Study Makes Argument to Legalize It

Discussion
Oct 02, 2007

By George Anderson

A new study by Jon B. Gettmen of the Marijuana Policy Institute claims the government coffers in the U.S. are shy $41.8 billion because of laws prohibiting the growing, sale and possession of marijuana.

According to the study, which cites FBI crime statistics, there were nearly 830,000 marijuana related arrests in 2006 up from 786,545 in 2005. That figure represents 5.54 percent of all arrests in the U.S., costing taxpayers $10.7 billion.

The government, according to the study, loses an additional $31.1 billion in tax revenues as the business of selling marijuana is handled outside the traditional economy. The study points out that the lost taxes on marijuana exceed the 28.7 percent amount of the Gross National Product (GNP) that currently goes to federal, local and state governments.

Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release, “Prohibition has done nothing to reduce marijuana use, which remains at about the level it’s been for decades, but prohibition has created a massive underground economy that’s completely unregulated and untaxed. The parallels with Alcohol Prohibition in the 1920s, including the needless violence and a huge underground economy, are eerie.”

The Marijuana Policy Project advocates policy reform that would have the government regulate marijuana in a similar fashion to alcohol.

Discussion Questions: Is it time for the government to legalize marijuana and regulate it in a similar fashion to alcoholic beverages? What would legalized marijuana mean for the retailing industry? Would retailers be able to put safeguards in place to responsibly handle the sale of marijuana?

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13 Comments on "Study Makes Argument to Legalize It"


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Mary Baum
Guest
Mary Baum
14 years 7 months ago

It’s long past time marijuana was legalized, regulated and taxed for the good of federal and state budgets, public safety and people who genuinely need it for medical reasons.

It’s interesting that you guys don’t see massive economic opportunities growing out of legalization. One way to look at that might be that the criminalizers will see, finally, that legalization won’t have much effect on the culture one way or another–that the effects would mostly be on what other problems we’d be free to tackle.

Assuming anyone wants to solve real problems, of course, or just find new fake ones to complain about….

David Morse
Guest
David Morse
14 years 7 months ago

Bravo, for taking this issue up! You guys certainly aren’t afraid of pushing the envelope.

This is America. It’s a country where it is still legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation yet illegal for same-sex marriage. It’s a country where we don’t change our immigration laws despite the fact we can’t enforce our borders and desperately need young blood to do our menial jobs and pay our social security.

Logic may dictate that the legalization of pot makes sense, but since when has that affected our policy making? It just ain’t gonna happen in our life times.

Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
Guest
Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
14 years 7 months ago
In the city of Beverly Hills it is now illegal to smoke at any restaurant–inside or outside. Maybe there’s an exception for hooka bars. Seriously, I have been making the argument for legalization–or, at least, de-criminalization–for many years. Half of the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on law enforcement, courts and jails is directly related to drug prohibition, yet the availability, purity and price on the street are unaffected. (By the way, that can only mean a lot of people in responsible positions across society are indulging. Your employees? Your boss?) Yes, the analogy to alcohol is direct. We live (and die) with the legality of alcohol, because we tried making it illegal and the effects were worse. I helped the LAPD start its “futures” effort over 20 years ago, and was an instructor at the California College on Police Officer Standards and Training. I only mention these things because most law enforcement people disagree with me; they feel the effects of legalization will be worse. I say hold people responsible for behavior… Read more »
Lee Peterson
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

This issue is definitely the 800 pound gorilla in the room. With close to a million arrests a year and millions of citizens in prison for possession, the absurdity of the laws surrounding marijuana are clearly motivated by sources other than logic (especially considering its counterpart; alcohol).

But you have to wonder, from a retail perspective, if legalization would actually help anything other than the sale of reefer itself. The thing that makes any (and there’s certainly a lot) pot-related merchandise–like t-shirts, jewelry, books, posters, MUSIC, stickers, etc.–cool, is the fact that pot’s technically illegal. Legalize it and you’d have a certain drop off in sales.

The biggest boom of a post-legalized world would undoubtedly pertain to the food industry…just what we needed!

Liz Crawford
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

Oh let’s legalize it already! The U.S. government is hugely in debt, the war is a fortune, and we are sitting on a pile of money we are too prudish to touch. What we would save in prison financing alone would probably be worth it.

