Pot has been getting a lot of attention lately, and not just from the usual sources that have long advocated legalizing the drug. Just last month, The Economist, a well-respected, London-based news magazine, wrote a piece – “How to stop the drug wars” – in which it panned prohibition and argued that marijuana and other drugs should be legal for consumption.
Legalisation would not only drive away the gangsters; it would transform drugs from a law-and-order problem into a public-health problem, which is how they ought to be treated. Governments would tax and regulate the drug trade, and use the funds raised (and the billions saved on law-enforcement) to educate the public about the risks of drug-taking and to treat addiction. The sale of drugs to minors should remain banned. Different drugs would command different levels of taxation and regulation. This system would be fiddly and imperfect, requiring constant monitoring and hard-to-measure trade-offs. Post-tax prices should be set at a level that would strike a balance between damping down use on the one hand, and discouraging a black market and the desperate acts of theft and prostitution to which addicts now resort to feed their habits.
It should be pointed out that The Economist first advocated legalization 20 years ago, but reaffirmed that stance after “reviewing the evidence again.”
Now <a href="http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1889021,00.html" title="Time magazine has jumped on the bandwagon”>Time magazine has jumped on the bandwagon, at least in regard to marijuana. This week Joel Klein writes – in “Why Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense” – that legalizing pot would provide states with much-needed tax revenue.
At the same time, there is an enormous potential windfall in the taxation of marijuana. It is estimated that pot is the largest cash crop in California, with annual revenues approaching $14 billion. A 10% pot tax would yield $1.4 billion in California alone. And that’s probably a fraction of the revenues that would be available — and of the economic impact, with thousands of new jobs in agriculture, packaging, marketing and advertising. A veritable marijuana economic-stimulus package!
Don’t expect legalization any time soon. President Barack Obama recently held an online town hall meeting and, when asked whether taxing pot would improve the economy, he said: “The answer is, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.” But also don’t expect the broader issue of drug control to go away either, with casualties continuing to pile up on the U.S.-Mexico border as the drug war there intensifies.
Side Note: In the Montana Legislature this year, a bill that would have provided medical marijuana patients better access to the drug passed the Senate 28-22. But it later died in the House Human Services Committee.
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