This may be the most controversial column I have ever written depending upon your views concerning the use of marijuana. Presently, the use of it is illegal for the majority of American citizens. The use of it for medical reasons is legal in 12 states who use different criteria for the use of it.
Just recently, Michael Phelps who won eight gold medals for swimming in last year’s Olympics was caught using marijuana as he smoked it using a water pipe. Since then, he has apologized publicly for doing so and has lost millions in endorsements from companies like Kellogg’s. I feel this is a knee-jerk reaction to punish an athlete for using marijuana where some of our politicians have claimed to have used it in the past. One such politician is our current president, Barack Obama and yet, look at what he has accomplished since he came clean in his past use of it. He became our first African-American president and not because of his use of it, but what he was able to accomplish in serving the people. Those companies pulling their endorsements from Phelps should reconsider.
Now here is the controversial part: Perhaps it is time to revisit this debate on whether or not to actually legalize marijuana. It just may be a boost to our ailing economy. If we actually legalize it to be sold in controlled businesses similar to liquor stores, just think of how the government can tax this new commodity. It can be taxed like cigarettes and liquor presently are and those who choose to use it can come out of the closet so to speak. This country already tried prohibition when it came to the use of alcohol and we see that it did not work. It drove many underground to consume it in ‘Speakeasies’. It was later repealed via the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Think of the manufacturing base that can spring up around it such as making good old American bongs. Something to think about as we see plant-after-plant close. As many industries go belly-up, think of the many cottage industries that can spring up by selling these products. New businesses are always a plus for an ailing economy.
In Rachael Baldwin’s column for The Collegian, right off the bat she writes, “The legalization of marijuana would greatly impact the U.S. economy. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, website, marijuana is “America’s most valuable crop.” With Washington looking for sources of cash to infuse into our economy, just think if it got down off its moral high-horse and legalized it. Found money!
Baldwin goes onto opine, "Marijuana crops in the United States are worth about 35.8 billion dollars per year, which is 12.5 billion more dollars per year than corn, the second most profitable crop. If taxed like alcohol and tobacco, marijuana could bring in even more money." I see revenue and where those who chose to smoke it, would not have to rely on this commodity coming from South America. Just think of how this will affect those drug lords? Oh they will be kept busy with the production of cocaine and crystal-meth which are highly addictive drugs and should be the ones targeted. But, if the production of marijuana and the sale of it is estimated in the billions, we can take those billions away from their deadly hands.
As congress will be looking to make cuts in certain programs such as food stamps which have been cut from this stimulus bill, Baldwin writes, "Legalization of marijuana could also save law enforcement agencies an astronomical amount of money. Miron estimates that marijuana legalization could save the United States as much as 7.7 billion dollars in law enforcement costs per year."
With the amount we can tax this commodity with, plus how much we can rake in growing our own crops as well as how much we can save in prosecuting any offenders: That $780 billion dollar stimulus bill can be paid down in no time.
Baldwin cites in her article that marijuana is not addictive as I have read in other articles in the past and that can allay the fears of those who would oppose this legalization. Your morning cup of coffee is far more addictive than marijuana. Should you discontinue the use of marijuana, there are no withdrawal symptoms as there is with cigarettes.
If folks are still afraid of legalizing marijuana, Baldwin writes, "there are an estimated 435,000 deaths per year in the United States due to tobacco use and 85,000 deaths due to alcohol...So, how many people die every year from using marijuana? Zero. That’s right, the use of marijuana alone has not been shown to cause any deaths." I have heard of these statistics in the past and it truly boggles the mind how liquor and cigarettes are the legal commodity instead of marijuana.
In the past, I have been resistant to this idea of legalizing marijuana, but knowing how much money it does bring in due to and underground market and seeing the facts of how safe it is compared to cigarettes and alcohol, I feel this is the time to revisit this debate. One thing about our government is if they see dollar signs mentioned in any debate, their eyes pop open and perhaps their minds can be changed. If the government sees something it can tax, that usually gets their attention.
Am I advocating the use of it? No, I am not. That choice if we made marijuana legal would be up the adults that choose to consume it. I say adults because there is already an age criteria for the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.
What I have not even touched upon but equally important is the production of hemp which is also illegal in this country. In this USA Today article, you will read, “Hemp products still account for only a small percentage of the $15 billion a year market for organic goods, but the Hemp Industries Association says sales are rising by 50% a year. Gero Leson, an agricultural researcher in Berkeley, Calif., says hemp products will account for about $15 million this year in retail food sales and $40 million in cosmetics and body products.” This was an article that was published in 2005. Imagine if we legalized hemp how it can help jump-start this economy. Think of the products which are American products could be sold to consumers. Think of the industries that can spring up surrounding this commodity.
Back when this article was published, they wrote, "Canadian farmers planted more than 24,000 acres of hemp this year, nearly triple the 2004 total." Why not give the farmers in this country a chance when so many have been hurt and allow them to grow these crops which are not only financially beneficial to them, but to our economy as a whole?
Will our elected leaders think this idea is meritorious or stick to their old ways of thinking? Maybe it is about time that we as a people who do see the merit in legalizing marijuana and other products that come from it, should be the ones nudging our politicos along.
I know that this idea will be met with scorn from various anti-drug organizations, but as commercials remind us to drink responsibility, newer ones can say, smoke responsibly.
Author’s email address is, firstname.lastname@example.org