Legalizing Marijuana Can Help Economy

Legalizing Marijuana Can Help Economy
Posted by CN Staff on March 16, 2009 at 05:45:58 PT
By Margaret Miceli, Collegian Columnist
Source: Daily Collegian 
PA -- Welcome back, Penn Staters. While you were gone, the locals crawled out of their holes for one student-free week of revelry, the world discovered we had a basketball team, and -- news flash -- we're still in a recession.As the recession continues to stick around, it seems clear that we need some creative ways to raise revenue in failing states. One California assemblyman should be applauded for an innovative, forward-thinking way to raise money for the state government. The legislator introduced a bill last month that would legalize marijuana (only in California, sadly) and allow the state to regulate and tax its sale.
The federal government gave as close to a stamp of approval as it ever does, with the U.S. attorney general announcing that states should be able to make their own rules for medical marijuana, and that federal raids on pot dispensaries in California, common under the past administration, would stop.There's no question that this move would raise a lot of money for the cash-strapped state. California is one of 10 states allowing the sale of medicinal marijuana, and marijuana is already California's biggest cash crop, responsible for $14 billion a year in sales. The state's tax collectors estimate the bill would bring in about $1.3 billion a year in revenue via a $50-per-ounce levy on retail sales of marijuana and sales taxes. One economist estimated the state would also save about $1 billion per year by not arresting and imprisoning those caught with small amounts of marijuana. But the proposed bill has met with the usual objection from anti-marijuana activists, who claim the legalization of marijuana would contribute to society's ills.People seem to have a knee-jerk reaction against legalizing marijuana. There's a perception that it's dangerous, that legalization will lead to a country filled with bumbling idiots laying around on their parents' couches watching Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. The phrase "gateway drug" is thrown around a lot. I blame Nancy Reagan and the "Just Say No" campaign, but a lot of the unjustified fear has to do with the lack of substantive medical data on the dangers of marijuana. It isn't clear, yet, how much damage smoking marijuana can have on a person, though recent studies seem to show smoking in moderation is much less harmful than '80s propaganda suggests.What is clear is the state of California is in serious economic trouble. Most recently, California's 1,000 K-12 school districts have been instructed to absorb more than $8 billion in funding cuts over the next year, leading to the recent issuance of layoff notices for approximately 26,500 teachers and 15,000 bus drivers, janitors, secretaries and administrators.The $1.3 billion in revenue starts to sound a lot better when you think of how many jobs it could save or how many public school students could have teachers for another year. Gov. Ed Rendell proposed something similar in Pennsylvania, legalizing video poker to fund higher education tuition subsidies for needy students. I don't think anyone thinks that legalizing marijuana and video poker are great ideas, but when balanced against the alternative -- the decay of public education and inability to afford higher education -- they may become more attractive options.Like all economic decisions, a cost-benefit analysis should be applied to the legalization of marijuana and other vices. The possibility of societal ills from the legalization of marijuana are minimal; the American Medical Association has said the risk of addiction is low, scientists can't tell if it has any adverse health risks besides the risk of lung cancer, and it is impossible to die of THC poisoning (though most marijuana-related deaths occur indirectly. Driving while stoned, for instance). And since marijuana is already widely available to Californians through both legal and illegal means, there wouldn't necessarily be a sudden rush on stores if marijuana were legalized.In the case of California and Pennsylvania, the benefits -- an additional stream of revenue -- far outweigh any potential societal ills. Without the extra money, California will suffer serious economic troubles -- and as the country's most populous state, California's ills affect the whole nation. Pennsylvania, like California, is also in serious need of money. Regardless of your position on the legalization of gambling and marijuana, the fact is that both states need money -- and legalizing these vices are relatively low-impact ways to get it.Margaret Miceli is a junior majoring in English, media studies and political science and is The Daily Collegian's Monday columnist.Source: Daily Collegian (PA Edu)Author: Margaret Miceli, Collegian ColumnistPublished: Monday, March 16, 2009Copyright: 2009 Collegian Inc.Contact: collegianletters psu.eduWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives
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