Ryan Killian J.

Reynolds English 101 22 March, 2014 End Marijuana Prohibition

We have all heard of the 1930’s government propaganda film Reefer Madness, where the main characters smoke a little cannabis and collectively lose their minds. Most of us can agree that smoking Cannibis once or even many times will not induce incurable madness or blood lust. We, as a nation, are missing out on a great economic opportunity to lower federal spending, create jobs, decrease prison populations and reintroduce hemp for industry. Marijuana should be regulated in the same way as alcohol and tobacco, and removed from the criminal justice system. First, we will take a look at the economic benefits of the legalization of marijuana. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Dr. Jeffrey Miron, Professor of Economics at Harvard University, estimates that $7.7 billion would be saved per year by cutting enforcement on marijuana alone. (MPP.) If taxed as a normal good, marijuana could create an additional $2.4 billion in tax revenue, but one would expect it to be taxed similar to that of alcohol and tobacco, which then would generate around $6.2 billion. According to the White House Website, 2.2% of state prison populations nation-wide involve only marijuana drug cases, while 2.7% are serving time for other drug charges along with marijuana (Whitehouse). We, as tax payers, would benefit in the freeing up of our corrections departments, which are already overpopulated as it is. Also, think of how much it costs to feed and clothe an individual inmate for a year, then multiply that number by tens of thousands, which is a lot of savings. Also, think about our clogged and

inefficient judicial system, which would benefit greatly in the reduction of harmless marijuana charges. In 2014, Colorado and Washington State decriminalized and taxed legal sales of marijuana, creating $20 million in revenue in the short life of the new law. Also, the University of Colorado gained a boost of 20% in admissions for the past semester after the new law was enacted, creating even more revenue for the state & local governments, as well as local businesses (Boychuk). A well respected conservative economist, Dr. Milton Friedman, states, “At a minimum, this debate will force advocates of current policy to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost to taxpayers…and consequences that result from marijuana prohibition.” (MPP). Marijuana shouldn’t be legalized for only recreational purposes. The United States has banned hemp as an industrial resource and material since 1957. There is a huge market to be filled by research and development of hemp to meet the current market demands. According to Congressional record, marijuana that contains 0.3% or less THC (the main psychoactive chemical found in marijuana), can be considered as hemp for industrial purposes (NORML). Eleven states: California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia have all began the process of creating legislation enabling the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp. This could create another very important, large industry to state economies, as well as reducing prices of consumer goods. Hemp is used as a high quality and efficient rope with high tensile strength and durability when wet. This would eliminate the need for shipping companies to import rope and other similar items, becoming less dependent on other world economies while further strengthening ours. According to the U.S Congressional Resource Service, the U.S is the only developed nation that does not cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop (NORML).

Advocates on the other side of the fence believe that the legalization of marijuana will lead to a further disconnected America. Some believe that the legalization would lead to expanded use. In many European countries where marijuana and other drugs have been legalized or decriminalized, there has been a slight decrease in drug use. California Gov. Jerry Brown states, “The world’s a pretty dangerous, very competitive…we need to stay alert…24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together” (Boychuk). Brown implies that someone who smokes pot would not be able to be productive in society, but why not argue that? Productive and sensible alcoholics exist in our society- should we then ban all substances that change your consciousness? No, we tried that with the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, to no avail. On to the subject of health, I don’t need statistics to show you that smoking anything is bad for you; alcohol isn’t good for you either. Marijuana has shown to be non-addictive and you cannot overdose from it. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that “low levels of marijuana use (with no tobacco use) produced no detrimental effect in lung function study participants. In fact, exposure led to a mild, but not clinically significant, beneficial effect…among those who smoked one joint per day.” (Whitehouse). Another popular right wing stance is that keeping marijuana illegal discourages

use among minors and keeping drugs off the street, which is untrue. In fact, in a survey of high school seniors, concluded by the U.S Government last year, revealed that 85.5% said marijuana was easy to get. (Whitehouse). Personally, I would rather regulate marijuana sales. One, to reduce the availability to kids under 18 or even 21, and two, to keep young people away from black market dealings, where they may be offered or given other, more serious, illicit drugs. The average age of first use is 17.5 years old. I believe regulation would lead these numbers to increase the age of the first use, much like alcohol and cigarettes. The White House website

states that 38% of Americans have tried marijuana at least once, while 15 million Americans have used at least once in the past month. (Whitehouse.) This is a large chunk of other wisely law abiding citizens with little threat to society, who are vilified for smoking a harmless natural growing plant. Marijuana reform will be an important cultural step to the evolution of the American people. It will have resounding effects on society, the economy, political reform and government spending. We can all agree that America is in need of dyer reform in terms of infrastructure, education and politics. With the amount of savings accumulated from the regulation and taxation of recreational marijuana, we can strengthen our country from the inside out, all while reducing public debt and limiting the youths ability to attain a drug, much like alcohol which can have a negative effect on the development of Americas youth. We, as Americans, are responsible for pushing the real issues to the forefront of debates in Washington that will affect the nation’s future generations. If you’re on the fence with this policy, even if it does not affect you, vote yes, so we as a nation can grow and put another issue to the forefront of debate.