Legalizing marijuana can reduce crime, increase revenue for state

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Marijuana legalization is an issue that has been present in California politics for years. Just now, however, it is coming to a head, as the possibility of its full legalization looms before us in 2010.

Until recently, those politicians who outwardly supported marijuana legalization have been ignored or even discounted as “potheads” who then faded into obscurity. Three hundred thousand signatures have been gathered in the last month alone, however, which means that the legislation could easily be on the November 2010 ballot for all of California’s voters to decide on.

Though still illegal federally, medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, and President Obama recently declared federal raids on legal state cannabis dispensaries unlawful. On the heels of this declaration and the increasing acceptance of marijuana use by the general California public, there is now developing legislation that could fully legalize cannabis in California. Some reports state that this legalization could mean selling it at liquor stores to those 21 and over, but there is nothing definite as of yet.

When used medically, marijuana boasts a number of significant benefits, such as giving cancer patients a renewed appetite, curing insomnia, reducing anxiety, and relieving chronic pain. Having recognized these benefits, 56 percent of those who voted on Proposition 215 (which eventually legalized medical marijuana) opted to decriminalize the drug.

Following the limited legalization of cannabis, it cannot be denied that California’s relatively lax stand on the drug was taken advantage of. We all know one or two or 10 people who have medical marijuana cards who aren’t actually in medical need of it, and some of us know people who have entered or even worked in a clinic without proper authorization. This could indicate to some that fully legalizing marijuana would be disadvantageous, spurning a lazy and dissociated population.

It is beneficial, however, to recognize the facts in the situation before forming an opinion.

Already earning California about $14 billion a year, it has been estimated that legalizing marijuana could generate anywhere between $1.5 and $4 billion (from taxing the drug) in revenue for California, a boost that we most undeniably need.

Additionally, our country as a whole spends $68 billion a year on its prisoners, one-third of which are imprisoned for nonviolent drug crimes. About half of these criminals are marijuana offenders, which means one-sixth of our country’s prisoners are in jail for marijuana-related charges. Legalizing the drug would mean spending $11.3 billion less a year on prisons (that’s your tax money).

Monetary gain is not the only advantage to marijuana being legalized, however. It is important to understand the medical benefits of the drug, even if it is already lawful when used with a prescription. Marijuana, unlike most other legal drugs, is not physically addictive. It can be argued that it is psychologically addictive, of course, just as substances like food are addictive. There is a difference, though, between food and marijuana. When used incorrectly, food is much worse for a person’s health than cannabis is.

The abuse of food intake is directly linked to more than half of the top 10 leading causes of death in our country—the same cannot be said of marijuana. The total death toll of those users and abusers of cannabis: zero. Contrary to popular belief, evidence shows that smoking marijuana does not actually lead to health problems like cancer and heart disease. Of course it is not harmless, as prolonged usage (more than 15 years at more than one marijuana cigarette a day) can possibly increase risks of damage, although it is not entirely clear of what exactly that damage could be.

Among its other legal drug counterparts, marijuana is by far the least physically harmful. Cigarettes, alcohol, prescription painkillers, and even sleep aids are all highly addictive, and all can lead to death. Even Tylenol is so damaging that Vicodin and Percocet are being considered to be illegalized because of the Tylenol, not the opiates, in them. So I must ask, why is there such opposition to a drug whose primary use is to alleviate symptoms of the ill, when many other legal drugs only contribute to or even cause those symptoms?

It is a social standard. Because marijuana has been socially unacceptable in our country for so long, many are not ready to accept its legalization. We must attempt to overcome these social blocks, however, so we can see the substantially beneficial properties of marijuana.

To combat those who argue that our country will be walking zombies in the wake of marijuana legalization, I say this: If a person has not already chosen to partake in smoking marijuana, it is highly unlikely that they will do so simply because they cannot be arrested for it. In California especially, the legal system is already quite flexible on marijuana use. If found with small amounts of the drug, one will almost never be arrested unless another, more serious, crime is also committed.

It is not a difficult drug to locate—those who will choose to smoke legally, already do so illegally. Legalizing the drug would only serve to increase California’s income, downsize crime, and benefit the mood of already recreational and medical users.

