For several decades the U.S. government has been at war with the drug trade. Multiplied millions have been spent and we haven’t made a dent in the sale and use of mind altering substances. I wonder how many millions pot smokers cost U.S. taxpayers each year?
According to the Associated Press, at the beginning of 2008, using state by state data, 3,218,358 Americans are in jail or prison. That is about 1 of 99.1. Shocking numbers huh? And, according to other data I have seen, a very conservative estimate is that about 12 % of Federal inmates are there for marijuana felony convictions and the percentage is much higher at the state and local level, perhaps as much as 25%. A very conservative estimate is that between 300,000 to well over 400,000 U.S. citizens are in jail for marijuana offences. The numbers have improved slightly at the Federal level but have increased at the local and state level so that the net numbers are still climbing.
Government estimates are that each year $7, 500, 000 is spent fighting the drug marijuana alone. And add to that number another $7, 000, 000 users spend buying marijuana each year and you have a minimum of $14, 500,00 sucked out of the nations economy each year not counting the cost of keeping offenders in jail.
On the west coast states have allowed people to grow their own pot for years and in some jurisdictions it is even prescribed for medical purposes. Those states and towns have no worse problem with drug related offences that the rest of the country. My conclusion is that the U.S. should legalize the growing and use of marijuana. I never thought I would say such a thing but if anyone has better solution I would like to hear it.
Now, let me hasten to say, I wish there was no marijuana on the planet, we would be far better off. I don’t use it, have never used it, and don’t want others to use it. Here is my logic and the reasons I have come haltingly to this conclusion.
If pot is made legal, first prices would fall so fast that street sales would be virtually gone in a few months. And, users would stop committing crimes to get money to buy it. (Remember Prohibition?) Most of the crimes are for possession, possession with intent to distribute, etc. People who are caught driving under the influence, or misbehaving in some other way, should be arrested and put in jail just like someone who is under the influence of alcohol.
I know the argument well, Marijuana is a “gateway drug”. It is and I am aware of that. However, alcohol is a far greater “gateway” to the drug world. And, I just read detailed statistics from the Dept of Justice showing that with the exception of two categories the use of alcohol is used more of the time than pot before crimes are committed.
Legalize pot and instantly U.S. taxpayers save $7, 500, 000 each year not counting treatment, prison related costs, public defenders etc., and another $7, 000,000 can be spent on goods and services in our economy rather than giving it to street thugs. The way to eliminate drug lords is to take their market away. Of course we will still have the curse of the more dangerous drugs but at least we could rid ourselves of part of the problem. 300,000 t0 400,000 less folks in jail would result in enormous amounts of money saved.
What do you think? How can we solve the problem? So far, all we have done is waste zillions of dollars and have saved no lives, made our society no safer or better in any way, and there is no hope on the horizon.
By the way, tobacco kills more people than any other thing I can think of and not only is it legal, some of our church members use it and by doing so teach their children and grand children its a good idea. I know someone will jump on me like a pit bull but before you leap, what about all the over the counter and prescription junk a huge percentage of our congregations are using that they don’t need?