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Should We Legalize Marijuana to Close the Budget Deficit?

Should We Legalize Marijuana to Close the Budget Deficit?

In the United States, someone is arrested for a marijuana offense every 36 seconds. More arrests for marijuana possession occur each year than for all violent crimes combined. And yet, marijuana use has skyrocketed 4000 percent since it was banned in 1937. Something isn’t working, and perhaps the money spent prosecuting marijuana offenses would be better spent elsewhere.

If you haven’t already seen it, you may have heard that a TV ad is airing in California that pushes for legalizing and taxing marijuana to help close the $26.3 billion budget deficit. In the ad, Nadene Herndon from Fair Oaks, who has been a marijuana user since she suffered a series of strokes, says that the government is ignoring people who want to be taxed: “Instead of being treated like criminals for using a substance safer than alcohol, we want to pay our fair share.”

Is it that simple? Could legalizing marijuana really rescue California? Burdened with the largest state budget deficit in the nation, California is suffering tremendously; the recent budget proposal makes enormous cuts in public education and health services. But California is also home to the nation’s largest amount of domestically grown marijuana. Advocates of legalizing the drug claim that cash-strapped communities would benefit hugely if their state or local governments could collect taxes on even a small portion of marijuana sales.

Democratic state assemblyman Tom Ammiano proposed a bill that “would remove all penalties in California law on cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, or use of marijuana, natural THC, or paraphernalia for persons over the age of 21.” His legislation would allow California to regulate and tax the sale of marijuana.  If the state taxed $50-per-oz. of pot, it would gain an estimated $1.3 billion in revenues per year. While he was unsuccessful this year, Anmiano expects to revise the bill for next year and try again.

But there’s more to the debate than just the budget deficit. What about marijuana itself? The drug is less dangerous than some legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol, and thirteen states already legalized marijuana for medicinal uses. But some argue that people are simply using the economic crisis to legitimize their favorite drug. People who oppose this legislation claim making pot more readily available at a cheaper price will only increase societal problems, especially because of the addictive nature of the drug. And if we’ve put so much effort into reducing the use of tobacco, why advocate smoking something else?

Aaron Houston, who worked with the Marijuana Policy Project to put the TV ad together, says that legalizing marijuana is also about controlling it. Judging by the increase in pot use over the past couple decades, our present system is clearly flawed. Houston says we should legalize marijuana so that we can regulate it and keep it out of kids’ hands.

Interestingly, it seems the concept of legalizing marijuana is gaining popular support. According to a recent Field Poll conducted in California, 56 percent of the state’s registered voters support legalizing and taxing pot to help reduce the budget deficit. On a national level, polls illustrate that more than 45 percent of American adults are open to legalizing the drug as well. While the focus of the marijuana debate centers on California, it is by no means irrelevant to the rest of the nation. After all, marijuana is the nation’s largest cash crop, valued at $36 billion per year — that’s greater than wheat and corn combined.

No matter what side of the debate you’re on, marijuana undeniably holds the potential to bring in huge revenues for our country. In a crippling economic time, it’s certainly tempting. But do people just want to get high in peace? Is it realistic to think that legalizing marijuana will allow us to control it too? Or is time we overcome the taboo of marijuana and recognize that it is a relatively safe substance that offers a much-needed remedy for many of our social and financial problems?

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3:56PM PST on Nov 11, 2009

legalize it.

4:27PM PDT on Sep 10, 2009

Have to agree with you MJ. You might as well blame the alcohol I'm sure the guy tried before he tried pot.

"Mother's milk leads to cannabinol!"
--George Carlin

1:25AM PDT on Sep 9, 2009

DD, I have to admit, you are certainly a sad case. Too bad you have to keep giving yourself away with the same tired DEA lies that have been refuted over and over again by scientific studies. Roach on the floor doesn't proove impairment.
No such thing as a 'gateway' drug. Wise up.