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  • Chase

    and the world will keep spinning criminalized or decriminalized. I am only a criminal because I smoke pot, and if pot stays illegal, than it seems I will always be a criminal.

  • http://coloradosmedicalmarijuana.com Colorado Medical LLC

    Thursday in the state capital our senate committee will take public comment so please get out and exercise your free speech if you can on Thursday.

  • Kevin

    I am not a marijuana user, and I never will be. But I can certainly see the positive effects on it’s legalization. A very well put article and some decent replies to it. I am in Oregon, where smoking in or around buildings is already illegal so I don’t have to worry about buildings being full of cigarette or marijuana smoke. I just want the crime and “crime” to go down.

  • http://www.norml.org Free Cannabis

    Alcohol it’s not a gateway drug you can’t get any higher than when your totally slobber faced drunk! And it’s legal so the collateral damage is acceptable in the eyes of the media.

  • Jobe

    I’m not so sure about the second-to-last paragraph in Ms. Wolff’s report. It says that people would not use marijuana just because it is legal. That indirectly refutes her own thesis. First of all, would people really need to buy marijuana from stores? It is already so available in this country and it is illegal, so why couldn’t drug dealers lower their prices a little and still keep all their current customers? It is because of this fact that the second-to-last paragraph doesn’t make sense to the main point of the article. Since there would already be an insufficient people buying the taxed marijuana, wouldn’t the government need more people to legally use marijuana to get a significant amount of funds from taxes? I agree that money would be saved by not spending on law enforcement, but I’m not so sure about the tax on marijuana itself.

    • Madeline Wolff

      Many people smoke marijuana illegally; I stated that people who don’t already smoke most likely wouldn’t start, but those who already do so illegally will continue to do so–however, legally. Because there are so many illegal smokers currently–an estimated three million people smoked marijuana in California last year alone (only 350,000 were legal…this speaks rather loudly)–I believe the tax would be incredibly effective and I still hold that few people will begin using marijuana who do not already. I also believe that by the general laws of supply and demand, the costs of government-issued cannabis will be highly competitive with illegal dealers. If the prices are about even, most people would likely buy from a legal source, significantly reducing marijuana dealers if not eliminating them.

      • SouthernGal

        I have never smoked pot, but I would like to try it and see if it could help with my anxiety. However, if I get caught by the police with marijuana I could face the possibility of losing my professional license which could prevent me from being able to provide for myself. I am someone who does not smoke pot now who would at least try it if it were legalized, and I bet there are quite a few out there like me.

        Great article by the way.

  • Anonymous Girly Girl

    There are way too many people in California showing their support for marijuana, especially as medicine. I am a junior with a 4.0 GPA and am an ex pageant queen with a perfect job, nice house in the hills and an amazing family. I grow marijuana, and have been for two years, and smoke about an eighth a day!!!! Don’t smoke pot! You might have a perfect life like me!!

    • princess diana_rodeo queen

      you know what “anonynouys girly girl?” I somehow have an idea,that you probably don’t even exist…you make up all this crap about your perfect life because you don’t have one.please,place your feet on the ground and stop dreaming get a real life. so perfect job right?You make all your money selling weed or what? great….good one.

  • mr anonymous

    Its amazing how many people are so ignorant on this. Marijuana is always going to be around there will always be demand for it. We can either spread disinformation about it to our children so they end up not taking any of the harmful drugs seriously when they realize how much b.s. we told them about Marijuana or we can regulate it, reduce crime, offer non-synthetic medicine, reap the economic benefits and provide a MUCH MUCH safer recreational alternative to ALCOHOL which KILLS 75,000 people a year.

    We spend far too much money enforcing our archaic laws and all we really do is create a black market which exports a sizable portion of money out of the country and into drug cartel’s pockets.

    Every way you cut it, it makes sense.

    Prohibition proved to be counterproductive. Alcohol related deaths skyrocketed during prohibition. Please how often do we have to repeat history to get it through our thick skulls?

