I’ve come across several articles talking about the marijuana trade in California. The state has permitted medicinal marijuana for a while now, but a growing number of Californians are calling for full legalization, regulated much like the alcohol industry. The reason is simple: no one knows the hard numbers, but most estimates are that it’s a multi-billion dollar industry in California alone, and some estimates for taxes indicate that it could bring in close to a billion dollars in tax revenue.
Another interesting reason is something I saw proposed by, of all people, someone on the far-right, who complained about the far-reaching grip of Mexican cartels. What would happen, they pondered, if the sale and consumption of domestic-grown marijuana were permitted? Wouldn’t the marijuana drug trade with Mexico cease to exist overnight?
Another interesting argument I heard compared current marijuana laws to the Prohibition, a time when gang violence ran rampant to collect illicit alcohol profits, and when alcohol use was rampant and quality was poor. (Moonshine!) John Rockefeller, who had supported the Prohibition, noted that it had actually served to increase alcohol consumption.
There’s a risk that the Mexican cartels would up the pressure on more dangerous drugs, I suppose, or that an unreasonably high tax could keep the black market going. But for a plant that’s supposed to grow like a weed, it seems that legalization would deal a crushing blow to the lucrative, illegal trade, and now, more than ever, the country needs the tax revenues. Regulate it just like alcohol: driving a car while high should be illegal (and surely already is), consuming it in public needn’t be permitted, delivering it to minors shouldn’t be permitted, and selling it without a license to do so can be prohibited. Oh, and you can tax the heck out of it. When the government is making hand-over-fist the money that’s currently going to drug cartels, and when the police stop imprisoning people possessing minor amounts of the plant, I think it will become clear that it was the right decision. Possession of small amounts* of marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts for a while, and the state hasn’t imploded. In fact, I don’t know a soul who has even exercised their newfound right to possess it.
(* I think an ounce of marijuana is actually a pretty considerable amount?)
Since government loves regulating things and taxing them, let’s start treating marijuana like tobacco and alcohol, both of which are dangerous and addictive vices.