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Fostering Economic Growth

12 March, 2009 (09:33) | Politics

Marijuana and Money

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 Oaksterdam CrestThe 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.

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  • Somebody told me pot is the number two plant grown in Alaska.

    The Intertron knows all. Ask it.

    I am drunk.

    I am alone.

    But actually everybody is in the room next door playing rockband.

  • The Old Bear

    The University of Amsterdam used to operate the “Centre for Drug Research” which conducted a lot of scholarly and practical research into topics of drugs, substance abuse, regulation, etc. Among their archives is a 2004 article by Harry Levine and Craig Reinarman which tries to draw some lessons from the US experience with prohibition in the 1920s for the design of a rational drug policy today. The full text may be found online here.

    While there were many factors affecting the repeal of prohibition in 1933, during the Great Depression and the first year of Franklin Roosevelt's first presidential term, the economics of taxation and cost of law enforcement (and the second-order effects of “lawlessness”) were not insignificant.

    I would be surprised to see any change to Federal regulation except that which can be justified as a “states' rights” issue. However, that may be enough for states like California — i.e., states faced with massive fiscal difficulties — to consider serious changes to their drug laws in the pursuit of tax revenue.

    There is something meretricious about this, not unlike the interest in legalized casino gambling as a quick-and-easy way to plug state tax revenue shortfalls. But there is no such thing as a free lunch and one only can hope that legal reforms are crafted with more than just taxes in mind.

  • TheOldBear

    The University of Amsterdam used to operate the “Centre for Drug Research” which conducted a lot of scholarly and practical research into topics of drugs, substance abuse, regulation, etc. Among their archives is a 2004 article by Harry Levine and Craig Reinarman which tries to draw some lessons from the US experience with prohibition in the 1920s for the design of a rational drug policy today. The full text may be found online here.

    While there were many factors affecting the repeal of prohibition in 1933, during the Great Depression and the first year of Franklin Roosevelt's first presidential term, the economics of taxation and cost of law enforcement (and the second-order effects of “lawlessness”) were not insignificant.

    I would be surprised to see any change to Federal regulation except that which can be justified as a “states' rights” issue. However, that may be enough for states like California — i.e., states faced with massive fiscal difficulties — to consider serious changes to their drug laws in the pursuit of tax revenue.

    There is something meretricious about this, not unlike the interest in legalized casino gambling as a quick-and-easy way to plug state tax revenue shortfalls. But there is no such thing as a free lunch and one only can hope that legal reforms are crafted with more than just taxes in mind.