12:04PM PDT on Sep 7, 2009

MJ=In regards to your comment left in my
e-mail address I will answer your questions since you seem to need glasses or cant seem to read and don't know much about the law and how it works. I said that I had a Daughter that was killed. That makes her a "girl". As far as the 3 strike rule...have you ever heard of consolidating charges (running them together) I guess not. Well duh? Also, I got the charges in two different States.Yes,the man was found to be under ONLY the influence of Pot for after finding a roach (you do know what that is, don't you) in the floor board of his RV that gave them probable cause and reason to Piss test and blood test for the purpose of prosecutation on Vehicular Manslaughter and DUI.I never stated that all of MY charges were for pot. They WERE NOT.I was try to say that if a person has an addictive personality or the Disease of Addiction (and we often times don't know until it's too late who we are) POT CAN be a GATEWAY DRUG that opens the door to Drug addiction,just as alcohol or any other drug however innocent of a drug it may seem. Whether yo've smoked for 1yr. or 15yrs.-eventually it will no longer satisfy you and YOU will need something in it's place to give you the uphoria that you once felt...if you are an addict. I NEVER MET AN ADDICT THAT TOLD ME THAT THEIR GOAL FOR THEIR LIFE WAS TO BECOME AN ADDICT. MOST of them had dreams, just like I did. Stop trying to judge everybody as their motives. my lose and my story is real and so is my pain.

9:26AM PDT on Aug 28, 2009

I think it should be legal...not just for the deficit , but for anything the govt sees fit to use the money for, perhaps healthcare? I don't use marijuana, but if they regulated it like tobacco, yer talkin billions in sales. I know if they legalize it, I wanna be a farmer!! Gardening is a passion, and I think the weed is in attractive plant, for ornamental purposes, as well as medicinal.

4:22PM PDT on Aug 13, 2009

I strongly believe that Marijuana should be legalized, especially for medical use. I personally suffer with Chronic Pain due to Fibromyalgia, Nerve pain due to Disk Degeneration and herniations and other severe conditions that make life difficult. But when I use Marijuana, the pain levels are considerably reduced and there is No "HIGH" as other non sufferers might have, due to brain chemistry changes when pain is chronic.
When used correctly, it is a blessing!
On contrast to legal DRUGS i.e., alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, ephedrine etc, which pose dangers to the users, victims of DUI, cause liver damage, Cancers and heart problems not to mention addictions, Marijuana does NOT cause any of the problems and dangers that these legal drugs have been proven to have.
Marijuana is a political issue for its illegal status, not a MEDICAL problem.
If AMERICA is FREE to pursue happiness as long as it doesn't hurt others, It SHOULD BE LEGALIZED, and the other DRUGS Proven to be a danger should be looked at closer than Marijuana. No one ever died of a Marijuana related cause. REEFER MADNESS is a government sham and the year is 2009 and the laws SHOULD be CHANGED to Benefit people who choose to use it in the privacy of their own homes.
For more information, see:
'The Pain, Pot Connection"
http://more.abcnews.go..com/sections/living/dailynews/pot_pain991011.html
and:
http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=3376

2:29PM PDT on Aug 11, 2009

Anyone who routinely smokes pot and drives will tell you it SLOWS THEM DOWN. I don't mean their reaction time, I mean they drive slower. The only mistake you're likely to make driving high is missing a turn.

10:10PM PDT on Aug 8, 2009

ps. I believe that marijuana, if legal, would fix many problems we use/need legal, prescription (and far more dangerous) drugs for...thus possibly cutting into Big Pharma's pocketbook. I'm guessing this is why marijuana isn't already legal.

10:07PM PDT on Aug 8, 2009

Liquor has done far more damage and destroyed families better than marijuana ever could. Yet, it's legal. I don't do either by choice...but can't see why we WOULDN'T legalize pot. Canada has had small amounts legal for years (along with socialized health care that include covering 'choice' options, abolishing creationism in favor or Evolution in school and country wide gay marriage) and they are doing far better than we are. Netherlands has legal pot & mushrooms and have a non existent meth issue.
If it helps us, we should legalize it. I think if we made organic drugs available and boring, less would bother with them--and turn to the harder synthetic versions or alcohol.

6:16PM PDT on Aug 8, 2009

I say they should replace the booze with blunts on liquor store shelves!

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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