The decriminalization of marijuana has been a long-held position of mine, and with the recent news of “greatest swimmer ever” Michael Phelps having lost major sponsors and receiving a suspension over pictures of his use of the drug, and the current state of our economy, I am once again drawn to the debate with a renewed vigor.
Having done a little research to find statistics for this article, I came across a bill in Congress introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) in April of last year that I was previously unaware of, but was otherwise encouraged to learn about. I further learned about a report by the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse in 1972, recommending decriminalization of simple possession.
Forgive me if this is old news to you.
However, it is obvious that the barriers to such a logical and reasonable change in public policy are purely political and “moral” in nature. Furthermore, the very recent change in our ideological winds currently blowing through Washington might resurrect the debate somewhat, especially if the debate is supported by the outrageous costs of the criminalization of marijuana in a time of fiscal and financial crisis such as now.
For example, a 2004 study entitled “The Economic Implications of Marijuana Legalization in Alaska” found that the state was spending $25-30 million per year enforcing marijuana laws. This from the state with only 687,000 people, or less than half the population of San Diego.
How much is being spent in a nation of 300 million? Various studies estimate the annual costs range from hundreds of millions to more than $7.6 BILLION nationally.
To be sure, $7.6 billion might not seem so much when compared to a stimulus package of $780 billion, but when you consider how much as already been proposed to help bailout companies that have lost the life savings of many Americans, wouldn’t it make more sense to actually SAVE money by not incarcerating any more?