Legalizing Pot Makes Budgetary Sense

Legalizing Pot Makes Budgetary Sense
Posted by CN Staff on October 11, 2006 at 09:04:40 PT
By Robert Sonora
Source: Durango Herald
Colorado -- This election year, Colorado voters have the opportunity to decide whether or not to make it legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, reducing the penalty from a petty offense to nothing. Opponents of this measure, Amendment 44 on the November ballot, contend that legalizing dope would have a negative impact on Colorado's children. Implicitly, they argue that the increasing costs associated with marijuana usage will only rise should the law pass.
So, what are the human costs of marijuana use relative to other controllable "bad habits"? According to a 2004 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the leading cause of death is tobacco followed by obesity and alcohol, accounting for 18 percent, 17 percent, and 4 percent of all deaths, respectively, in 2000. Last on the list, after firearms and auto accidents, is illicit drug use, about 0.7 percent of all deaths. The costs of marijuana use include lost productivity, health problems and criminal activity. But these costs are less than any of the other "big three" killers. And when comparing the incidence of violent crimes between alcohol and marijuana, research shows that aggression increases with alcohol. In 2002, drunkenness was a contributing factor in about 30 percent of violent crimes, whereas, aggression declines with bong hits - despite scenes portrayed in Reefer Madness. Similarly, looking at the drug war as a whole, Noble Prize-winning economist Gary Becker and his co-author Appeals Judge Richard Posner, both at the University of Chicago, estimate that the direct cost to taxpayers is $100 billion per year. They further argue that legalizing illicit drugs and taxing them would have a larger impact on reducing drug use and generate $100 billion in taxes. This does not include other indirect costs, such as the U.S. maintaining troops in Colombia and Bolivia. We must also consider the costs associated with drug warlord infighting: this year in Nuevo Laredo, there will likely be more than 300 drug-related murders, Prohibition-era mob scenes revisited. And what are the benefits of legalizing the dreaded weed? In an open letter to the president and Congress, which was signed by more than 500 economists, three Nobel Laureates, including noted "Beatnik" Milton Friedman, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron argues that legalization would save the economy about $8 billion in enforcement costs and generate about $6 billion in taxes. Additionally, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, this despite a decline in violent crimes. One in 37 Americans is currently imprisoned, but at a cost. In 2000, the cost of incarcerating non-violent drug offenders was about $24 billion, six times the amount spent on child care.In many states, more is spent on incarceration than education, and with questionable results. A study for the RAND Corporation found that $1 million spent on sentencing results in a decline in cocaine consumption, but only 13 percent of what would have been achieved if that same amount had been spent on treatment - a poor use of already-scarce resources.Given the relative harm that alcohol and tobacco do to society and economy, it's hard to understand why marijuana is illegal. Historically, racism and discrimination largely explain anti-dope laws, not costs to society. The "gateway" drug argument is similarly specious; for example, less than 1 percent of marijuana users become cocaine addicts.It is, however, disingenuous to believe that dope is harmless. The tar content of Mary Jane is higher than cigarettes; there is a potential for psychological dependency - though not physiological as with alcohol or cigarettes. And pot smoking has one goal, to get high. Whereas a percentage of drinking is done for the pleasure of the taste - it's hard to imagine dope smokers wondering which better accompanies salmon, Thai stick or Silver Haze.Ultimately, the best solution is undoubtedly, complete abstention, but of everything, not just marijuana.The discussion in this column does not reflect the position of the School of Business or Fort Lewis College. Robert "Tino" Sonora is an assistant professor of economics and research associate at the Office of Economic Analysis and Business Research at Fort Lewis College.Newshawk: Global_WarmingSource: Durango Herald, The (CO)Author: Robert SonoraPublished: October 11, 2006Copyright: 2006 The Durango HeraldWebsite: letters durangoherald.comRelated Articles & Web Site:Safer Choice Vote to Legalize Marijuana is a Vote for Choice and Baiting Adults Should Be Allowed To Choose 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #14 posted by whig on October 12, 2006 at 01:55:42 PT
Amen to you.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by global_warming on October 11, 2006 at 15:30:08 PT
On with 44, and if 44 falters this year"We the people will come back every yearTo Affirm freedom and goodnessForever to the Highest Truth
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by FoM on October 11, 2006 at 15:21:37 PT
Yes on 44! I don't tune out to that! 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by global_warming on October 11, 2006 at 15:10:54 PT
but for some
a tune is not enoughevery sound of music affirmsthere is a better safer wayand this change is apostolicthis change is rooted in the blood of the martyrswho had the courage and wisdomto make our worlda better safer' worldLong into the NightTwinkle, I see your smileI know 'we can share the bread and salt of Life'We can make a better worldThe profit is in the fruits"We bring to EternityYes 44
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by FoM on October 11, 2006 at 14:51:42 PT
You know I don't mind them really. I just tune out. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by global_warming on October 11, 2006 at 14:44:52 PT
don't mind them fomme
someday booze will translate into dope and then what do you have?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by FoM on October 11, 2006 at 11:13:23 PT
Legalizing Dope
That is so condescending. Some of these writers remind me of a person who worships money and dislikes anyone that they feel is beneath them. I mind arrogrance in a big way. We're all people. No one is better then another. Some maybe luckier but not better.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by FoM on October 11, 2006 at 11:03:33 PT
I See The Spin
