Abstract The drug menace appears to be out of control with the number of users rising daily. The society called for the enactment of punitive drug legislation with the hope that this would be a deterrent. What followed was a judicial system choked with drug cases and the penal system overflowing with drug inmates. Non-violent offenders comprised mostly of drug users with a majority being Marijuana users. However, due to the high burdensome cost on the penal system, the continued criminalization of marijuana is proving untenable. Calls for legalization of Marijuana are gaining momentum.
This paper delves into the economic benefits of its legalization with priority being job creation, new taxes and relieving the legal system of case burden. Beneath the rumbles of the economic crisis, another debate has begun to stir, one on the impracticality of current drug laws. Drugs legislation like the Rockefeller drug laws were established when the country’s drug use was at an all time high. The laws which provided for strict penalties had been enacted with the aim of curbing a menace which seemed ready to spin out of control.
Marijuana was one of the drugs meant to be curbed by these laws. What followed was an increase in drug convictions but no decrease in crime. Up to now the situation has not changed. What can be seen however is the continuous overwhelming of the justice system which utilizes immense federal and state resources in investigating, prosecuting and incarcerating drug offenders. This essay is written with marijuana in mind exploring what would be the economic benefits if it was legalized. The decision to legalize marijuana in the United States would amount to several economical benefits through the creation of new jobs, implementation of new taxes, and the diversion of funds currently being depleted by legal efforts to keep it off the streets. The federal and state governments use a great deal of resources in enforcing drug laws.
Resources are allocated to police for investigating and arresting drug users, funding has to be allocated to the courts and correctional facilities need funds to run operations. It is estimated that $ 68 billion was spent on correction facilities in 2008 with a third of those inmates serving time for non violent drug crimes says Klein (2009) while $ 150 billion went to courts and police activities.
47.5% of all drug users are marijuana related. It is important to point out that not all the resources were meant to pursue Marijuana dealers and users, the funds were used to arrest and prosecute other offenders. But still, with that huge number of Marijuana users accounting for a considerable proportion of inmates, it can be concluded that a great deal of resources end up prosecuting and incarcerating Marijuana users.
With these offenders being categorized as non-violent criminals, it is clear that there is need to seriously re-evaluate the stand on the legality of Marijuana. The funds utilized on efforts to arrest and prosecute Marijuana dealers and users can be channeled into improvement of the infrastructure. The economic crisis had a devastating effect on many areas of the country’s economy; one of its resulting casualties was employment. The government initiated a stimulus policy meant to mitigate job losses with results being varied.
This therefore provides an opportune time to push for the legalization of marijuana because doing so will provide an avenue for job creation. Industries like agriculture, advertising, marketing and packaging are sectors which can be created from this (Klein, 2009). Legalization would lead to Marijuana being grown like other cash crops and an income derived from it. Big growers can also provide employment through hiring of workers to help in cultivating the crop. Marketing and advertising industry would create ads meant to encourage Marijuana use (Regulation would be needed to guard against targeting underage persons).
Legalizing Marijuana portend a new revenue stream both for state and federal government which will be garnered from taxes. The exact revenue generated from the sale of Marijuana cannot, with definite veracity, be established. This is borne from the illegal element of Marijuana trade. That notwithstanding, a research carried out by Caputo and Ostrom (1994) indicated that if marijuana was legalized, the federal government would have earned $5-9 billion as possible tax revenue. Klein (2010) adds that in Californian alone, Marijuana is the largest cash crop and he estimates that the revenue collected from its trade could amount to $14 billion.
These two figures serve to illustrate the amount of revenue both the federal and state governments would get if Marijuana taxes were introduced as a consequence of its legalization. A sales tax on marijuana products could be introduced as a means of raising money together with an excise tax, this would be assessed on manufacturers who will be licensed to process marijuana and make its products. The service industry can also contribute by paying license fees to be allowed to establish cafes where Marijuana can be sold.
Additional revenue can be generated from the sale of the hemp plant which is a source of biomass and fiber (Rosenthal, 1994). However, in generating revenue from Marijuana taxation, it is noteworthy that there will be other dynamics which might affect this revenue stream. The cost of production associated with Marijuana is quite minimal therefore a given proportion of Marijuana dealers will opt to grow from home and later sell in order to generate considerable profit.
Caputo and Ostrom (1994) are of the opinion that dealers will cultivate from home due to its inexpensive nature and aim to get significant profits from their endeavors. Strong regulation and enforcement might therefore minimize this from happening. The foregoing shows that legalizing Marijuana can have a significant impact in the economic situation, all this notwithstanding the strong voices of Marijuana critics still continue to reverberate in opposing this move. Their arguments centre on Marijuana’s moral and health implications to citizens. Klein (2009) points out a moralist assertion that if Marijuana is legalized, it will allow the gradual growth of this vice with the potential effect of weakening the society through its ill effects.
This point does not take into account the other vices which are legal like smoking and alcoholism and which have more detrimental effects than Marijuana. Tashkin (1994) writes on the effect of Marijuana smoking where he states that heavy smokers seem to suffer from respiratory diseases. This fact has health advocates opposing Marijuana legalization due to the visible added cost tax payers will have to bear to treat bhang smokers.
Though this might be true, the taxes collected, apart from infrastructure use, can serve to meet this additional cost. Rosenthal (1994) argues that Marijuana users cause accidents as a result of mental impairment. This has an economic impact due to the possible rise in health insurance and the injuries such drivers may occasion on third parties. A review of this discussion shows the potential of Marijuana legalization. This nation should be looking for ways to cut its spending and increase its revenue base since the effects from the economic crisis have not yet subsided.
It should be searching for ways to cut the huge budget deficit and reduce on unemployment while legalization of Marijuana presents such an avenue. It is time that opponents of legalization engage with reality and drop their unwavering stance and see the benefits this will have on the overall economy some being; job creation, generation of the much needed tax and cutting of huge government spending. In conclusion, discourse is needed in order to ensure that every American is aware of the potential Marijuana has to the overall growth and progress of the nation. References Caputo, M.
R. and Ostrom, B. J. (1994). Potential tax revenue from a regulated marijuana market: A meaningful revenue source. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 53. Klein, J. (2009). Why legalizing marijuana makes sense. Time, Retrieved from http: //www. time. com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1889021,00.html Rosenthal, E. (1994). Economic of cannabis legalization. Hemp Today, 311-24. Tashkin, D. (1993). "Is Frequent Marijuana Smoking Harmful to Health? " Western Journal of Medicine, 158, 635-37.