Ask the Experts: Should Uncle Sam Take a Toke to Fill His Coffers?

Ask The Experts Should Uncle Sam Take A Toke To Fill His Coffers

When in doubt, look to the founding fathers.  That’s what we do in this country, isn’t it?  We reference the Constitution in order to rationalize legal disputes, questions of fundamental rights, the role of the military, etc.  We hold our leaders up to the standards set by the likes of Washington and Adams.  And the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence are deeply ingrained in our collective psyche.

So, it only makes sense that we should look to the past for solutions to our country’s present economic woes, right?  Well, what if I were to tell you that one of the ties binding our country’s earliest leaders is made out of hemp?

Washington and Jefferson lived on hemp farms, and Adams was tied to the crop in writings as well.  Why is this relevant?  Well, many people out there think that we can save a lot of Benjamins by taking a page from Washington, Jefferson, and Adams’ books, that legalizing and taxing certain greenery would save the country a lot of, well, green.

That’s right, we’re talking about marijuana (aka weed, pot, cheeba, grass, Mary Jane).  Experts say the legalization of marijuana would save the U.S. more than $12 billion a year in prosecution and crime prevention costs alone as well as lead to a windfall of additional tax revenue and peripheral benefits.

Modern cannabis law is quite similar to the prohibition era in that it enriches the most savage gangsters, criminalizes a significant number of otherwise law abiding citizens and deprives tax coffers of billions,” says James Quinn, a professor of Rehabilitation, Social Works and Addictions at the University of North Texas.  “It is also a factor in police corruption and the growth of narco terror etc. in Mexico.

If such laws were to be eliminated, An industry similar to the tobacco industry would arise to sell marijuana, to advertise on a national scale, to make big contributions to political campaigns and to lobby against any health and safety related regulation of the marijuana industry,” says Keith Humphreys, a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.  Also, marijuana prices would fall and marijuana use and addiction would therefore increase.  Arrests for marijuana possession would drop, though they would not disappear as youth use would still be illegal as it is for alcohol.  Governments would gain some modest revenue from taxation.

In other words, there are advantages and disadvantages to both the current legislative landscape and the decidedly more liberal environment that proponents of legalization or decriminalization envision.  All in all, according to the experts that we consulted, the basic dynamics boil down to the:

  • Economics of the Issue: “Under legalization, the federal government and every state could collect taxes directly on marijuana sales—just like they do with tobacco today.  It’s unclear exactly how much revenue could be raised from marijuana excise taxes, but it would measure in the billions of dollars per year,” says Carl Davis, a senior policy analyst with the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. “Legalization would also boost national and state income tax revenues.  If producers and sellers of marijuana are operating in a regulated market as opposed to a black market, they would start paying income taxes on their earnings from marijuana sales.  It’s also likely that legalization would shift some marijuana production out of Canada and Mexico and into U.S., which could boost income tax revenues as well.”
  • Effect on Crime:  “Black markets fuel organized crime, and are responsible for the deaths of countless innocents and the corruption of law enforcement, while turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals,” says Randy Barnett, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at the Georgetown University Law Center.  “Legal marijuana is safer for everyone than illegal marijuana.”Jeff Miron, a senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies in economics at Harvard University, adds that “virtually all the negatives that prohibitionists blame on illegal drugs are the result of the prohibition of illegal drugs, not the drugs themselves.  In particular, drug markets are violent because they are illegal.  We don’t see drive by shooting in the coffee, alcohol, or tobacco markets.”
  • Social Impact:  “We don’t have a clue what the social cost of legalized marijuana are, so we cannot say with any certainty that they will or will not outweigh the benefit of tax revenue or other monetary savings.   But just because we do not know what they are, does not mean they are zero – which is what is so commonly presumed by the average person,” according to Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, director of the Rand Corporation’s Bing Center for Health Economics.  “There is a tradeoff between a known cost of prohibition and an uncertain cost or benefit  associated with legalization (that will definitely be impacted by the form of legalization that emerges).  So this is a gamble, and people have different preferences about such gambles that are completely independent of the science regarding the harms.  In another five years, we’ll know a lot more about the potential harms and benefits of marijuana use from the experiments that are currently going on now and the data being collected from them.  But the policy is ahead of the science here.”

Everyone has a different stance on the issue of marijuana, but regardless of our preconceived notions, it’s clear that decriminalization or legalization would pay certain financial dividends.  And considering the state of the economy as well as the country’s deficit, it’s clear that we need the money.

