Fostering Economic Growth
The economy will fix itself eventually. It’s a foregone conclusion. How long it will take, however, isn’t clear.
In my eyes, there’s one way that President Barack Obama and the current government can create jobs, cut costs, earn money and give the economy a major boost in one easy move: Legalize marijuana.
Those of you who know me know I have, for a long time, been a proponent of marijuana decriminalization and legalization. After visiting Amsterdam last fall, I began to rethink that position (see previous link). The utter comercialism of the pot industry disgusted me, but it’s clear that as a business it could thrive.
In California, where the economic downturn is heaviest and where medical marijuana is grown legally, the pot industry brought in over 2 million dollars in tax revenue in 2004 in Oakland alone,though that dropped off as dispensaries were shut down. If California and the federal government had fostered store fronts and small businesses centered on pot instead of enforcing the current laws, they might be in a better position to deal with this recession.
Late last month, San Francisco announced a bill to tax and regulate marijuana. California already has the largest agricultural economy in the United States, and legalizing marijuana would double California’s grap and vegetable numbers. Imagine that extended across every state. Weed is a hearty and easily grown crop, meaning there would be few places that couldn’t follow in its footsteps.
If we opened marijuana up to a controlled substance status like alcohol or tobacco, consumerism would be through the roof; especially considering that many people would use pot to try and escape their current woes. While that’s not the best thing in the world, the drop in prices would make marijuana affordable while taking thriving industry out of the drug lords’ hands and putting it in the people’s.
The industry created would provide millions of jobs. It would make head shops more common, create agricultural jobs, increase hemp use for other means, create a ton of home brewery-like “grow your own” supply shops, as well as bakeries, pot growing schools like Oaksterdam, and houses having difficulty with mortgages can convert their basements into grow houses to supplement income. Despite the non-addictive qualities of marijuana, treatment centers would also appear.
Currently, prisons are overflowing and costing taxpayers millions of dollars each month. While marijuana offenders are not the majority of jailbirds(47% of drug sarrests were pot related in 2007), they do make up a fair portion and could cut the prison population–and hence the cost–by a significant percentage. The US could take some of that funding away from the DEA and its costly helicopter searches for plants and farms and put it toward treating real problems like the drug wars near the Mexico border or drug education.
I do think Obama can help the economy recover, I’m still unclear if his first stimulus package will be enough. Legalizing the dank would not be a cure-all solution to our current problems, but it would go a long way. After all, green makes the world go round.