept 2002): 17(2).
Informe. Gale. Los Angeles Public Library (Spanish).
2 May 2009