This is a tough and controversial issue, though, and it should not be taken lightly.  There are myriad nuances that must be considered – the impact of legal changes on diplomatic treaties, to name one in particular – and many of them came to light in our discussions with experts on public policy, crime, economics, and health services.

You can find their very insightful and revealing comments below.

Expert Opinions

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Jeff Miron

Senior Lecturer on Economics and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Harvard University

What would happen if the U.S. legalized the drug entirely? Will this ever happen, and if so, when?

If we really legalized, then we would see a market that looks a lot like the beer market. Consumption will increase modestly; govs will collect some revenue, save expenditure. Lower crime and corruption.

I think it will happen in my lifetime. But I suspect it’s at least 10 years away.

Could the money spent policing marijuana use be put to better use by government? If so, how?

In my judgment, yes. Simply use to reduce the deficit.

What do you make of the argument that the social costs of legalized marijuana would outweigh the tax revenue and other monetary benefits? Isn’t crime more prevalent in illegal markets than in those that are well regulated?

Virtually all the negatives that prohibitionists blame on illegal drugs are the result of the PROHIBITION of illegal drugs, not the drugs themselves.

In particular, drug markets are violent because they are illegal. We don’t see drive by shooting in the coffee, alcohol, or tobacco markets.

Do you see any parallels between the criminalization of marijuana and Prohibition?

Yes, of course. Basically the same issues.
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Carl Davis

Senior Policy Analyst with the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

What would happen if the U.S. legalized the drug entirely? Will this ever happen, and if so, when?

Under legalization, the federal government and every state could collect taxes directly on marijuana sales—just like they do with tobacco today. It’s unclear exactly how much revenue could be raised from marijuana excise taxes, but it would measure in the billions of dollars per year.

Legalization would also boost national and state income tax revenues. If producers and sellers of marijuana are operating in a regulated market as opposed to a black market, they would start paying income taxes on their earnings from marijuana sales. It’s also likely that legalization would shift some marijuana production out of Canada and Mexico and into U.S., which could boost income tax revenues as well.
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James Quinn

Professor of Rehabilitation, Social Works and Addictions at the University of North Texas

What would happen if the U.S. legalized the drug entirely? Will this ever happen, and if so, when?

There are a lot of unknowns in this. So far only the medical states have been examined but California can be considered close to decriminalization due to the breadth of its laws. Virtually no impacts have been noted on crime, health care etc. in either direction. Youth use is higher in medical states than in others but this appears to be a result of dynamics within the states – they were higher before medicalization as well. A Los Angeles study showed that closing ,many dispensaries correlated with an upsurge of crime, perhaps due to less “respectable” foot traffic but perhaps spurious.

Could the money spent policing marijuana use be put to better use by government? If so, how?

I can think of many things worthier of a $12 billion investment than marijuana control. (e.g., roads/bridges, education, health) so the opportunity cost is high especially since the great majority of ‘illegal’ users are merely cannabis consumers. Crime is always more prevalent in illicit markets and the greater the police pressure and penalty severity, the worse the crime. Marijuana growers and sellers face stiff penalties though users rarely spend much time in prison. Use does play a role in probation/parole violation statistics- this is about 20-30 % of the prison population last I looked but very difficult to pin down as the charge is violation of supervision not a specific act.

What do you make of the argument that the social costs of legalized marijuana would outweigh the tax revenue and other monetary benefits? Isn’t crime more prevalent in illegal markets than in those that are well regulated?

The benefits of legalization hinge on taxation. So long as the Federal government is intransigent on the issue it is very risky for growers, etc., to be listed by state agencies, as those records can be seized and used to raid suppliers who are legal in the state’s eyes. … There is a huge sin tax potential here that a lot of users and growers would welcome BUT so long as federal criminalization persists it will drive these growers etc., underground so we do see growers supplying both the legal and illegal markets simultaneously.

Do you see any parallels between the criminalization of marijuana and Prohibition?

Modern cannabis law is quite similar to the prohibition era in that it enriches the most savage gangsters, criminalizes a significant number of otherwise law abiding citizens and deprives tax coffers of billions. It is also a factor in police corruption and the growth of narco terror etc. in Mexico. Nations with lax laws such as the Netherlands have less use by youth – the main medical concern in the short run. In the long run smoking any drug is deleterious to health. Cannabis can be eaten or taken as tea BUT much more of it required for ‘edibles.’ With a ‘criminal tariff’ (markup due to risk of apprehension & severe punishment) of over 1000% no shift to edibles in the general cannabis market is likely. Under full legalization (though not decriminalization) this would change and consumers could even be their own suppliers.
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Randy Barnett

Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at the Georgetown University Law Center

What would happen if the U.S. legalized the drug entirely? Will this ever happen, and if so, when?