    Finally, you may think you raised your kids to make the right (subjective) choices and perhaps you have, but we all know that kids often do what they feel like instead of listening to their elders. Would you rather your kids get their hands on some marijuana off the street that is possible laced with PCP, Formaldyhde or some other crazy chemical? or would you rather they get something that was cleaner from regulation? Not to mention that they sometimes brush shoulders with some very dangerous people and are introduced to the underworld because of our laws.

    Please wake up politicians! Stop representing the lobbyists and start representing your country. Please educate yourself. Some of the stuff that comes out of your mouths just screams that your in the pockets of companies.

    P.S. And Jack, Do you honestly think that many people would invest in the expensive equipment, patience, electrical bills and space to grow their own, when the government could cultivate it much more efficiently and provide it cheap enough to eliminate the black market demand? Can you see that many parents dedicating the family room to growing in front of their kids when they could pick it up on their way home from work discreetly? They also have vaporizers out now that eliminate 99% of the harmful chemicals found in Cannabis. Why don’t you compare that to any of the potential side effects of the popular medicines you see on TV. You probably know that though, as you seem to be a possible shill for the pharmaceutical industry.

  • brandon

    Damn well educated person. Too bad Americans dont know this…

  • http://antinomian-peacenik.blogspot.com Bill Harris

    One need not travel to China to find indigenous cultures lacking human rights or to Cuba for political prisoners. America leads the world in percentile behind bars, thanks to ongoing persecution of hippies, radicals, and non-whites under prosecution of the war on drugs. If we’re all about spreading liberty abroad, then why mix the message at home? Peace on the home front would enhance global credibility.

    The drug czar’s Rx for prison fodder costs dearly, as life is flushed down expensive tubes. My shaman’s second opinion is that psychoactive plants are God’s gift. Behold, it’s all good. When Eve ate the apple, she knew a good apple, and an evil prohibition. Canadian Marc Emery is being extradited to prison for selling seeds that American farmers use to reduce U. S. demand for Mexican pot.

    Only on the authority of a clause about interstate commerce does the CSA (Controlled Substances Act of 1970) reincarnate Al Capone, endanger homeland security, and throw good money after bad. Administration fiscal policy burns tax dollars to root out the number-one cash crop in the land, instead of taxing sales. Society rejected the plague of prohibition, but it mutated. Apparently, SWAT teams don’t need no stinking amendment.

    Nixon passed the CSA on the false assurance that the Schafer Commission would later justify criminalizing his enemies. No amendments can assure due process under an anti-science law without due process itself. Psychology hailed the breakthrough potential of LSD, until the CSA shut down research, and pronounced that marijuana has no medical use, period. Drug juries exclude bleeding hearts.

    The RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993) allows Native American Church members to eat peyote, which functions like LSD. Americans shouldn’t need a specific church membership or an act of Congress to obtain their birthright freedom of religion. John Doe’s free exercise of religious liberty may include entheogen sacraments to mediate communion with his maker.

    Freedom of speech presupposes freedom of thought. The Constitution doesn’t enumerate any governmental power to embargo diverse states of mind. How and when did government usurp this power to coerce conformity? The Mayflower sailed to escape coerced conformity. Legislators who would limit cognitive liberty lack jurisdiction.

    Common-law must hold that adults are the legal owners of their own bodies. The Founding Fathers undersigned that the right to the pursuit of happiness is inalienable. Socrates said to know your self. Mortal lawmakers should not presume to thwart the intelligent design that molecular keys unlock spiritual doors. Persons who appreciate their own free choice of path in life should tolerate seekers’ self-exploration.

  • ERIN BRI TYLER

    weed does three things. makes you :

    SLEEPY
    HAPPY
    HUNGRY !

    and a little stupid. thats it [: blaze it.

  • fred

    Pot makes you think. Alcohol stops you from thinking. That’s why governments like people to have it. The only thing you’re questioning when you’re drunk is whether or not to get onions on your pizza, and where your car is. It’s bad for governments when people start thinking. The more you think, the more you’ll question things.

  • curt

    realitychk needs a reality check. thats the most ridiculous thing i’ve ever heard. just how do you plan to “Gain the trust of the potheads?” I know maybe legalize pot? I bet you are a republican aren’t you?

    Idiot!

