Can A Downward Turn In the Economy Bode Well For Cannabis Legalization?
Our Country’s History Says, ‘Yes!’
The financial meltdown of the 1930s saw income-tax revenues fall an astonishing sixty percent in three years. With the depression in full swing, the federal government was desperate for an alternative source of income. Anti-prohibitionists emphasized that liquor sales would boost government revenue.
Historian Norman Clark attributes the confluence of forces that drove people to call for the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1930 to the great depression, as well as a general consensus among the public that the consequences and side effects of the 18th amendment were futile and financially irrational. In 1934 congress successfully voted to send the 21st amendment (which officially ended the alcohol prohibition) to state conventions for ratification. This returned the power of the states to regulate alcohol. Within two years of repeal nearly every state had an agency to supervise the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages, and alcohol had ceased to be a controversial and politically charged issue. <http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/search/s_518872.html
ABC News Business editor Peter Ryan noted in his article, “No end in sight for US economic woes,” <http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/07/16/2305780.htm
> that Americans are facing what many economists regard as the biggest shock since the Great Depression.
Nouriel Roubini of New York University’s School of Business said, “This is going to be the worst US recession in decades and this is also the worst US financial crisis since the great depression.”
In the age of rising gas prices, mass inflation, a nationwide housing crisis, bank failures and a multitude of other financially draining policies, one might wonder if (and where) congress is looking for new sources of revenue. One unconventional but practical and effective resolution would be the legalization of marijuana.
Legalization, unlike decriminalization, would allow businesses to manufacture and sell marijuana while also being subject to state and federal tax regulations. A 2005 study authored by Nobel Lauriat Dr.Jeffrey Miron projected that the annual savings and revenues would amount to tens of billions of dollars. The overwhelming support for Miron’s conclusion is undeniable. Over five hundred economists, including three Nobel Lauriats (Milton Friedman, George A Akerlof and Vernon L. Smith) have signed an open letter to President Bush, Congress, Governors and State Legislatures endorsing Miron’s report. <http://www.prohibitioncosts.org/
Marijuana prohibition has been sucking time, energy, and money away from police resources that need to fight real crime with real victims. The amount of money that goes into arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating those charged with marijuana violations (most of which include possession) are in the billions. According to Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review and author of Weed Whackers, “there are about 700,000 marijuana arrests in the United States every year, roughly 80 percent for possession. [as of 2004]"
Here are a few unbelievable, yet undeniable facts regarding marijuana prohibition:
- Under federal law, possessing a single marijuana cigarette or less is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $10,000 fine, the same penalty as possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine or crack.
REFERENCE: J. Morgan and L. Zimmer. 1997. Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence. The Lindesmith Center: New York, 42.
- Almost 9 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana since 1992. That's more than the entire populations of Boston, Seattle, Cleveland, Miami, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Omaha, Austin, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Memphis combined!
- Taxpayers annually spend between $7.5 billion and $10 billion arresting and prosecuting individuals for marijuana violations. Almost 90 percent of these arrests are for marijuana possession only.
REFERENCE: NORML. 1997. Still Crazy After All These Years: Marijuana Prohibition 1937-1997 <http://www.norml.com/index.cfm?Group_ID=4428>
It is puzzling to understand where this inherent fear and social stigma comes from. If marijuana use is more prevalent now than ever before, why then is a legitimate, mainstream debate on legalization so taboo? It is time to acknowledge that prohibition has minimal benefits. Most of us don’t remember the prohibition of alcohol, but there is a clear comparison to be made between the latter and the prohibition of marijuana. We should therefore come to the same logical, rational and profitable conclusion that was reached by our predecessors over seventy years ago.