Gangs in the US and other countries would immediately be deprived of the millions of dollars in profits that would flow instead to law-abiding businesses. Law enforcement could confine itself to preventing minors from access. Millions of Americans would no longer be criminals.

Could the money spent policing marijuana use be put to better use by government? If so, how?

Every hour spent by the police enforcing marijuana laws is an hour that cannot be spent on murders, rapes, armed robberies, thefts, and burglaries, not to mention thousands of misdemeanors, which are largely ignored

What do you make of the argument that the social costs of legalized marijuana would outweigh the tax revenue and other monetary benefits? Isn’t crime more prevalent in illegal markets than in those that are well regulated?

Cigarettes kill, yet are treated as a health-care issue. Alcohol induces violence, yet is treated as a health issue, and violent acts prosecuted when they happen. There is no reason to treat marijuana any differently.

Bill Clinton and Barak Obama would never have been President had they been busted for pot smoking like tens of thousands of less fortunate citizens have been — ruining their lives and the lives of their families.

Do you see any parallels between the criminalization of marijuana and Prohibition?

Yes. In both cases black markets fuel organized crime, and are responsible for the deaths of countless innocents and the corruption of law enforcement, while turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals. Legal marijuana is safer for everyone than illegal marijuana.
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Rosalie Liccardo Pacula

Director of the RAND Corporation’s Bing Center for Health Economics

Have researchers identified any trends (e.g. impact on economy, health services costs, crime rates, etc.) in states that have legalized marijuana either entirely or for medical purposes?

No country has legalized marijuana, not even the Netherlands. Why is this important? With legalization comes a large reduction in the price of marijuana, given the legal risk of providing it and getting it to the market will disappear. Even in the Netherlands, where coffee shops abound – or Spain where cannabis clubs exist – production and distribution of marijuana to those shops or clubs remains illegal; hence, prices remain high.

Medical marijuana – has until recently – had minimal effect on marijuana prices, as dispensaries have kept prices at black market prices so as to reduce the chances of arbitrage (people buying from the dispensaries and then going out on the black market and making a profit). The competition that has arose more recently (due to huge increase in growers and dispensaries) have in general started driving prices down, but still nowhere near what the actual cost of production is. So, this is a long winded way of saying that while we may be able to identify some trends from the medical marijuana markets – we cannot be sure that those trends will continue or be the same for legalized markets.

I have seen claims of impacts on the economy, but no scientifically rigorous study. Analyses of health services costs have been limited to some basic studies of rises in ER visits and to a lesser extent drunk driving/drug treatment. The findings with respect to drug treatment are mixed (some showing more, others showing no significant effect) – and the findings with respect to drunk driving are also mixed (a dichotomous indicator of medical MJ laws shows a negative relationship with drunk driving or no effect, while an indicator for states that allow dispensaries show a positive effect on drunk driving – in other words, the story is “complex” and how we allow people to access marijuana (at home growing their own, versus going to dispensaries) seems to matter.

Studies on crime rates have also been limited, focused on two broad types of crimes: violent crime and property crime. I have yet to see any study suggesting a positive association with violent crime – generally there is no relationship (and that is expected). In terms of property crime, the findings are mixed but current evidence based on closures of dispensaries suggest that certain property crimes might go up when dispensaries close (suggesting dispensaries are associated with less crime). Much work needs to be done to determine if this is real or the artifact of location of where dispensaries choose to open and which ones get shut down.

So the bottom line is that we have insufficient evidence from the medical marijuana literature (given it is relative young, and initial findings are highly sensitive to how things get measured and defined, so in the scientific lingo we need to “replicate” to see if the results are real) to say anything conclusive on the effects of medical marijuana policies on any of the outcomes.

What would happen if the U.S. legalized the drug entirely? Will this ever happen, and if so, when?

I can definitively say that if we legalize marijuana, consumption will go up. I can’t tell you whether that increase in consumption will translate into greater health care costs or crime as we are still learning a lot about who is using and under what circumstances.