  • http://www.norml.org RealiyChk

    Yes on A.B.390!!

    I copied this bs from another site?

    The 6 step program to completely end the supply of marijuana in the USA.
    1. Gain the trust of the pot heads
    2. Ease up on medical pot issues
    3. Target local street pushers using a hardliner approach
    4. Close medical pot growers and collectives
    5. Offer social rehabilitation to pot heads for six months then unexpectedly introduce new legislation to make social rehab mandatory. Vote on the new legislation immediately behind closed doors.
    6. Impose min 25 years to life for violating the new anti pot laws

    Results: No more street pusher to get your pot from will cause the cartels loose power and go deep underground, and with no major supply chain left except for the dispensaries they will soon dry up. Finally close-up and eradicate the remaining weaker distribution pipelines permanently.

    • http://pr0.acleverdisguise.org/index.php?dir=/music Kevin Tran

      6. Impose min 25 years to life for violating the new anti pot laws
      Yes, because we need more people in jail for non-violent crimes. Don’t we? Wait.

  • Conservative for CHANGE

    Jack – Check the DEA records? HAHAHA! Enough said. Your arguments are as empty as your understanding of cannabis.

    Anything other than legalizing, taxing and regulating the cannabis industry in the same manner as the alcohol industry is just simply insane and foolish. We’ve wasted too much money on this pointless, useless and endless War on “Drugs” and US law enforcement and the judicial and prison systems have ruined far to many lives.

    God’s honest truth is this: The problems associated with cannabis and other drugs ARE DIRECTLY CAUSED BY PROHIBITION. Period. End of story. Prohibition is the problem and ending prohibition and increasing HONEST drug education is the only solution.

    America needs to wake up. We’ve been raped by our government for decades and it’s time for these oppressive, police state politics to end. Being “Tough on Crime” is one thing, but being “Tough on Drugs” is pure lies.

    WAKE UP AMERICA.

  • http://www.woodstockuniverse.com RFWoodstock

    Valid medicinal value, it’s a victimless crime, the War on Drugs WAY too costly, too many arrests for simple possession, tax it and use the money to pay for health insurance and to reduce the deficit…Need I say more?

    Woodstock Universe supports legalization of Marijuana.

    Add vote in our poll about legalization at http://www.woodstockuniverse.com.

    Current poll results…97% for legalization, 3% against.

    Listen to RADIO WOODSTOCK 69 which features only music from the original Woodstock era (1967-1971) and RADIO WOODSTOCK with music from the original Woodstock era to today’s artists who reflect the spirit of Woodstock. Watch Woodstock TV.

    Peace, love, music, one world,
    RFWoodstock

  • Ouroboros

    Alcohol – 90,000 deaths a year in the US, not including vehicle accidents or murders.
    Tobacco – 450,000 deaths a year in the US.
    Non-steroidial anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aspirin – 7,500 deaths a year in the US.
    Caffine – 1,000 to 10,000 a year in the US.
    Legal perscription drugs – 14,000 to 27,000 a year in the US.
    Cannabis – 0 deaths in recorded human history.

    Amazing how ignorant people are that they will fight tooth and nail to keep cannabis illegal but go home and give their child a aspirin or allow them to drink a cup of coffee or trust in the doctor to perscripe some cocktail.

    Cannabis wasn’t made illegal because it was dangerous, it wasn’t made illegal because our government discovered it to make Americans lazy, it was made illegal because a few key people could make a lot of money from cotton / paper industry if they could get rid of the hemp industry. It was made illegal because they offcials wanted something to harass the mexican immigrants for. It was made illegal because during that time Cannabis was popular among Afican Americans and the government could harass them if it made cannabis illegal. They then went on to blame cannabis for African Americans breaking laws such has “Looking at a white woman twice”, or “Stepping on a white man’s shadow”, you don’t believe these were actual laws? Look it up.

    “There are 100,000 marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
    – Harry Anslinger, 1937

    That is whose side you believe and take when you don’t think for yourself and blindly follow a government official who used the media to instill fear and hatred of a plant mixed in with an already festering hatred of African Americans at that time. Harry Anslinger made a career out of the war on drugs and lived a damn comfortable life making good money exploiting peoples ignorance and ripples of his actions still reverberates throughout time to now. Don’t be a puppet at the end of a dead guys strings, do the research yourself and come up with your own conclusion.

