I'm Just Sayin
By T.L. Johnson
|Doobie Or Not Doobie - The Case For the Legalization of Marijuana (Hemp)
For the purposes of clarification; I do not smoke marijuana nor do I use it in any other way. I have no vested interest in it one way or the other. I did, on a few occasions when I was much younger, smoke it and have no, to the best of my determination, ill effects from having done so. It did not lead me to try harder drugs or descend into some murderous, drug fueled rage or go on a killing, robbing or mayhem spree.
Marijuana should be legal to buy, grow, and use in the United States. It should also be taxed, regulated and controlled. It is time our politicians and all of the self-appointed societal guardians put to rest all of the hyperbole, conjecture and rumors based on some misguided sense of moral outrage. It is here and has been for some 7000 years (Guither) and is not likely to go away anytime soon. The United States Congress, fairly predictably, passes a law banning something, outlawing something, etc. based on a lot of information spoon fed to them by a party or parties who have a financial or personal aggrandizement interest in the outcome. These laws rarely, if ever, work and more often than not, make the “problem” worse. It did not work with prohibition, it won’t work with drugs. It is social engineering and there is probably no less qualified organization to attempt that, as though it were feasible, than the U.S. Government. The “War on Drugs” makes a good campaign slogan and will probably garner a lot of votes, and really, isn’t that what this is all about? It doesn’t do anything to make any of us any safer or better off. All the laws seem to accomplish is to make criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens. We beef up law enforcement agencies or create new ones specifically designed to address the latest issue, spend vast amounts of money arresting, trying, prosecuting, and imprisoning people, all with no appreciable slowdown or cessation of usage. For all intents and purposes; all it does is create criminals where there were none before.
The U.S. war on drugs started around 40 years ago and, so far, has cost in the neighborhood of 2.5 trillion dollars (Suddath), and I am assuming that number doesn’t include the cost of keeping all of those people who are in prison for some sort of marijuana offense. Roughly 12.5% of all prisoners, both federal and state, are in on some sort of marijuana related charge. These are people who were busted for possession or distribution or, lord forbid, being in the company of someone who was in possession (NORML). At an annual cost ranging from $27,000 (North Carolina Department of Corrections) to $44,000 (Skolnick) a year to keep a prisoner behind bars; it is completely irrational to continue this farce. There is a direct correlation between the homicide rate and prohibition whether it be alcohol or drugs. There was a huge jump in the homicide rate that directly corresponds to the prohibition of alcohol and another corresponding drop immediately after repeal. In the 1950s and 1960s there were drug laws on the books but they weren’t strictly enforced and the homicide rate remained low. When the “War on Drugs” was enacted, the homicide rate spiked and remained high through 1990 (Miron). Now it seems the homicide rate has moved to our supplier’s respective houses, aka, Colombia and Mexico, etc., although we do receive a lot of their overflow. Since marijuana and a whole host of other drugs are prohibited, their sales and production has to be done on the black market, an untaxed area of our economy. And when a dealer and customer or a dealer and wholesaler have a dispute of some sort, since they can’t use the court system or arbitration to resolve their dispute, they resort to the quickest, most efficient resolution, violence.
In an age where the news is absolutely filled with talk of cutting spending and raising revenue, it would seem to make sense to face reality and admit that the war on drugs is a lost cause, always was, always will be. Pharmaceutical companies will want it to continue because then they wouldn’t be able to charge ridiculous prices for drugs that are refined from marijuana, for instance. Drugs, by the way, which they didn’t invent, develop, or introduce so there is no legitimate proprietary claim on their product. Law enforcement will want it to continue because then they have a justification for enlarging their respective departments, seizing assets of offenders, selling them off, making money and enlarging their departments even more. And, when the drug action slows down, pleading to their respective cities, states, etc. how they need the money, putting more strain on already maxed out budgets.
One of the first things you learn in any economics class is that roughly one third of our economy is untaxed. Legalizing the sale and use of marijuana could correct a small percentage of the revenue that is now lost. There is, depending on whose data you use, a loss of revenue ranging from $13, 000,000,000 (Edwards) a year to $42,000,000,000 (NORML) a year because of some out of touch, unrealistic, ideal. There is no way to know exactly how much revenue is lost because of the underground nature of selling and producing marijuana. It is a safe bet however that our government is wasting a great deal of time and resources destroying lives and putting people in jail who shouldn’t be there.
