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The Legalization Of Change
Stock values and the DOW average are dropping, sometimes becoming half, if not a third of their value. Housing values are down, vehicle values are down, and every new family trying to get a mortgage has to fight tooth and nail with a bank to get the necessary funds. Unemployment rates are skyrocketing, and job security hasn’t been so low since the Great Depression. Tax revenue is desperately needed for the funding of multiple government backed projects, and the very potent, untapped source for tax money is the legalization of cannabis, a mental drug with no health ramifications past those of the already legal cigarettes and alcohol.
The American government and its bureaucracies spend an exorbitant amount of money every year, on everything from Social Security to funding internal improvements in an overly metropolitan area. Already facing generations worth of national debt that increases at approximately 3.83 billion dollars a day according to the U.S. National Debt Calculator program after program are being installed on the already disparity filled nation. Now is the time for action, the time for legalization, the time for remedying the mistakes of past administrations.
The United States government often maintains its focus on the state of the economy or on the state of the war, depending on its situation at the time. Most of that focus, however, is related to the deficit spending or other government programs designed to remedy the current economic crisis in the hopes that a possible spike in consumerism would allow the debt to be rectified by future generations. Legalization of cannabis would shift the focus from raising current taxes to an extraordinary amount to creating a new tax on an open, growing market that currently is evading the tax bracket that the manufacturers belong in. In states like California, where cannabis is legal in some circumstances, the plant quickly rose to the state’s largest cash crop, according to the U.S. Law Blog. Such a lucrative and ongoing process can be quickly utilized as a quick money maker for the United States government, such had California has done with its medical marijuana potency, (U.S. Law Blog) if marijuana would be recognized as a legal, profitable cash crop and any punitive damages for the manufacturing or distributing of the drug be dropped from the court systems. State tax records on cigarette and cigarette products show a maximum tax of 202.5 cents per pack in the state of New Jersey. (State Tax Rates On Cigarettes) With the high purchase of cigarettes on a daily basis by a large number of people, that two dollars a pack boosts tax revenue in New Jersey by billions of dollars. A similar tax on cannabis would raise comparable funds, particularly in states like California or Oregon where legal marijuana is already up and running.
According to the United States Department of Justice, even eight years ago a cost for a jail term was costing the government thousands of dollars. $22, 632 was spent per inmate annually, an amount that some United States taxpayers barely make in that same amount of time. Most patrons of our prison system spend considerably more than one year in the jail system, turning that reasonable amount into an exorbitant financial burden on the government that pays for the prison system. That twenty two thousand dollars is multiplied constantly by the number adults and juveniles arrested for drug related charges, a number that has risen significantly since the 1990’s or any decade before. (Juveniles and Drugs) The nation’s debt is being needlessly increased by a prison population guilty only of using an organic plant as a ‘get-away’, much as the tobacco in cigarettes and cigars work. President Obama’s new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has recognized the uselessness of the constant incarceration of marijuana users:
"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country."
Kerlikowske has signaled his openness to rethinking the government’s drug policy, and as the new drug czar, possesses the power to really push through marijuana reform laws. (Wall Street Journal)
Also in the national government’s record keeping is the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual arrest reports. In 2007, men, women, and childen were arrested is the numbers of 872, 721for possession, distribution, or manufacturing (growing) of marijuana or other forms of cannabis. Cannabis arrests, according to the report, comprise of 47.5% of all drug related arrests in 2007, nearly a 5% increase from the year before. An online journal titled ‘Norml’ utilizes the FBI’s reports to come to the conclusion that ‘The total number of marijuana arrests in the U.S. for 2007 far exceeded the total number of arrests in the U.S. for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.”
Norml Executive Director, Allen St. Pierre, concludes that in 2007, “Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers between $10 billion and $12 billion”, a number which could be applied against the national debt, lowering it significantly. Those ten to twelve billion dollars is a number that had almost tripled since the early 1990’s, and with a more vigorous fight against drugs in the works, is almost guaranteed to be slated for yet another huge increase. A blanket government ban on cannabis is costing tax payers billions of dollars that could be flowing into the economy with its legalization.
Marijuana use has been taboo since its illegalization in 1937, similar to the taboo placed on alcohol during Prohibition in the 1920’s. Even over seventy years later, the taboo reemerges as an election battle, or else wise as an admission that may have alienated many ‘clean’ voters. Politicians shy away from it, most famously with President Clinton’s “but I didn’t inhale” comment in his first run for President of the United States. Presidents and Supreme Court Justices swore to uphold the Constitution, but seem to have taken remarkable leeway in that definition. The reading of the Constitution will show no ban for cannabis, or anything that the founding fathers considered natural. Loose constructionists will argue that the evolution of time will call for an evolution of the law, but in all reality, cannabis consumption seems to lack the evolution of most other crimes. This nation recalls the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the sale and distribution of alcohol. Historians will also recall the 21st, repealing that prohibition. Like Prohibition, that blanket ban on marijuana caused it to "became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became "organized"; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant." (Alcohol Prohibition Was A Failure) The only thing that separates alcohol and cannabis is the taboo society has placed on it in the recent era. Still, pardon the pun, the grassroots movement is clamoring for legalization. A recent survey shown on the Fox News Network suggests that a sizeable minority bordering on majority of the population favors the legalization of marijuana.
