Is it finally time to have a serious discussion about legalizing marijuana in this country? There was a statewide raid on pot growers yesterday. 142 people were arrested and almost 7,000 plants were seized. The value of the seizure was estimated to be $30.7 million dollars. The estimated street value of a pound of marijuana is $4,500.
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While the state and federal police agencies involved in this raid are bragging about "Operation Eagle Claw", I wonder how many teachers, police officers, fire fighters and park rangers could have been hired with the money wasted by this exercise. If marijuana use was legalized and taxed, how much money would be available for health care for the poor and elderly instead of being used to fill our jails with potheads and growers? Nothing is being accomplished by these raids and arrests except padding meaningless criminal statistics. Will the government ever accept the fact that people are going to smoke pot just as they smoke cigarettes and drink liquor, whether it is illegal or not.
I'm not suggesting all of the government's financial woes would be solved by legalizing pot but it certainly wouldn't hurt to give this issue some serious thought. The government currently taxes and regulates the use of cigarettes and alcohol. There are many known dangers associated with using both of these legal "drugs". These include harming the user as well as innocent bystanders and can and do include death. While the dangers associated with smoking pot are debatable, they certainly can't be any more harmful than those of smoking cigarettes and/or drinking.
The hypocrisy is so blatant it defies belief. When Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was photographed smoking pot at a college fraternity party he was condemned and ostracized. If he would have had a beer in his hand instead of a bong, everyone would have thought nothing of it. Fraternity parties with drinking get out of hand, people get hurt and property is damaged. The stories of college students drinking themselves to death, sadly, are not uncommon yet, if the students are 21 years of age, they are not breaking the law.
There have been many studies on the effect legalization of marijuana would have. The results depend on who's study you look at. Not surprisingly, the U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency is convinced that demand for pot would skyrocket if it is legalized. Other analysts come to differing conclusions. Most economists are convinced that legalizing marijuana would be beneficial to the United States. In fact, over 500 such economists signed an Open Letter to the President, Congress, Governors and State Legislatures on the benefits of legalizing marijuana:
We, the undersigned, call your attention to the attached report by Professor Jeffrey A. Miron, The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition. The report shows that marijuana legalization -- replacing prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation -- would save $7.7 billion per year in state and federal expenditures on prohibition enforcement and produce tax revenues of at least $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like most consumer goods. If, however, marijuana were taxed similarly to alcohol or tobacco, it might generate as much as $6.2 billion annually.
13 states have decriminalized non-medical cannabis use in the United States as of January 2009. NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is the most visible organization whose goal is to "move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of cannabis prohibition so that the responsible use of this drug by adults is no longer subject to penalty." According to their website:
NORML supports the removal of all criminal penalties for the private possession and responsible use of marijuana by adults, including the cultivation for personal use, and the casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts," and "supports the development of a legally controlled market for cannabis.
In January of 2009 NORML wrote a petition to President Obama asking him to appoint a Drug Czar who would deal with drug abuse as a health issue rather than a criminal issue.
It appears that as the debate continues, Americans are shifting toward the majority in favor of legalization. Whether it is because they feel our current economic situation would benefit or because they feel it is an unjustified law, they do seem to be more accepting of the idea of a change. Will it happen anytime soon? California seems to be seriously looking at taxing pot as a means to ease their budget crisis. If they move forward, perhaps other states will follow. What do you think? Please share your thoughts.
By Cheryl Avins Smith
June 13, 2009
Ft. Lauderdale City Buzz Examiner