Marijuana, or hemp, as it is sometimes called, can be used for a wide variety of purposes. It isn’t just a recreational drug. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of glaucoma in reducing the amount of pressure on the backs of one’s eyes or to help people who are undergoing chemotherapy to eat without throwing up, to name a couple. It can be used to make rope, cloth, paper, and whole host of items that we use every day.
The legalization, or not, of marijuana is a very complex issue and certainly can’t be comprehensively covered by one short article. There have been hundreds of economists who have backed the idea of legalization since it would add so much to the economy. It would free up resources that are now being used to arrest and prosecute marijuana users to be used for other things.
Another concern that is brought up on a regular basis by parents and others is the availability of marijuana to young people. It is already available to them, make no mistake about it. If you don’t believe that, you are deluding yourself. Soda water is available to kids at virtually every school these days and is most likely far more dangerous to your children than marijuana. Sodas are high in calories, are a contributing factor in childhood diabetes and obesity. Marijuana is non-addictive, doesn’t rot your teeth, doesn’t lead to harder drugs, contrary to that old myth, and compared to many other things that your children are exposed to, relatively mild. It is time we remove the stigma attached to marijuana smoking. We should tax it, impose stiff penalties similar to driving under the influence of alcohol if someone is caught driving while stoned, regulate and control it. It is highly likely that much of the violence from south of the border would disappear if we were to legalize marijuana in the U.S.. And, if it were legal to grow, we could explore and exploit all of the other uses that it has to offer.
The following is a list of resources for all Works Cited for Doobie or Not Doobie
"Cost of Supervison." North carolina department of correction. N.p., 2010. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://www.doc.state.nc.us/dop/cost/>.
Edwards, Ezekel. "Hundreds of econmists: Marijuana prohibition costs billions legalization would earn billions." ACLU. ACLU, 2012. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/hundreds-economists-marijuana-prohibition-costs-billions-legalization-would>.
Guither, P.. "Why is marijuana illegal?." Drugwarrant. WordPress, 2012. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://www.drugwarrant.com/articles/why-is-marijuana-illegal/>.
Miron, J. A.. "Alcohol Prohibition." eh.net. Economic History Association, 2010. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/miron.prohibition.alcohol>.
NORML, Pot prohibition costs taxpayers more than $40 billion per year. NORML, 2007. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://norml.org/news/2007/10/04/pot-prohibition-costs-taxpayers-more-than-40-billion-per-year-study-says>.
Skolnick, A.. "Runway prison costs trash state budgets." The fiscal times. N.p., 2011. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2011/02/09/Runaway-Prison-Costs-Thrash-State-Budgets.aspx>
Suddath, C.. "The war on drugs." Time magazine. Time Magazine, 2009. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1887488,00.html>.
Other sources I consulted for the writing of this article
Caulkins, Jonathan. Cost of Marijuana Prohibition on the California Criminal Justice System. N.p., 2010. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/2010/RAND_WR763.pdf>.
. "Marijuana Law Enforcement Costs More than $7 Billion a Year -- and Doesn't Work, Says New Report." stopthedrugwar.org. DRCNet, 18/0. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/379/report1.shtml>.
Miron, J.. "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition." Prohibition costs. Marijuana Policy Project, 2011. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://www.prohibitioncosts.org/>.
"Results of America's Drug War." TheDEA.org. TheDEA.org, n.d. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://thedea.org/itsresults.html>.
Stephan, James J.. "State Prison Expenditures, 2001." U.S Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/spe01.pdf>.
Szalavitz, M.. "Marijuana as a gateway drug: The myth that will not die." Time. Time, 2010. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://healthland.time.com/2010/10/29/marijuna-as-a-gateway-drug-the-myth-that-will-not-die/>.
Warren, J.. "High Cost of Prisons Not Paying Off, Report Finds." Common dreams. Los Angales Times, 2006. Web. 2 Jun 2012. <http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0608-05.htm>.