Society, however, has its protests against cannabis, along with cigarettes and alcohol. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or M.A.D.D., is an organization that attempts to limit the use of alcohol by teenagers, and specifically by drivers, in order to reduce death toll rates. Numerous groups of this sort exist as a barrier against teens and drugs, but find themselves woefully ineffective in the long run. A majority of teens have admitted at least trying the drug, and a sizeable minority admit that they use to drug willingly and often, as a form of entertainment or release. (Juveniles and Drugs) Similar to those anti- alcohol groups, many of the strongest members are simply mothers or fathers interested in protecting their child for as long as they can. However, when those children turn 21 (or 18), they have the choice to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes as adults, where the arguments of M.A.D.D. fall silent. Working along the same ideas, marijuana would be an age-controlled substance where the users would be adults and conscientious of their decisions, rendering any sort of adult prevention group into the role now played by the anti-alcohol and anti-smoking gatherings.
Scientifically, alcohol products, tobacco, and cannabis all work as a similar concept. Alcohol is a drug that releases the ‘happy hormone’ in your brain, thus inducing the bland, content feeling that people find appealing while out drinking. Cigarettes have the active ingredient of nicotine that while containing carcinogens, also releases the endorphin hormone, creating a feeling of contentedness. Lung cancer and throat related diseases abound in smoker. While legal, cigarettes are quickly becoming the nation’s top killer, due to the carcinogens and other toxic materials found in a cigarette. (Chronis Disease- Tobacco) Marijuana’s active ‘ingredient’ is THC, or tetrahydrocannobinal in its full name. THC also utilizes hormones to activate endorphins, a process shared by alcohol, working out, or over the counter prescription drugs. The THC releases the endorphin to mimic the effects of happiness or contentedness, creating the chemical cocktail forming the “high” that is associated with marijuana use. (Iverson, 69-72)
Marijuana is also considerably less potent in effecting the decision making portion of the brain. Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million have a serious illness caused by smoking. (Annual Causes of Death in the U.S.) Alcohol kills a similar 85,000 people every year, not including those murdered or those who committed suicide while under the influence of alcohol or being accosted by someone under the influence of alcohol, as noted by an asterisk on the footnotes of the web page. In the same report, the death toll for marijuana is at 0, no asterisk or other aside to consider. Additionally, unlike tobacco or alcohol, marijuana is only considered a ‘mental’ addiction, because marijuana is not physically addicting. (Marijuana Addiction) Cannabis is a drug, but as such a potent-less drug, its health concerns should not be addressed in the topic of legalization. Marijuana has not been linked to schizophrenia or any other mental disease, as often found with alcohol and even over the counter drugs, making cannabis one of the least addictive and least consequential drugs available to a majority of the public. (Weiser and Noy)
In fact, marijuana has even found itself used as a medical drug in hospitals in different points across the United States. As a medical drug, marijuana, as mentioned, has become the largest cash crop in California. A federal ban on medical marijuana remains in place, but multiple states have legalized it under heavy scrutiny.(The Huffington Post) The DEA, under the Obama Administration, has already begun raiding these medical marijuana compounds, despite promises to the contrary during the campaign that made President Obama seem legalization- friendly. (Opposing Views) On a global level, five civilized nations including Amsterdam and Australia allow marijuana use in a legal capacity or in a capacity where loopholes make any punitive laws impossible to enforce.
Marijuana is prominently used, even boastingly, in society by professional athletes, musical artists, and even politicians. Anti-drug crusaders claim that marijuana users can never have a successful career with their ‘addiction’, yet Michael Phelps walks out of the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a record 8 gold medals, even with strong evidence of recreational marijuana use. Pictures released after the Games show photos taken before the record breaking sessions, including those with Phelps using cannabis. Musical artists make money and history, sometimes while still on the ‘high’ provided by the THC. Its prominent use in America has turned the taboo away from a younger generation, as crime reports will show a record amount of juvenile arrests for petty drug use. (Juveniles and Drugs) As a widespread social phenomenon, some of the ‘moral’ issues with marijuana use have faded as well, to a point where politicians, such as Governor Schwarzenegger of California, have decided that it is a “high time for a marijuana debate” (NBC Washington) Schwarzenegger also quotes:
"I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it.
"I think that we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect it had on those countries, and are they happy with that decision?" (Yahoo News)
Teenagers and young adults are not the only ones clamoring for legalization; it is a nation-wide movement that includes many influential figures in the American Society.
The legalization of marijuana might be considered wrong, due to the taboo placed on it by its illegality and its inherent connections with slums, gangsters, and drug lords. In the days since the mafia dominated the news, however, that taboo has fallen to teenagers, the next generation of adult American citizens. With this taboo comes parental, authoritative, and even peer criticism, putting many teenagers at odds with their parents and friends over their use. Even in the current economic crisis where any new tax revenue is desperately needed, the government continues to overlook potential billions of dollars in taxes, and hundreds of thousands of people incarcerated that could be freed and released from the government’s already hefty financial burden. Legalizing marijuana is necessary to increase cash flow and save a dying economy, while providing no more danger than tobacco or alcohol as far as addictions, and virtually a non-existent death toll, compared to the billions killed through ‘legal’ drug use or even automobile accidents. (Annual Causes of Death In The United States)