Hello and welcome to my new legalization blog. I intend to use it to chronicle the actions I’ll be taking as winner of change.org’s Ideas for America contest, as well as posting about why the issue is important to me. Feel free to drop me an email or message to talk this over, and keep coming back for more info! I’ll start this post off with an abridged version of the first note I wrote on the topic, which I called “Thoughts on an important cause”:
Friends, I wanted to talk fully and openly about a cause that’s been important to me for a long time- ending marijuana prohibition. I’ve set down most of what I’ve found in my last three years of research on the subject, and I’ve tried to lay it out in a clear and concise way. If you have any additional questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them.
Now before we go into this, I am not in this for a “right to get stoned” self-campaign. This is a much more serious issue and to laugh it off dismissively is irresponsible. I’m going to try and touch on several points of marijuana prohibition and present a clean and clear argument on why this drug should be taxed and regulated much like alcohol and tobacco are today.
First off, we need a history lesson. In 1930 the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was formed to consolidate the functions of the Federal Narcotics Control Board and the Narcotic Division. Their main goal was to attempt to halt the opium and heroin trade, but they also went after marijuana, a plant that had been grown legally by American farmers since the 17th century. The drug, according to an official “news” release by the FBN, caused the user to become “a fiend with savage or ‘cave man’ tendencies. His sex desires are aroused and some of the most horrible crimes result. He hears light and sees sound. To get away from it, he suddenly becomes violent and may kill.” Now today, of course, we would see this claim as laughable. But this was just part of a widespread smear campaign on cannabis, and on April 14th, 1937, “The Marihuana [sic] Tax Act” was introduced in Congress. Testimony and debate on the bill lasted only two days and totaled one hour. Interestingly enough, the American Medical Association was the only voice against prohibition in these debates, arguing that “There is no evidence” that marijuana is a dangerous drug. The law passed on October 9th, 1937. It required growers to purchase $1 marijuana tax stamps in order to legally grow and/or possess marijuana. The catch: no stamps were to be sold.
That same day, the FBI and Denver, CO police raided the Lexington Hotel and arrested Samuel R. Caldwell, a 58 year old man who went down as the first victim of marijuana prohibition. He possessed 2 hand-rolled marijuana joints. He received a $1,000 fine and four years of hard labor in Leavenworth Penitentiary. He served every day of his sentence.
Ok, fast-forward almost 75 years. Today we’re arresting over 800,000 people a year for marijuana offenses (847,864 in 2008), an overwhelming majority of those for simple possession (754,224 in 2008, almost 89%) . We’re banning access even to those who rely on marijuana as a medicine. We’re sending people to court and to jail for possessing a substance less dangerous than tobacco, alcohol, or drive-thru cheeseburgers.
A legal market for marijuana would cause many changes in the economical sphere as well as in the criminal sphere. A common argument of the prohibitionists is that drug dealers will never surrender their operations or apply for licenses. “Why would they stop breaking the law and agree to pay taxes?” they ask. The reason is simple, really. Consider this: Street prices on marijuana at their lowest are usually $10 for 3.5 grams. This cheap weed can usually be traced back to Mexican drug cartels who grow large quantities in poor conditions and smuggle huge bricks across the border to sell in the states. The cartels make an estimated $8.6 billion on these marijuana sales annually. Good “homegrown” marijuana, like that offered at medical dispensaries, costs around $20 a gram on the street (I’m not sure what the average cost is at a dispensary, but there are still black market risks in those businesses as marijuana continues to be illegal on the federal level). Considering that the average cigarette contains about 1 gram of tobacco, an equivalent pack of joints that were around the same shape and size would weigh about 20g. In the black market the price would be up to $400, but in a legal market that price would of course be closer to the price of a pack of tobacco cigarettes (probably more, but not by much).
Now, in a legalized market, businesses would be licensed to grow and sell marijuana to those 21 and older. In exchange for the license, they would have to pay license fees and give a portion of the sales back to Uncle Sam. Since they are selling a legal product, there is no black market inflation. The dealers who are growing illegally would no longer be able to sell grams for $20 when you can buy 2 packs of joints at a convenience store for the same price. They are forced out of the market by simple economic principles of supply and demand. Likewise, violent drug cartels would instantly lose about %60 of their revenue, which would cripple them.
Economically, it’s a sound policy. It would save $7.7 billion in state and national law enforcement costs, and if taxed at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco, would generate $6.2 billion every year. That’s why 500 economists endorsed a report by Professor Jeffrey A. Miron, The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition, in an open letter to public officials (see http://www.prohibitioncosts.org/endorsers.html ).
In a society where the most accomplished athletes, entertainers, businessmen and politicians admit to having used marijuana, it is silly to continue to prosecute users of this drug. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Phelps, Ricky Williams, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Wilie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Elton John… the list goes on. Do these people deserve jail time? Well, they’ve all used marijuana… Did the drug cause them to become unmotivated and unsuccessful? You get my point.
Lastly, I want to bring attention to the medical benefits of cannabis. I had read many reports and studies that found numerous different medical uses for cannabis, but it wasn’t until I saw with my own eyes how cannabis helped someone in my life with a serious medical problem that I fully realized the potential of this plant as a medical herb. I won’t name who it’s helped, but I will say that cannabis relieved many terrible symptoms when other prescription medications had failed to help. Seeing this first hand has definitely renewed my passion for this important issue. I encourage you to do your own research and find out for yourself who benefits from drug prohibition. Drug cartels and law enforcement officials benefit, while We the People are harmed. The time is approaching. Please join me and be heard. Thanks so much for your time, I love you all.