Legalization, depending on how it is structured, might limit who and where – or it can facilitate it everywhere. Think of drinking. If people only drink at home – we have far fewer alcohol related health and crime events (with the exception of alcohol-induced health events and domestic violence). It is drinking in bars, in public places, and by youth/heavy users that cause the vast majority of the social costs.

What do we know about marijuana? It is used by youth – and that causes some negative health events for inexperienced users and possible long term effects due to brain development during those ages– but the rest of it we have very little really good data on. We know people drive drugged – but unless they smoke and use alcohol, we don’t how much that translates into accidents, injuries and deaths. Very few drugged only drivers have accidents – and that is a function of (a) how potent the pot was that they used, (b) how recently they smoked it, and (c) their own personal tolerance (based on body mass and prior usage). A large person who drinks regularly and has one glass of wine is not going to be intoxicated driving – the same is true for pot. But we don’t have the data to know what the cutoffs are for THC and reliable testing of intoxication requires blood samples at this point (that is slowly changing, but not commercially viable yet).

We’re just learning about all of this – as the means for evaluating all of this, and the data in which to do so, is only just slowly becoming available. No information does not mean it is harmless, but it doesn’t mean it is horrible either. It means we don’t have enough data to say one way or the other on how it will affect the population as a whole (we can tell you anecdotally how it will affect certain types of people differently).

Will legalization ever happen – it’s possible. It was legal in the US back in the 1920s, so it’s not impossible to think that it would be legal again. Many states seem to be considering the change since CO and WA’s policy, but will that mean a change in the federal law – I don’t know. There are lots of factors to consider at the federal level, including our participation in international treaties that we hold other countries accountable to. So it’s not as simple as just changing the law here – it affects our relationship with other countries in ways that the typical voter here doesn’t consider, and doesn’t have to consider because they aren’t part of those international discussions.

Could the money spent policing marijuana use be put to better use by government? If so, how?

I know with certainty that legalization of just marijuana will not automatically alleviate the billions spent prosecuting MJ offenders as many of those offenders, our RAND research has shown in AZ and CA, are people who are heavily engaged in the criminal justice system (repeat offenders) and these are just the charges that the prosecutors are currently able to use against these individuals. The vast majority of people in US prison for marijuana offenses are not simply people who just got caught for marijuana possession, as shown by work by Caulkins and Sevigny. They have long criminal histories that involve non drug charges. We saw this more recently data we examined for New York state. So, will there be some criminal justice savings associated with legalization of marijuana? Yes there will be some. Will it be on the order of numbers that Jeffrey Miron is putting out there? No, we don’t think so.

In our Altered State report we compare our estimate of what the CA criminal justice savings would be associated with legalizing marijuana to that of Jeffrey Miron and Dale Geringer (the lead economist from California’s NORML). Our estimate was consistent with that of Dale’s – and much, much lower than that offered by Miron. Why? Because we adjust for how marijuana offenses come to be (quality of life policing activities, not drug units or specialized policing), the reduced effort associated with bringing these cases in and to trial (standard of evidence lower than that of say domestic violence or murder), and the legal fact that many states, including CA, have reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana – so those who exceed those amounts are not likely ‘just simply possessing.’ As this is not specialized resources involved in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting the vast majority of these cases, the implied cost savings are relatively low. Moreover, if marijuana is the only drug legalized, we still have the drug units in existence focused on other drugs – so no cost savings there.

What do you make of the argument that the social costs of legalized marijuana would outweigh the tax revenue and other monetary benefits? Isn’t crime more prevalent in illegal markets than in those that are well regulated?

We don’t have a clue what the social cost of legalized marijuana are, so we cannot say with any certainty that they will or will not outweigh the benefit of tax revenue or other monetary savings. But just because we do not know what they are, does not mean they are zero – which is what is so commonly presumed by the average person. There is a tradeoff between a known cost of prohibition and an uncertain cost or benefit associated with legalization (that will definitely be impacted by the form of legalization that emerges). So this is a gamble, and people have different preferences about such gambles that are completely independent of the science regarding the harms. In another 5 years , we’ll know a lot more about the potential harms and benefits of marijuana use from the experiments that are currently going on now and the data being collected from them. But the policy is ahead of the science here.
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Erick Eschker

Professor of Economics & Director of the Humboldt Economic Index at Humboldt State University

Have researchers identified any trends (e.g. impact on economy, health services costs, crime rates, etc.) in states that have legalized marijuana either entirely or for medical purposes?

