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Your Take: Legalize Marijuana?

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Medical MarijuanaNow that we’re past election season and all the fun Your Takes associated with that, I wanted to revisit an NPR piece on six policies economists love but politicians hate. Several of the six policies have made appearances on a Your Take but I wanted to jump to the juicy one next – should we be legalizing marijuana? Medicinal marijuana is already legal (or effectively decriminalized) in nineteen states. As it stands right now, the federal government has cannabis as a Schedule I drug – the same classification as heroin and LSD.

Here’s the policy that economists would love:

Six: Legalize marijuana. Stop spending so much trying to put pot users and dealers in jail — it costs a lot of money to catch them, prosecute them, and then put them up in jail. Criminalizing drugs also drives drug prices up, making gang leaders rich.

The argument is that marijuana is not as dangerous as other drugs, certainly not as dangerous as heroin and LSD. The money we currently spend on drug law enforcement could be used for other purposes. We would be able to generate more tax revenue if we taxed the sale of marijuana and we’d also be able to make it safer by regulating it, as we do with nicotine. Lastly, with it being legal, it would be cheaper and it would take all the criminality out of the economics. Cheaper marijuana means lower profits for dealers and less motivation for the crimes that are associated with it.

While nothing is ever as simple as that, I think legalizing it (especially when cigarettes are legal) is a sensible idea.

What do you think?

(Photo: caveman_02223)

{ 38 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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38 Responses to “Your Take: Legalize Marijuana?”

  1. Martha says:

    Yes! Legalize it and tax it. Then take that money and use it for education or something helpful.

  2. Martha says:

    One thing that I think we sometimes forget when discussing legalizing marijuana is that will we need to also regulate it and that costs money. I’m not sure if they taxes would pay for legalizing it… I’m sure someone has some figures to back this argument 🙂

    • freeby50 says:

      There would be a cost to regulation but it wouldn’t be much compared to the total sales revenues and taxes you can generate.

      For example the federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms division has a budget of about $1 billion and alcohol and tobacco generates over $37 billion in tax revenues for states and cities.

      • Matt M says:

        I don’t think the ATF regulates the sale of Alcohol, there federal law enforcement and investigate federal crimes. Like the illegal transportation of alcohol or guns.

    • tbork84 says:

      I am sure that the cost of regulating it will be less than the cost of prosecuting and imprisoning individuals when it is criminalized.

    • Glenn Lasher says:

      If the taxes are not adequate to pay for the costs of regulation, then the tax rate is set too low. Raise it.

  3. tom says:

    Legalize it, tax it, regulate it and release all criminal offenders in jail for holding/smoking it.

    The savings and tax increases we’d see, would be in the billions. The cartels in Mexico wouldn’t know what to do at that point. US manufacturers will come online forcing the cartels out.

    • DMoney says:

      I’m sure the Mexican Cartels are more interested in harder, most expensive drugs, ie. Cocaine.

      I don’t have a problem legalizing it, but I think people need to realize that it’ll take a full generational cycle for the “stigma” to wear off. Meaning, you won’t see CVS or Wal-Mart carrying weed anytime soon for image/political reasons. So don’t bet on many US manufacturers jumping at the opportunity to develop a product that few (if any) national chains would sell.

      It’ll be your standard dispensary you see now in CA, DO, etc.

      Also, there could be some agenda from law enforcement (on all levels) to keep weed illegal.

      • freeby50 says:

        Its hard to know but different reports estimate that the Mexican cartels get anywhere from 15% to 60% of their profits from marijuana.

      • MJB says:

        The Mexican cartels have illegal immigrants in northern California growing pot in national parks and forests. I think Mexican cartels know exactly what to do with pot legalization and are making a pretty penny off that pot. Yes, the poor, rural areas of Nor Cal have tons of illegal pot growth with attendant crime and environmental impact. It hasn’t all been rosy, high times out here.

        I’ve always leaned toward legalization but a few weeks ago on BART, a pothead was toking in our crowded car with babies, elderly, etc. Somehow a lot of pot smokers who are not using for medicinal use believe that legalization means they can light up anywhere and everywhere.

        I do strongly believe that a doctor should be able to prescribe any substance that can make someone who is ill better or can relieve the suffering of a person who has terminal illness.

      • echidnina says:

        I agree the stigma will hang around – but looking at the Washington state law, the possession allowances are very generous for solid and liquid forms moreso than plant matter – I can see edibles and infusions becoming very popular (and discreet).

  4. Mike says:

    I agree. Legalize it. It can be yet another regulated product that users can either choose to abuse or consume responsibly. Alcohol is chemically addicting and it is legal (marijuana is not). Heck, food is a drug to most citizens of this country. Spend the money currently being used on fighitng the war on marijuana on that obesity epidemic!

    • Shirley says:

      Marijuana CAN be addictive but it is a psychological addiction rather than a physical one. It can also be a gateway drug. Both of these instances refer to people with ‘addictive personalities’ which is truly a very real thing and more widespread than most people think.

      Even having seen it up close, my opinion is to legalize it and then control its sale and use the same way cigarette smoking is controlled and sold.

      • Glenn Lasher says:

        I have such an addictive personality. As such, I do not smoke, drink, or use any other drugs aside from caffeine, because I am afraid of where it will lead. Caffeine is enough of a problem for me. I believe that I narrowly escaped becoming a full-on alcoholic only because id damn near killed my mother, just as the habit was staritng to form, which shocked me into a moment of clarity.

