Medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for more than a decade now, and a recent survey by QMark Research commissioned by the Drug Policy Action Group reveals that more and more people want that state to legalize, tax, and regulate not just the medical variety, but marijuana in general.
The survey shows that 57% of respondents are in favor of the legalization of all forms of marijuana in the state, with only 15 % opposing the initiative. This represents a 20% increase in the amount of support that marijuana has, based on findings from a similar poll conducted in 2005.
Could Hawaii be the third state to legalize all forms of marijuana, after Colorado and Washington do? Economic and social reasons suggest a resounding "YES!" would be the answer. It also looks like the legalization of marijuana would have a positive impact on the state budget as well, with a report from the ACLU in Hawaii which shows that the state could potentially earn 11 million dollars from direct taxation alone.
Taxation is a difficult subject to discuss, as there are a large number of factors involved. The legalization of marijuana would lead to more people buying and consuming it, but it would also bring down prices. Earlier studies by the ACLU have estimated a very wide range-from as little as 4 million to as much as 23 million-in taxes generated by the sale of marijuana. But in looking at Colorado's experience with marijuana taxation and Hawaii's tax receipts, the ACLU estimates that the state could earn 11.3 million dollars a year. That is not counting the special taxes and the sales taxes in the first years of marijuana legalization.
Savings for the state is another glaring advantage of marijuana legalization. Instead of going after and prosecuting people for using a plant that has been shown to be beneficial for some sectors and considered relatively harmless by others, the state could then use the budget for other things, such as infrastructure or education. In Hawaii, the state spends 9.3 million on arrests for just p[ossessing marijuana. That is just for the arrest! Then you factor in the prosecution costs and imprisonment costs. Each of these would cost the state more. Then you also have the costs for arrest for the distribution of marijuana. This would add another 3.1 million for enforcing the relevant laws.
ACLU also has said that the marijuana laws are largely ineffective in deterring the use of marijuana in the state. it notes that, since 2004, there has been a surge of arrests for possessing or distributing marijuana, but that it did not translate into lower rates of marijuana use. in fact, marijuana use has remained either unchanged or has increased slightly during this time!
If you decriminalize marijuana, it would effectively lead to a cost reduction of over 12.5 million dollars to the state. While economics alone are a great motivator, it is undeniable that marijuana legalization brings about income and savings that could equal at least 22 million a year, and that is for the state of Hawaii alone. Money, however, is not everything. Prevailing marijuana laws have also been tied to some social injustice. The ACLU, in its report, provides detailed marijuana-related arrests and found that these arrests are skewed unnaturally towards young males. marijuana arrests have also been heavily prejudiced against native Hawaiians, in a pattern that is similar to the uncanny prevalence of arrests of blacks and hispanics in Colorado.
ACLU Hawaii also attests that increasing consumption is not the primary reason as to why there are more arrests for marijuana possession. They offer as proof that, while there is at least a 5 % increase in juveniles arrested for possession of marijuana, that same group has actually consumed 20 % less marijuana over the years. It simply begs the question-could anti-marijuana possession and distribution laws fuel racism, prejudice, and social injustice?
States that are looking into legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use should take a look at the Hawaii study. Legalization of medical marijuana would benefit patients who could use it as another tool to manage their diseases, while legalization of marijuana for recreational use would extend much broader benefits to the state in the form of tax income.
Rather than fighting and preventing people from using a (relatively) harmless plant, why not focus the limited resources on other, more important things?
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Elsewhere On Marijuana: Hawaii Stands To gain Quite A Lot From Medical Marijuana