I am not aware of any comprehensive research that has compared states based on their medical marijuana status. Washington and Colorado are the only two states which have legalized recreational use, but they are just beginning, so we don’t have any data to compare yet. That’s the big problem. There is a lack of data for many of these questions surrounding marijuana.

What would happen if the U.S. legalized the drug entirely? Will this ever happen, and if so, when?

This is a big issue with many questions. I really can’t guess as to whether or not recreational marijuana will be legal in the U.S. That would require legalization at the federal level.

Could the money spent policing marijuana use be put to better use by government? If so, how?

It’s important to realize that legalizing marijuana use will create problems as well. But many people, including many in law enforcement, think that putting resources toward prosecuting other crimes, including other drug-related crimes, is a good idea.

What do you make of the argument that the social costs of legalized marijuana would outweigh the tax revenue and other monetary benefits? Isn’t crime more prevalent in illegal markets than in those that are well regulated?

I can’t say if the social costs outweigh the benefits. If marijuana were legalized, there would be costs because people would abuse the drug, just as people abuse alcohol. There would be more marijuana-related car accidents, more people missing work, and more disrupted lives. But there would be fewer fewer home invasions and assaults related to marijuana growing, and people who purchase marijuana would be able to do so more safely.
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Keith Humphreys

Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University

What would happen if the U.S. legalized the drug entirely? Will this ever happen, and if so, when?

An industry similar to the tobacco industry would arise to sell marijuana, to advertise on a national scale, to make big contributions to political campaigns and to lobby against any health and safety related regulation of the marijuana industry. Also, marijuana prices would fall and marijuana use and addiction would therefore increase. Arrests for marijuana possession would drop though they would not disappear as youth use would still be illegal as it is for alcohol. Governments would gain some modest revenue from taxation.

Could the money spent policing marijuana use be put to better use by government? If so, how?

$150 million [the expense of policing drugs, according to reports] is far less money than the damage illegal drugs do to our economy and to the public purse. What we have learned from the experience of alcohol and tobacco is that if all drugs were legalized, their economic damage would increase even further.

What do you make of the argument that the social costs of legalized marijuana would outweigh the tax revenue and other monetary benefits? Isn’t crime more prevalent in illegal markets than in those that are well regulated?

By definition when something is illegal the market has more crime in it than does a legal market. However, market-related crime isn’t the only type of crime associated with drugs. We have almost no crime associated with the alcohol market because alcohol is a legal drug, but we have enormous crime – including violent crime – associated with its use.

Do you see any parallels between the criminalization of marijuana and Prohibition?

Under ‘Prohibition’ drinking alcohol and brewing your own alcohol were legal, so it was not really like marijuana Prohibition today. What is similar is that in both cases very wealthy individuals, cultural elites and government officials seeking greater tax revenue were the main advocates of repeal.
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Michael Grossman

Director of the Health Economics Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Distinguished Professor of Economics at the City University of New York Graduate Center

Have researchers identified any trends (e.g. impact on economy, health services costs, crime rates, etc.) in states that have legalized marijuana either entirely or for medical purposes?

The presumption in the literature on optimal drug policy that the private benefits of cannabis consumption greatly exceed the social benefits has been called into question in a recent study by Anderson, Rees, and Hansen (2011). They find that the use of cannabis rose in US states that legalized medical marijuana between 1999 and 2009. This increase in use, which was not limited to use for medical reasons, was accompanied by a 9% reduction in traffic fatalities. At the same time, the use of alcohol fell. Their findings are consistent with the notion that alcohol and marijuana are substitutes in consumption They also are consistent with simulator and driver-course studies that show that drivers under the influence of marijuana reduce their speed, avoid risky maneuvers, and increase ‘following distance,’ while drivers under the influence of alcohol behave in the opposite manner.

What do you make of the argument that the social costs of legalized marijuana would outweigh the tax revenue and other monetary benefits? Isn’t crime more prevalent in illegal markets than in those that are well regulated?

Crime certainly is more prevalent in illegal markets. I think the social costs of marijuana are overstated and are lower than the social costs of alcohol—a legal good.

Do you see any parallels between the criminalization of marijuana and Prohibition?

There certainly are parallels. Prohibition was a failure and generated criminal costs similar to those that arise from illegal drug markets.
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Leah H. Blumenfeld

Assistant Professor of Political Science at Barry University

Have researchers identified any trends (e.g. impact on economy, health services costs, crime rates, etc.) in states that have legalized marijuana either entirely or for medical purposes?

