Marijuana prohibition currently costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year to enforce, and it accomplishes little or nothing beneficial in terms of economic benefits. On the contrary, legalizing marijuana would not only save taxpayers billions of dollars a year in unnecessary costs, but it would also jump start the economy to the tune of $100 billion a year or more, say some economists.
In an open letter written to the President, Congress, State Governors, and State Legislators, more than 550 economists, including several nobel laureates, draw attention to a report authored by Professor Jeffrey A. Miron that highlights the potential economic benefits of marijuana decriminalization. Entitled The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition, the report states that legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana would do wonders to reduce inflated budgets and generate new revenue streams.
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“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,” say the economists. “If, however, marijuana were taxed similarly to alcohol or tobacco, it might generate as much as $6.2 billion annually.”
As many as 60 million Americans are already estimated to be spending upwards of $110 billion a year on marijuana, the vast majority of which ends up in the hands of organized crime units. If marijuana was legalized, honest citizens could grow and sell it instead, which would inject new life into the flailing economy, and redirect billions of dollars in cash flow from criminals to legitimate growers.
“At a minimum, this debate will force advocates of current policy to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues, and numerous ancillary consequences that result from marijuana prohibition,” add the economists.
Marijuana prohibition benefits Big Pharma, prison system
If marijuana were legalized nationwide, however, the drug industry and the prison system, much of which has now been privatized, would suffer greatly. And this, of course, is one of the primary reasons why these special interests are working hard to squelch all efforts to legalize marijuana at the national level.
According to a 2009 report published by Now Public, the United States incarcerates the most individuals per capita compared to any other country in the world. And the “War on Drugs,” which continually targets marijuana users and dealers, is largely responsible for making America the most imprisoned nation in the world.
“According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), 30 to 40 percent of all current prison admissions involve crimes that have no direct or obvious victim other than the perpetrator,” says a 2008 DOJ report. “The drug category constitutes the largest offense category, with 31 percent of all prison admissions resulting from such crimes.”
If drugs like marijuana became decriminalized, the prison industry would lose a large chunk of its business — after all, who is going to fill all those empty prison cells in all the new privately-owned prisons being erected across the country?
The other major player in the “War on Drugs” is Big Pharma, which stands to lose a significant portion of its business if marijuana is legalized as well. Marijuana, after all, is a powerful, natural medicine that can eliminate chronic pain, balance brain chemistry, mimic the regulatory system of cellular physiology, and even treat cancer, among other things.
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