Razz-a-ma-tazz: Legalize Marijuana & Grow the Economy

Razz-a-ma-tazz: Legalize Marijuana & Grow the Economy

by Art Goodtimes

At his on-line town hall meet March 26th, Pres. Obama was asked if he thought legalizing marijuana might improve our economy. He laughed, joked about people who use Internet, and said, “No, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.”

His words were chosen carefully. It is a divisive issue, and would be a difficult strategy to accomplish his goal of growing the economy.

Nevertheless, the outlawing of possession or use of Cannabis is based on such prejudice and unscientific thinking that many expected Obama, of all people, to be willing to address it. Right now. Tomorrow.

But you don’t go barging into government focusing on every social wrong at once. That’s strategically unwise and quixotic. And Obama is nothing if not an intelligent man. A leader. Clearly he sees too many political pitfalls to take the legalization route on his own.

Then is legalization dead in the water? I don’t think so.

It’s high time we told the truth – when it comes to cannabis, the Drug Czar has no clothes. The science doesn’t support legal prohibitions for marijuana and legality status for tobacco and alcohol. The nicotine in tobacco is hugely addictive and combined with all the additives in commercial tobacco definitely carcinogenic. Alcoholism is a social ill with so many human casualties that it too once led to outright prohibition. But nobody dies from smoking pot. It’s a mild relaxant and euphoric with no discernible carcinogenic properties (according to the most recent scientific studies) and is not in itself addictive, if taken in moderation (like alcohol).

And beyond the faulty science used to justify the criminalization of cannabis, there are huge social benefits to legalization.

We could stop having to jail and pay for incarcerating huge numbers of otherwise law-abiding first offenders. We could decrease our inadvertent support for much of the worldwide illicit drug trade and its underlords. We could divert drug funding for our failed policy of substance control to substance abuse, take money from the criminal justice system and put it into health care. Medical use of cannabis would no longer be obstructed. Rural farmers would have a new high-value crop to grow legally for fiber, paper, oil and recreation. And, best of all, we could generate significant new revenues for all levels of government by taxing hemp and marijuana and regulating its legal cultivation, packaging and sale.

According to Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, "Federal, state and local governments spend roughly $44 billion per year to enforce drug prohibition. Miron adds that these same governments "forgo roughly $33 billion per year in tax revenue they could collect from legalized drugs, assuming these were taxed at rates similar to those on alcohol and tobacco.”

Imagine what we could do to help stimulate a failing economy by pouring billions back into depleted federal coffers, and opening up new taxing opportunities for all our state, county and municipal governments? If communities truly don’t want marijuana use in their boundaries, they can tax it astronomically. It will be a huge local disincentive and actually make the community money for any transgressions.

Miron is just one of the legion of economists, drug law enforcement leaders,  journalists, conservative former judges,  and presidential candidates  who say that it's time to end the marijuana prohibition era.

We need to agitate, and spread the facts like peanut butter on the breadbasket of America. Why are we punishing people for smoking a weed that grows wild in nature, that isn’t carcinogenic, that’s profitable to cultivate for a wide range of uses, that isn’t addictive (although one can become dependent on it), and that makes you feel happy (and less aggressively so than alcohol)?

Marnie Glickman of Green Change urges Pres. Obama to take another look at what he so cavalierly dismissed. As a Green elected official, I agree. Like full-cost accounting in economics, marijuana legalization and the legalization of all non-addictive, non-carcinogenic plant and chemical allies not only makes good scientific sense, it will make the country a lot of money.

It’s time we as a nation took a new look at marijuana in light of the international researchers’ thick stack of facts, changed our unscientific laws, and let legal cannabis help us out of this economic downturn.

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