Could April 20 have been financial windfall for the government? Weed Day could potentially generate billions of dollars in government revenue, if marijuana were only legal. A report conducted by acclaimed Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron revealed that replacing prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation would save $7.7 billion per year in state and federal expenditures on prohibition enforcement and produce tax revenues of at least $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like most consumer goods. However, the government could produce as much as $6 million if the drug was taxed at the same rate as alcohol and tobacco.
This number is marginal, considering the trillion dollar debt hole that the 2008 financial crisis has sinked us into, but it would eliminate the need to cut important programs. Since Miron's paper was first published in 2005, more than 300 economists, including three Nobel laureates, have signed a petition to call attention to the work and initiate a debate among people on both sides of the issue.
Although I do fully understand the risks of substance abuse, I cannot see how this is a highly contended topic of discussion. There are health-related issues that can arise out of marijuana use, but none that are alarming enough for it to be illegal. Marijuana can distort perceptions, cause memory loss, increase heart rates and produce anxiety. But it has yet to kill anyone. It is nothing more than a plant that has its share of success stories as an antidote of physical and mental ailments, improving the quality of life for many people.
By prohibiting the sale and use of a popular drug, the government is encouraging organized crime to cultivate. Because it is the most widely used illegal substance in the world, it has become an attractive source of revenue for criminals, who take advantage of a lucrative black market. Since the 1930s, an estimated 40.6%of the U.S. population over 12 years of age have tried it at least once. In 2003, over 25.2 million people reported using the drug, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
This prohibition has been making criminals out of millions of good and decent people. It's not even the dealers, the common man can be charged with a misdemeanor for possession alone. And for what reason? Although many will not admit it, cannabis smoking has become a global cultural trend. It is harder and harder to contain curiosity and suppress external pressures from weighing in on an individual's actions and decisions. If health critics are concerned of its widespread use, then the government should take initiatives to introduce greater drug education programs in schools rather than try to raise police action. It is difficult to initiate counter-preventative measures when a whole movement has been in existence for many decades. It did not help alleviate the problem in the 1920s when alcohol was banned, it only fanned the fires of protest.
There should not even be a huge debate surrounding this issue. I am not a firm advocate of its legalization, but I do believe that everyone is guaranteed a reasonable right to freely exercise their personal desires for recreation without restraint. Making the drug illegal has done our country more harm than good. The definition of criminal has broadened with the prohibition of the drug.