Note: This isn’t something that I want to turn into a hardcore debate. It’s just a discussion.
I’ll begin this post by coming straight out into the open- I’ll admit to having smoked some pot in my late teenage years. I don’t use it anymore, and it’s the only drug beyond nicotine and alcohol I have ever touched. I don’t go to the marijuana marches, and I don’t own any bongs. I was also never arrested, I never trafficked, I never became dependent, and I was never “scared straight” by my parents. Therefore, on a personal level, I am not biased towards or against legalization. My experience with pot use was neither good nor bad- to me, it was just an experience. This will be a controversial topic, but the liberal Canadian in me just does not understand what the big deal is- and the accountant in me doesn’t understand why world governments are not taking advantage of all the sweet, sweet tax money legalization would bring in. I’m just looking at the numbers.
Let’s start by stating that in North America, the War on Drugs is not working. That’s just a fact. As of 2011 in the United States, 42.4% of people had tried marijuana at least once; in Canada, that number is 44.5%. That’s just the people who actually told the truth in the survey.
Now, just a quick side note before I’m blasted for advocating giving drugs to children: I’m not saying the government should let every single person have unlimited access to marijuana. I definitely agree that there should be an age floor for any type of drug, considering anything in excess for a growing teenager is bad for the body. However, I remember that when I was 18 years old, before I hit the magical age of 19 where you’re all of a sudden responsible enough to drink or buy cigarettes in Ontario, it was cheaper and easier for me to buy ganja than it was to buy liquor or cigarettes. I’m talking exponentially easier. You would pick up the phone and within minutes, you’re making awkward small talk with some random dealer (because they always think they’re your friend, but they’re not your friend). Mere minutes after that, you’re on your way to the munchies.
This wouldn’t happen as often if marijuana was legalized, regulated, and taxed. Government regulation is not perfect, but with alcohol it cut down drastically on bootleg drinking. When was the last time you drank anything that came out of a still? Never, I’ll bet. Nowadays you need I.D. when you go to the LCBO or the Target or the corner store or wherever you can buy alcohol where you live. With marijuana, regulation would cut down ease of access for teenagers; it wouldn’t be as simple as calling any random friend.
Let’s get to cost-cutting, which is a big deal to Americans especially right now. According to the FBI, 45.6% of all drug sale/possession arrests in the United States consist of marijuana possession. That is an insane amount. What police department wouldn’t love to cut their costs by 45.6%? That’s not to mention the amount of people in prison just for marijuana possession, and how much that costs per person. In 2010, 51% of American inmates sentenced were found guilty on drug charges. It costs $44000 in the US to house an inmate for 1 year. With the number above, the government would spend $4, 288, 768, 000 to keep those drug offenders in prison for a year. That’s written correctly. Four billion dollars. Divide that by 45.6%, the amount of possession charges grouped in there, and the government is spending $1, 955, 678, 208 a year to house people who were only caught with marijuana on their person. That’s not trafficking, or other drugs… that’s the cost of possession, on it’s own. That’s a nice little slice of the deficit there, isn’t it America?
In 1998 the Canadian government guessed that the drug trade was worth up to $10 billion annually. THAT IS AN INSANE AMOUNT OF MONEY TO BE PASSING UP. Assuming a 13% tax on $10 billion, our government could be making $1.3 billion a year from the tax revenue alone.
So my question is this… we have the United States with $17 trillion in debt and Canada with $590 billion owing. It has never been proven that there are any real serious health problems caused by marijuana (and in fact, it helps people with critical illnesses). Most people, clearly, have done it anyway, and those who do it on a regular basis clearly don’t care about the law. Deterrence hasn’t worked since the War on Drugs began in the first place. The governments have billions in potential revenue and billions in cost cuts at their disposal. So why on earth is no one advocating legalization?
The only immediate problem with legalization I can see that makes any sense is the fact that law enforcement officials have no way to quantify the amount of THC that is acceptable in a body while driving, nor do they have the ability to test for that acceptable amount by the roadside. And there’s also the fact that the governments did way too good of a job blaming the drug for all of life’s ills, and it would take a very long time to convince the public that smoking pot doesn’t actually give you reefer madness.
I think that eventually, common sense will prevail and marijuana will be legalized. I’m tentatively guessing twenty years.
What’s everyone’s opinion on this? From a pure economic standpoint, ignoring everything else, does legalization make sense to you?