        I have also converted to a religion that has, as one of its precepts, a prohibition to becoming intoxicated, because intoxication causes carelessness. I can, as a result, cite my religious precepts anytime someone offers me a drink or a toke, and most people just respect it.

        At the same time, I fully support legalization. No law has taken any part in keeping me sane and sober, and, indeed, no law short of the hyper-opressive middle-eastern style or Chinese-style laws could do that, for anyone. It must be something that you do yourself. As such, making laws about it is not just silly, it is a stupid waste of time, money and other resources.

        • Shirley says:

          You are a wise man for recognizing this all too common problem and for doing something about it. Kudos to you!

  5. Lesley says:

    I say decriminalize it, but not legalize. The minute you legalize it, big corporate money will come to bear – there is money to be made here, no doubt about it. But if just decriminalized, then the small growers and dispensaries can keep up there specialized niche, the justice departments (cops, lawyers, judges, jails) are relived of a huge burden, and we all may get happy!

    • James says:

      And what is wrong with Corporations getting involved? Corporations help many of us retire with the returns they provide.

  6. rm says:

    Of all the indiscretions of my youth, far and away the worst drug I ever did was the only one that was legal.. Alcohol. I think de-criminalizing POT may be the right approach. People could grow it for their personal use, but not actively market and sell their product. (although many who grow “the good stuff” woudl do that anyway).

  7. Fabclimber says:

    I have no problem with medical pot for those who really need it for pain or other applicable conditions.

    Legal or not Pot is just another system of control over you. You can be your best without those kinds of drugs.

    • echidnina says:

      Sure, but alcohol and tobacco are no different. We leave it up to personal choice whether a person will drink or smoke cigarettes – I see cannabis as the same.

  8. keith says:

    Yeah Fab, but MJ makes everything better. Music, food, social interaction, movies, camping.

    Nobody ever beat their wife because they smoked too much, nobody ever got raped cause they smoked too much. Nobody ever got poisoned from smoking too much.

  9. Matt M says:

    I think it’s a bad idea, because it’s a gateway drug. Almost everyone on cocaine or meth started smoking pot.

  10. Ray says:

    Legalize and heavily tax it. (I’d say put at least a 100% tax on it) This will put many drug dealers out of business and keep money out of the black market. The benefits are two fold, not just the tax revenue, but we no longer waste precious resources having the DEA chase down dealers.

  11. Carol says:

    Legalize it, tax it. liquor and cigarettes are not beneficial to the user or society but are totally accepted as part of world-wide culture. We always look so adolescent to the rest of the world over these social issues. It will happen eventually, so do it now and reap the tax benefits.

  12. Simon says:

    dit it will help bring the crime rate down its legel in Adalade and Cambera so why is in not in qld nsw melb an ect well I think it legel in cambera because imagin if a Politsion or 1 of theere kid got cort out think about it??????????


  13. echidnina says:

    Nthing: Legalize it, tax it, regulate it. It’s safer, it makes the government money, we don’t waste so much time & effort on a pointless drug war nor ruin people’s lives who’ve smoked a little weed.

  14. Whether any of these drugs are dangerous is irrelevant — a red herring, we might say. Alcohol and tobacco are dangerous, but governments clean up on taxes on these legalized drugs.

    Prohibition led to the explosive growth of organized crime in the US — if those syndicates could have gone public, investors would have made a ton of money and survived the Depression financially intact. Today taxes on alcohol and on the far more toxic tobacco products enrich government coffers at all levels.

    We could end the near-civil war in Mexico and make our own cities safer simply by legalizing all drugs, regulating them, and taxing them.

  15. Jim M says:

    Take the criminal element out of it and good things will accrue to society.

  16. Jerry says:

    I think it’s totally sensible. Now if you’re under the influence while driving that’s a different story and that should lead to consequences. I think your insurance for saving money on the drug war is legalizing less dangerous drugs like marijuana.

  17. Steph says:

    Legalize it and treat it as if it were alcohol. As much as I don’t like forcing places of business to be smoke-free, it would be necessary to keep rude people from smoking in public around those who wish to avoid contact.

    The government should have no say in what an adult does to his or her own body.

  18. Megan E. says:

    Here in CO, they are estimating over $60 million will come from taxing the now legal marijuana. That is slated to potentially go to the schools.

    I do think careful regulation will improve the issues we currently have with this “drug” but I agree with Jerry that it should be treated like any other potentially dangerous substance – no driving under influence, no giving to minors, no smoking in public, etc.

    A side note – since the drug is still illegal under federal law, if the DEA catches someone, can they arrest them even if the person has abided by state law?

  19. The legalization has been decided, at least here in Colorado. I’m curious to see how the tax rates compare on marijuana with those on alcohol and cigarettes.

    Also, how long it will take for big business to put the mom and pops out of business? Will we see niche marketing? Brand A offering the allure of a lime by the beach, and brand B a fast silver train?

  20. Eric says:

    Reschedule it and let the states decide what they want to do.

    This is not your parents USA nor their parents USA. It is ever changing with our knowledge in time. While some groups cannot bear change, the majority can.
    Various religions and ideologies are being replaced with science and reason.

    Let people enjoy the fruits of the land and not the machine.

  21. Pam says:

    Reschedule/decriminalize it on the federal level, then let each state decide.

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