Alcohol abuse is as bad, or arguably, worse than pot abuse…if we are so concerned about regulating consumers’ health, then we should make alcohol a controlled substance.

We can’t have it both ways. Legalize both or neither. I am in favor of legalizing pot–first for fiscal reasons, second for individual-rights issues. But that’s just me.

Regarding retailing–well, bars, clubs and hotels would come down on one side of the divide or the other…with more conservative, older institutions coming on later in all likelihood. Exotic hookah clubs would emerge. Some would proclaim that these were “dens of inquity” & lead to worsening social ills.

Personally, I say bring on more adult-choice categories and tell the nanny state to suck an egg.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

Pot legalization will take many steps. More states will allow medical use. A few more countries will allow medical and recreational use. Eventually, recreational use may be legalized in the US. This ultimate step may include keeping major marijuana sales illegal, but ignoring consistent enforcement. These evolutionary steps could take 20 to 50 years in the U.S. The marijuana lobby is nowhere as strong as the tobacco lobby.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
14 years 7 months ago

How would legalizing marijuana affect retailing?….

Snack Food sales will increase
Stores might need to be open later
Employee mistakes might increase
Febreeze sales will increase
Air Freshener sales will increase

All kidding aside, maybe I’m too conservative, but I think we have enough problems with underage drinking, domestic abuse rising from drunkeness, drunk drivers, etc. Do we really need another “drug” that is legal? I just don’t think so. Society can’t always be dictated by monetary gains.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 7 months ago
I vote for legalization and taxation. The cost of growing and packing is nothing. The high cost is due to the risk and loss factors. Take the risk and loss out of the picture and the cost of a joint would be less than 2 cents. I propose the following: 1. Pot be legalized and regulated 2. Legal growers be restricted to 10 acres or less and must plant harvest and package product themselves (no large corporate involvement). 3. Pot must be sold through licensed Liquor stores 4. Sales are limited to ten cigarettes per day per person. 5. Buyers must have their hand stamped with indelible ink dot the size of a dime just above the center knuckle. 6. All collected taxes are to be deposited in a Social Security Trust Fund set up so as to forbid congress from utilizing funding for any other purpose or from borrowing from this fund for any purpose. 7. Taxation would be set so that by weight legal sale would be set at a price at least… Read more »
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
14 years 7 months ago

I live around the corner from a “medical Marijuana” outlet in West Hollywood. The traffic into this storefront is fascinating. It runs the gamut of young and old, rich and poor, every ethnic group…it’s diversity at its best. And it is non-stop. Business is booming. The doctors that give these people prescriptions for this are making a fortune. It’s time to legalize it and move on. It’s virtually legal in West Hollywood already and there’s nothing devastating happening as a result.

Tim O'Connor
Guest
Tim O'Connor
14 years 7 months ago

This would take retail sales to a whole new “high”! Go for it!

Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
Guest
Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
14 years 7 months ago

Read this article in the current Foreign Affairs. It is why the global war on drugs cannot be won.

Steven Roelofs
Guest
Steven Roelofs
14 years 7 months ago

I lived in Amsterdam for six years. Marijuana is not technically legal, but the sale of small amounts is not illegal either. The Dutch government tolerates marijuana in order to keep it out of the hands of organized crime and to focus resources on harder drugs like heroin. Very pragmatic. I never noticed a problem except around the train stations in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague and even then, the situation paled in comparison with the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City.

However, Holland is also a nation where homosexuality, abortion and euthanasia are not national debates either. Would decriminalization of marijuana work here? No. Americans like to talk the talk about freedom, but when it comes to looking the other way when someone does or is something you disagree with, Americans just can’t do it. Americans are always up in someone else’s business. So really, it’s a bit of a moot discussion.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

This is one of those issues which I wanted to see what the others wrote first. It’s been many years–close to 30–since I inhaled. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to try it again, but legally.

I think it would be a nightmare for retailers. If I was a retailer I would not want it in my store. Why not just let the current market situation stay as is, except let it be legal? Somehow I picture it being sold on Indian reservations or those fireworks stands along the interstate.

Definitely keep laws on the books that allows employers to fire or not hire, based on marijuana use. People must realize that if they do use it, it can be used against them.

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