I have not seen any large, systematic analysis of the question to date. For states that have legalized entirely, it is too soon to know the effects. As a researcher interested in this very question, I have to be careful in my investigations to consider other causes of change in the economy or crime rates that may be correlated to changes in marijuana policy but not necessarily caused by them directly. For example, if a state has spent less on drug enforcement since liberalizing its policies, is it because of those policies or a budget crisis that reduces spending in that area?

What would happen if the U.S. legalized the drug entirely? Will this ever happen, and if so, when?

No one can say for sure; we can only speculate. I don’t expect it to happen during my lifetime but we may see an increasing trend in that direction. Proponents of legalization have suggested this will create new industry and a source of jobs and tax revenue; in turn it would also create more bureaucracy in order to regulate that industry. Legalization will remove existing restrictions on research into the plant’s medicinal effects; this could prove beneficial to the field of medicine and patients everywhere as marijuana-based therapies might be more cost effective than existing treatments. That could also have a negative effect on the pharmaceutical industry. Legalization could reduce the cost of law enforcement and stimulate the economy by reducing the number of inmates (a direct cost to taxpayers) and eliminating the number of minor offenders who are later denied access to federal student loans or denied employment because of their criminal history. Legalization could improve relations with other countries in the hemisphere, whose leaders have often had little choice but to comply with the U.S-imposed war on drugs even while they have few resources to do so. It could also damage relations with others in the world whose stance against drugs is strong.

Could the money spent policing marijuana use be put to better use by government? If so, how?

I think so. As mentioned above, enforcement of the law on small-time offenders – usually young people in possession of amounts for personal use – can lead to long-term consequences that ultimately do more harm than good. How can we expect young people to become productive members of society if they are not able to attend school or get a job because of one mistake they may have made? And researchers have found significant disparities when it comes to the race and socio-economic status of offenders in marijuana arrests. Would it not be better to spend that money on additional training for law enforcement and professionalization? Or better yet, to invest in schools and communities that are at risk?

Do you see any parallels between the criminalization of marijuana and Prohibition?

Absolutely. Prohibition is prohibition. When something is illegal but still in demand a black market will grow around it. The major difference is the official response has been to continue the policy long-term rather than re-evaluate. Marijuana’s historical association with other more dangerous drugs and undesirable sectors of the population has frequently made even the suggestion of reform political suicide for our elected officials.
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J. Mitchell Pickerill

Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Northern Illinois University

Although I have written on medical marijuana, I am not an expert on the economic implications of legalization. Moreover, the move toward decriminalization/legalization is so young, I think it is difficult to know the real effects of doing so in the US. However I do think, and I have written about this in the context of MM, that it is the kind of issue that ought to be left to states to regulate rather than a one-size-fits-all federal prohibition. The evidence I have marshaled shows that there are significant differences in individual attitudes and public opinion toward MM and recreational use in different regions and states of the U.S. This is precisely the type of issue where states should be policy laboratories of democracy.

To be sure, there are problems with legalization – the issue of keeping stoned drivers off the road for example, and the greater difficulties in assessing impairment than with alcohol. I don’t think they are insurmountable, and again, states can experiment with ways of addressing those (the way they did with regulating dispensaries in MM states, for example). And I think states and localities are in a better position than the federal government to address problems with legalization policies as they arise.

As advocates suggest, legalization would clearly create a source of revenue from the sin taxes that would undoubtedly be imposed. And I suppose it would create a new industry (growers, warehousing, wholesalers, marketing) that would have some economic upsides. To be balanced, there would be costs as well (health costs, potentially increased costs to public safety, and others).

It would seem logical that legalization would reduce some crime, and especially violence among gangs or dealers, and that seems to be the case in other countries that have adopted more passive approaches to regulating marijuana. And I guess there are parallels with prohibition given that the national criminalization of marijuana is, like the criminalization of alcohol in the 1920s, a prohibition of a recreational drug that large numbers of Americans desire to use (and/or already use underground). But I don’t know how much is gained by overstating the comparison. I mean, you could draw parallels with anything that is prohibited. It seems to me that the move to make something legal for individuals to choose to use on their own or illegal due to serious dangers should be made on a case by case basis. The legalization of marijuana should succeed based on the merits of doing so – not on the merits of whether alcohol should be legal or illegal.

 
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