I know what they are up to and it makes me angry. Drugs and Marijuana in the same article really sets me off anymore. I say to myself I know what side they are on. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by Max Flowers on October 11, 2006 at 10:57:22 PT
I didn't read the article carefully enough... apparently the guy is advocating legalization. I don't know, it's hard to tell. I just know that I react badly when people put down cannabis and make it sound like all its fans are boorish idiots who don't value its various flavors and characteristics. Cannabis connoisseurs are every bit as discerning as wine freaks. Even more so, in my experience. There's more to love. Wine (and other alcoholic drinks) only has so many differences to appreciate. The strains and varieties of cannabis are ENDLESS.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by Max Flowers on October 11, 2006 at 10:50:00 PT
More propagandistic, moronic pronouncements
 Whereas a percentage of drinking is done for the pleasure of the taste - it's hard to imagine dope smokers wondering which better accompanies salmon, Thai stick or Silver Haze.What an arrogant piece of work this guy is. As if alcohol has some innate superiority or something! Cannabis has in fact as many or MORE facets and taste variations and other fine aspects that connoisseurs appreciate than alcohol does. And that crap about "pot smoking has only one goal"---that is just as true of alcohol (i.e., it's untrue). Just as some people only have a little wine with dinner, many people only have one tiny toke with dessert. Moderation is NOT the domain of alcohol users alone. In fact, let me just set it straight here: given the astonishing number of alcohol users who kill others and themselves and die of alcohol-abuse-related disease every year like clockwork, for this guy to even dare to posture that alcohol engenders some kind of moderate tendencies while pot users are nothing but druggy hedonists is the very pinnacle of hypocrisy, disingenuousness and/or self-deception!What a TOOL!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by observer on October 11, 2006 at 10:48:46 PT
focus on marijuana 
I wish writers could keep the focus on marijuana issues and don't even mention hard drugsI believe the confusion with of cannabis with other drugs is purely intentional. 
ConflationIn the propaganda of prohibition, it is often useful to blend together
different aspects of various substances, claiming that "drugs" lead to
death or at least mental and bodily illness. "'YOU ARE ALL potential
customers of death and destruction,' the Suffolk County Police
Department representative said. His words sent a chill down my spine,
though I'm not sure they were understood by the 200 fifth graders who
sat in the school cafeteria for their DARE graduation the other day, my
daughter among them. He was referring to the fact that someone may
try to sell them drugs . . ."52Sometimes it is helpful to enlist the woes caused by any and every drug,
when talking about a specific substance. If using a certain drug isn't
associated with a given problem, drift over into a more helpful "drugs,"
instead. "How ironic that a marijuana legalization endorsement . . .
follows in the footsteps of [the newspaper] series, 'Violence: A Hidden
Epidemic.' It's misguided journalism to overlook the direct link between
violence and marijuana or other drug use."53 "The lesson about the
perils of drugs has come at an incredible cost. . . . drugs have gained a
highly idealized reputation as a path of emotional release in modern
times. This romantic view, pedalled hard by the marijuana traders of
Nimbin and the amphetamine salesmen of the Gold Coast night scene,
rarely includes the awful down side of their seedy trade. . . . about
deaths, about scrambled minds, about armed robbery . . ."54p.57, Drug War Propaganda, 2003, Doug Snead 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by paul armentano on October 11, 2006 at 09:11:39 PT
Kudos to the Durango Herald
Posted 12:23 AM by SAFER Choice Comments | Trackback Durango Herald Says Vote YES on 44In an editorial this past weekend, the Durango Herald urged its readers to vote YES on Amendment 44. While they only provided a brief explanation, they said more detailed explanations are forthcoming for some initiatives. Nevertheless, their explanation sums it all up."Cops and courts have more important business than prosecuting adults for small amounts of pot."Indeed they do...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by paul armentano on October 11, 2006 at 09:09:11 PT
More from CO [Excerpt] Craig Daily PressMarijuana propagandaAmendment 44 backers seek GRAMNET recordsBy Joshua Roberts, Daily Press writerWednesday, October 11, 2006The campaign director for a Denver-based group leading the charge for
pro-marijuana legislation said his organization "anxiously" awaits the
response from a local drug task force that may have violated state campaign laws.So far, that response hasn't come."Our response to that is ‘no comment,'" said Dusty Schulze, task force
commander of the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team.In late September, GRAMNET released a statement urging residents to vote against Amendment 44 -- a question on the November general election ballot that, if approved, would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for anyone 21 or older. The eight-page release, which included information titled "The Truth about Marijuana," was attributed to eight officials in Moffat and Routt counties, including the sheriffs from both counties and the district attorney, who prosecutes cases in both counties.On Friday, the Alcohol-Mariïjuana Equalization Initiative committee, a branch of the group Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, filed an
open records request with GRAMNET. The group is trying to learn whether the drug task force broke state law by spending more than $50 preparing and distributing the release."It's against the law," said Mason Tvert, a campaign director for SAFER.
"When the police break the law, it's a big deal. ... And I would think our
government using our tax dollars to break the law is a big deal."
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by FoM on October 11, 2006 at 09:08:58 PT
Just a Comment
I wish writers could keep the focus on marijuana issues and don't even mention hard drugs. Hard drugs offend so many people and that is what the prohibitionists think we want and I sure don't. I never would have gotten involved in drug policy reform if I thought I had to agree to hard drugs.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment