Monday, April 20, 2009

Law: Choosing Between the Lesser of Two Evils.


How do we decide when something should be outlawed? How do we decide that something is wrong? Those two questions are not one in the same. Take the issues of premarital sex, alcohol consumption, smoking, excessive Twinkie feasting, etc, all of which render consequences far greater than that of ingesting marijuana, which the decision was made to outlaw, long ago. Why is that? The toxicity of smoking, alcohol, and Twinkies should be obvious, and as far as premarital sex goes, although in and of itself, it is not toxic, the results can be quite stressful to society, financially and socially. However, we do not outlaw those behaviors because the cost would far exceed the benefits, as is the case with marijuana, yet very little is done to decriminalize this plant.

The study, Lost Taxes and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws by Jon Gettman published in Forbes magazine estimates the overall retail value of the felonious marijuana market is $113 billion. That's right, oftentimes viscous criminals; rake in the cash, while we, the taxpayers, pay out approximately $41 billion per year to enforce the prohibition of this semi-toxic substance. I say semi-toxic because marijuana is known for its medicinal properties as well as its toxicity. Twinkies, as far as I know, are pure toxicity, and the same can be said for smoking. Most of the prescription drugs on the market, are far more toxic than marijuana, and probably have less medicinal value, yet we don't outlaw them.

Government reports indicate that the nation's marijuana laws cost taxpayers $41.8 billion annually. This calculation is based on (a) a reconciliation of estimates of the annual supply of marijuana in the United States and estimates of its overall value and (b) Office of Management and Budget (OMB) data on the share of the Gross Domestic Product diverted by regulatory taxes to US Government budgets. Government reports from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Library of Congress, and other sources indicate that the supply of marijuana in the United States is 14,349 metric tons, or 31.1 million pounds. Various price indexes from public and private sources produce a retail price of $7.87/gr or $3,570/lb, setting the overall retail value of the illicit marijuana market at $113 billion.
Since President Barack Obama took office stating that he will not use federal marijuana laws to override state laws, as the Bush administration did, requests for Medical marijuana have increased 300%. President Obama said he saw no difference between using medical marijuana and other pain control drugs. Considering the side effects, the addiction and the "street value" of certain pain control substances, medical marijauna looks benign in comparison.

What if, instead of allowing hardened criminals, access to the billions of dollars the marijuana industry brings in, we, the taxpayers had benefit of that money to execute our own "war" on drugs and addiction? If we took, even half the revenue generated, from taxing and regulating the marijuana industry, and invested it into drug prevention education, and drug rehabilitation programs, we could eventually decrease drug use and at the same time, reduce the amount of crime associated with marijuana, making more resources - including severely limited prison space, - available for housing more dangerous criminals and the funds and manpower to combat other crimes.

Without an official cost-benefit analysis of existing prohibition policy and legislation, what is our government's justification for pouring so much money into what appears to be a relatively innocuous substance? Especially, when pharmaceutical companies are allowed to distort scientific evidence to get dangerous drugs approved.

1 comments:

Anonymous,  12:38  

Did you time this post on purpose?

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