    • Justin

      I love you!!!!!

    • Emily

      Finally! Someone (Ouroboros) who has provided statistical facts about the dangers of “legal” drugs vs. Cannibas! Just like the Prohibition of alcohol was a failure in the 1920′s and created more problems for this Nation (death by alcohol consumption was on the rise, organized crime thrived, reduced tax revenue and increased government spending); the prohibition on Cannibas continues to follow the same unfortunate path!

    • steve

      lsd: 0 recorded deaths
      psilocybin: 0 recorded deaths
      crystal meth: couldn’ find the statistics on it but no one dies from a direct overdose

      if it doesn’t kill you it must not be bad for you, is that the implication here?

  • GW

    Legalize it for medical purposes only.

    hr 2835?

    i think is that bill we want

  • Buzz Bateman

    As someone who has made a fortune selling pot since 1964, and has helped your kids stop being alcoholics and Republicans, I fear I will now have to retire with all my ill gotten gains, that I have not had to pay taxes on to support your illegal wars and the lazy cops who go after pot users instead of real criminals. There is so much misinformation going around on the issue that is really all about the culture war going on now on most major issues of the day. The right-wingers out there deserve to eat the poop they spill out their mouths as their kids now get high instead of drinking and smoking cig’s. The people who really will hurt are the ones who have been making a killing off of the high prices they have been charging people for years for a plant that is so easy to grow that your grandma could grow it successfully in a flower box with alittle lite and water and fertilizer. Take the profit out of it and that will open the cops time to go out and find real bad guys who are molesting your children.
    Stop feeding your face with fast foods and watching your waist grow like a pot plant, and read the facts available on the internet on the positive effects that common folks have reported with the use of cannabis and how it has changed their lives to the positive and how it just makes them just plain feel better. This issue won’t ever go away no matter who you put in office as millions of common folk choose pot over pills now. How many times have you heard of a bar room brawl and when was the last time you heard of a pot room brawl? When was the last time you heard of someone who died from smoking to much pot? People wake up and smell the flowers, the voters won’t stand by and let lazy cops bust us, and take our land, and make lazy lawyers take our hard earned money that supports the perverted legal system that makes money off the suffering of people who smoke or eat flowers just to deal with lifes daily problems.

  • http://aol.com Kameron

    Marijuana period is not harmful, people talk so bad about it yet some many people use it. Marijuana should be legalize because it can be used for anything. It’s not just a planet that one can use to get high, or for medical reason it is also a good food source, it can protects our planets from insects that may attack it; it can also be used for every day items like clothing, shoes, bags, purse, etc. It can be used to make cheap clothing because its so easy to grow Marijuana, because it gross any where it is planted. Marijuana has a lot use for it and people don’t realize that once it is legal it will have a great effect on the economy because it can be used to make cheap material for any body because its so easy to planet.

    • http://yahoo.com jeff

      Just about anything to excess is harmful. That being said, valid arguments can be made it’s time to save the billions spent persecuting americans and incarcerating them for the simple act of consuming a substance Washington, Jefferson etc… said grow, and make the billions on tax dollars.

      Do that and you’ve effectively taken billions out of organized crime’s profits they are buying guns with. A reference to our recent problems along the border.

      Just for the record, the fed already has enough power to stop you from growing tomatoes in your backyard because it might disrupt the flow of tomatoes over state lines. See U.S. v. Wickard.

  • Nic

    I like how at the end Jack tries to say that the tax money wont cover the health costs that are produced from smoking marijuana. Too bad marijuana IS NOT tobacco or alcohol and doesnt KILL you like they can, or cause you to get DISEASES like they do. Nice try Jack, but the medicinal benefits of marijuana are only one reason to legalize it, thats not the only argument as the man who wrote the article states…Idiot.

    • George Carlin

      Before you start calling people idiots, perhaps you should pay attention to some relevant details like the authors gender. Great Job Ms.Wolff ;)

      Not that I dont agree that jack is a buffoon. Where is your source material Jack? Do you have any unbiased account of these claims, do you truly believe D.E.A research does not and will not be self serving?

