May 10, 2006
More on medical marijuana
None of this is new, but the numbers always bear repeating:
America’s war on drugs is actually a Raid on Taxpayers. The war costs an estimated $70 billion a year to prosecute, and the drugs keep pouring in. But while the War on Drugs may have failed its official mission, it is a great success as a job-creation program. Thousands of drug agents, police, detectives, prosecutors, judges, anti-drug activists, prison guards and their support staffs can thank the program for their daily bread and health benefits.
The American people are clearly not ready to decriminalize cocaine, heroine or other hard drugs, but they’re well on their way to easing up on marijuana. A Zogby poll found that nearly half of Americans now want pot legal and regulated, like alcohol. Few buy into the “demon drug” propaganda anymore, and for a simple reason: Several countries have decriminalized marijuana with little effect on public health.
Americans could save a ton of money doing the same. The taxpayers spend almost $8 billion a year enforcing the ban on marijuana, according to a report by visiting Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron. State and local governments consume about $5 billion of the total.
The war on pot fills our jails. America arrests 755,000 people every year for marijuana infractions – the vast majority for possession, not dealing. An estimated 80,000 people now sit behind bars on marijuana offenses.
The Bush administration stoutly supports the campaign against marijuana, which others think is crazy. Compare the Canadian and American approach to medical marijuana: The Canadian Postal Service delivers it right into the mailboxes of Canadian cancer patients. The U.S. Justice Department invades the patients’ backyards and rips out cannabis plants, even those grown with a state’s blessing.
… Remember the Supreme Court case two years ago, when Justice Stephen Breyer innocently suggested that the federal Food and Drug Administration be asked to rule on whether marijuana had an accepted medical use? Well, the FDA has just ruled. In a total lie, the FDA said that no scientific studies back the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Actually, the prestigious Institute of Medicine issued its findings in 1999 that marijuana helped patients for pain and for the relief of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
The federal government “loves to ignore our report,” John Benson, a professor of medicine at the University of Nebraska and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the Institute of Medicine study, said after the FDA issued its “advisory.”
… The drug warriors’ incentive to keep the game going is pretty obvious. But what’s in it for taxpayers?
Miron’s Harvard study looked beyond what the public pays to enforce the marijuana laws. It also investigated how much money would roll in if marijuana were legal and taxed like alcohol. The answer was over $6 billion in annual tax revenues. Do the math: If government stopped outlawing marijuana and started taxing it, its coffers would be $14 billion richer every year.
As I’ve said before, most of the social and economic consequences of illegal drugs use stem from their illegality. So decriminalizing marijuana would not only result in a tax windfall; it would also cut crime by depriving drug distributors of their excess (i.e., illicit) profits, enable drug quality and distribution to be regulated—and empty America’s jails of people who on most measures should never have been imprisoned in the first place.
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