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Marijuana Seeds Advisor

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Against - Cons - Anti Marijuana Legalization

Tags: benefits of legalizing marijuana,what are the positive benefits of legalizing marijuana,benefits to legalizing marijuana,economic reasons for legalizing marijuana

A Harvard University professor of economics, Jeffrey Miron, has crunched the numbers, and he's determined that legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion annually in money spent on enforcing dope laws.

That breaks down to $5.3 billion in savings for state and local governments, and $2.4 billion in cost reductions at the federal level.

This is noteworthy because the FBI reported the other day that more Americans were arrested for pot last year than at any time in U.S. history. And of the more than 770,000 people cited for dope-related offenses, nearly 90 percent were charged only with possession.

Those are hundreds of thousands of criminal cases that didn't have to be taking up the time and resources of our cops and courts.

Meanwhile, Harvard's Miron estimates that tax revenue for legalized pot would run about $2.4 billion annually if it were taxed like all other goods.

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Yet if marijuana were taxed at rates comparable to the aggressive levies placed on alcohol and tobacco -- and it should be -- Miron determined that it would yield $6.2 billion in annual revenue.

"It's kind of small potatoes compared to the ($319 billion) federal budget deficit," he told me. "But it's not nothing."

For the record, Miron says he isn't a pot smoker. His interest in the subject comes instead from a desire to address what he sees as a failed public policy.

"As an economist, I think about policies that are good for people and for society overall," Miron said. "This strikes me as very bad policy."

And he isn't alone in this conclusion. Prompted by Miron's work, more than 500 economists have signed an open letter to President Bush and other public officials calling for "an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition."

The letter adds: "We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods."

Signatories include a trio of Nobel Prize winners -- Milton Friedman of Stanford's Hoover Institution, George Akerlof of UC Berkeley and Vernon Smith of George Mason University.

"It's absolutely disgraceful to think of picking up a 22-year-old for smoking pot," 93-year-old Friedman has been quoted by Forbes as saying. "More disgraceful is the denial of marijuana for medical purposes."

In his study, "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition," Miron places the illicit U.S. market for marijuana at about $10.5 billion in annual sales. (Figures close to $11 billion seem to be the consensus among people who guess at such things.)

Decriminalization would result in lower production costs as dope farming and processing go mainstream. It would also lead to what Miron believes would be only a modest increase in demand because "the people who care about it are already consuming it."

Factoring in these two elements, he estimates that marijuana sales in a legalized marketplace would total about $8 billion a year (as opposed to $110 billion in annual U.S. sales of alcoholic beverages).

If dope were taxed as heavily as alcohol and cigarettes, Miron calculates that annual sales would be worth almost $12 billion a year. Of this total, 80 percent would represent tax revenue.

California would do especially well if marijuana were legalized. As it stands, pot is already the state's largest cash crop, with annual sales estimated to be about $4 billion.

Miron figures that decriminalizing marijuana would result in about $1 billion in law-enforcement-related savings for California, plus about $100 million in additional tax revenue.

"That would certainly put a significant dent in a budget deficit of $2 billion or $3 billion," he said.

California NORML's analysis of the benefits of marijuana legalization are as follows:

* An excise tax of $1 per half-gram joint of marijuana would raise about $1 billion per year, as much as the current excise tax on cigarettes.

* Retail sales on the legal market would range from $3 - $5 billion, generating another $250 - 400 million in sales taxes.

* Legalization would save over $156 million in law enforcement costs for arrest, prosecution, trial and imprisonment of marijuana offenders. Intrusive CAMP helicopter surveillance would also be eliminated.

* Based on experience with the cigarette tax, total revenues of $1.5 - $2.5 billion might be realized.

* Based on experience with the wine industry, the total economic activity generated by legal marijuana could be nearly three times as great as retail sales, around $8 - $13 billion. Amsterdam-style coffeehouses would generate jobs and tourism. If the marijuana industry were just one-third the size of the wine industry, it would generate 50,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in wages, along with additional income and business tax revenues for the state.

* Industrial hemp could also become a major business, comparable to the $3.4 billion cotton industry in California.