      George

      • Lyndsey

        jack. idiot. the end.

  • Nic

    I like how at the end Jack tries to say that the tax money wont cover the health costs that are prudcued from smoking marijuana. Too bad marijuana is tobacco or alcohol and doesnt KILL you like they can, or cause you to get DISEASES like they do. Nice try Jack, but the medicinal benefits of marijuana are only one reason to legalize it, thats not the only argument as the man who wrote the article states…Idiot.

    • Mike

      Nic, before you start calling someone an idiot learn to use some proper grammer, it will make your accusations have at least some back bone. Also your argument is crap, excuse my bluntness but marijuana can kill you far faster then alcohol can and there are list full of diseases it can cause. The medical benefits of marijuana can be made into an opiate(pill) and can be monitored. Actually the pills that contain the same make up of marijuana are sold legally, the only reason people want to legalize marijuana is so that they can get high and party. Also the author is a FEMALE, you really need to not smoke before you post.

      • rex

        marijuana can be made into an OPIATE(PILL)?????do you know what an opiate REALLY is??it comes from opium,the poppy plant.the idea of combining MJ and opium is highly ridiculous.you sir really need to do some research yourself. calling a persons arguement crap because of grammer holds no water either.and the fact that you think all MJ can be monitored if made into a pill is also funny.in california and places where MJ is legal do you expect all those people to “pill” thier grown at home MJ.tobbaco and alcohol kill people everyday.as far as MJ users they need to take a poll as to length of use and frequency, then compare that to medical problems. in the MJ users catagory compared to the others there would be ZERO deaths from direct use of MJ. now im sure you can say people die that use MJ. yes they do,but not from MJ. it is a coincidence that MJ is in thier blood.alcohol and tobbaco were the main cause.people say “hes a lazy no good stoner”SORRY you take away his MJ and he is still lazy and no good. it all depends on the person. remember happy drunk and pissed off drunk? same theory. they would still be who they are at thier core no matter what. they are just drunk or stoned too. as far as stipulations that it would ruin society and turn us into a nation of stoners, we allready are a nation of stoners. we get up and go to work everyday. the only difference is that we wouldnt be getiing put in jail and having the taxpayers waste millions of our dollars every year to prosses nonviolent “criminals”

      • maria juana

        you guys are full of it…look if you dont smoke then just let those people that want to die DIE…i mean why are you butting in…you could tell them endlessly that its bad for them but they are way to high to understand!!!get over it and get a life!!

        • Smoke Spreads Uncontrollably

          Hi Maria Juana,
          First, there is a reason why people argue on this topic. There are consequences for those who support legalization of pot if it was illegal, and also there are consequences for those who supports ILlegalization of pot. So we have to find what is best for us. Yes, we can just ignore this and say we aren’t full of it but the truth is if our attitude was that way then we would have lots of problems to deal with. So we must argue and try to find which solution is the best for all of us, or at least the majority.
          Yes, I know politics or debates are a pain in our ears. But we need it!

  • Jack

    Pot is psychotoxic, plain and simple. It is far from being “harmless.” Check the DEA records and you’ll see that cannabinoid medicines are being researched and developed. A half dozen years ago, the DEA approved about 500 kg of pot a year for medical and scientific research. Today, the figure is 4500 kg per year. Why? Scientists have identified the cannabis genome and can engineer out the psychic side effect. This will permit higher doses of THC to be given to patients without the worry of the hallucinogenic side effect. Pot-lite will be on the shelves in under five years and all the arguments about smoking crude marijuana will be mooted. Think of it as coffee without the caffeine, pot without the punch. Taxing it? A complete non-starter. Might as well tax regular grass since they’re both just as easy to grow at home. Booze and cigarettes are taxed but harder to make at home and, besides, the tax revenue pays for only a fraction of the costs attributed to these harmful drugs each year — and they are legal for most of us.

    • kevin

      “This will permit higher doses of THC to be given to patients without the worry of the hallucinogenic side effect”

      …really jack? -_-