A revenue and legalization lesson from FDR

By J Saft
February 25, 2009

James Saft Great Debate – James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

(Correcting name of academic to Peter Reuter on Feb 27)

Want to help fund the bank bailout, ease California’s budget crisis and shore up strained U.S. finances? Legalize drugs, tax the trade and save on interdiction, domestic enforcement and the prison and court system.

I’m only partly joking.

It won’t solve all of the U.S.’s problems and lord knows will cause some new ones, but the money is undeniably big enough to make a dent.

After all, it certainly helped Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who legalized alcohol in 1933 in the midst of the Depression and after more than a decade of prohibition, thus bringing a half a billion in 1933 dollars into public coffers in the form of tax revenue. By 1936, alcohol taxes were 13 percent of Federal revenue.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a similar opportunity. He is facing a $42 billion budget deficit, his prisons are filled to bursting, in substantial part with people in on drug-related crime, and he will soon be forced by judicial edict to start freeing people. He also has an offer from a group call Let Us Pay Taxes, which claims to represent the marijuana industry and is willing to pay $1 billion annually in taxes if only he will legalize. No doubt they are low-balling.

The U.N. estimates the value of the U.S. cannabis market at $64 billion annually, while a paper by academics Jonathan Caulkins and Peter Reuter calculates that about half of the costs of drugs are in one way or another attributable by factors linked to interdiction and its perils (click here to read Render’s paper in pdf format).

But even if you cut the U.N. number in half and only tax it at 50 percent, a lower tax than many states and localities put on tobacco, you’d still get more than $15 billion nationwide. If California consumes its 13 percent share, in line with GDP, and I am betting it does, you are looking at something on the order of $2 billion even before you take account of lower costs. Harvard economics professor Jeffrey Miron has a lower estimate, at $7.7 billion annually nationally in lower spending and $6.2 billion in extra revenues.

Of course, these figures could fluctuate wildly depending on levels of compliance and market factors.
But why stop at cannabis? Just as Roosevelt decided that prohibition of alcohol was a failed policy the U.S. could no longer afford, perhaps the costs of re-building the U.S. banking system and lifting the country out of a severe recession will prompt another radical plans. I wouldn’t bet on it, but strange things are happening all over.

A BILLION HERE, A BILLION THERE

And if we start including other drugs the billions will only mount. There is another $100 billion in annual illegal drug sales in the U.S. outside of cannabis, which might produce another $25 billion annually in revenue by the same maths. The U.S. Federal government alone spent $13 billion on the drugs war in 2002, not counting prison costs.

Then there are other costs of the American drug interdiction efforts internationally, not least in Afghanistan, where opium revenue fuels the Taliban. The U.S. spends more than $1 billion a year there on anti-drug efforts, but opium money undoubtedly raises the total costs for the U.S. by much more.

The stream of income from all of this extending into the future is very valuable indeed and would go a way towards paying the price of fixing the banking system.

This brings us to another point of weakness for the U.S.; namely its ability to fund all of the costs it has already taken on and is likely to have to shoulder in the next several years. Moody’s credit rating agency did what everyone has pretty much taken for granted for a while not long ago, acknowledging that the U.S.’s AAA credit rating is being “tested” and falls into a category below those on the top shelf like Canada and Germany.

It’s not all wine and roses though. Cheaper legal drugs may lead to a spike in use, which might hit productivity and impose lots of costs, such as higher health and other welfare costs. All of those prison, military and law enforcement jobs are a huge source of stimulus, and the cut backs implied by legalization would raise transitional problems.

Moreover, drug legalisation, just like for alcohol, is essentially a moral and political decision about which reasonable people can disagree. It’s also, to put it mildly, not very likely.

Still the war on drugs rolls on, costing billions, creating huge incentives for violence and crime, imprisoning hundreds of thousands and seemingly never much closer to victory. The waste and misery involved must make it rival the sub-prime bubble as a misallocation of resources.

Perhaps one stone will end up killing two birds.

– At the time of publication James Saft did not own any direct investments in securities mentioned in this article. He may be an owner indirectly as an investor in a fund. For previous columns by James Saft, click here. –

103 comments

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Ditto to what Dr. Who said and Amen

How is this beneficial when Americans are sitting around stoned all day? The economy is going to recover eventually but once marijuana is legal, there’s no going back. Sometime you have to look towards the future, how will this affect not only us adults but our kids. What’s next cocaine? Is money that important? Just remember why we need money in the first place. Hopefully not raising drug addicted children. partially joking.

Posted by Ann | Report as abusive

It might be sensible, as well, to lower the legal drinking age to 18. I am strongly in favor of fierce non-drunk driving laws but the two should never have been tied together. Lower the drinking age to 18, but strictly enforce tough anti-drunk-driving statutes.

Posted by Not Silent Not Bob Not Jay | Report as abusive

Every once in a while, Mr. Saft comes up with an intelligent idea….. This is that once in a while….

Posted by edgyinchina | Report as abusive

The Government know why it’s a legal and they want to keep it that way off of Racism,Fear,Protection of Corporate Profits, Yellow Journalism,Ignorant,Incompetent, and/or Corrupt Legislators, Personal Career Advancement and Greed. http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/stories/2 003/12/22/whyIsMarijuanaIllegal.html
Legalizing marijuana would be great, to all the ones don’t agree DON’T DO IT is a choice their not saying once they legalize it everyone has to do it. Studies and proof among people who do smoke marijuana has no effects like alcohol and tobacco. If the government was so worry about the American People they wouldn’t even had alcohol and tobacco out in the first place it just to show you they are hiding the truth from us. With these cheesy bogus commercial about making you lazy, your a loser, and wont be successful in life are all lies. Many Presidents, Athletes, Entertainers, and successful people have done it or doing it still an haven’t fail it what there doing. Quit with the lies and all this stalling about “Are they going to legalize marijuana” an just do it all already. Have rules if anyone is caught more then there supposed to have fine them. If some people will like to grow in it in their own home make them pay for a permit permission to have two small planter pot, permits expires every 6 months make them pay every time if they don’t comply fine them next strike take away their permit. No smoking in public if so fine them, anyone trafficking product take them away and fine them. If no one pays there fine threat them like regular people with tickets pay for put them or in jail. With these fine the states can collected more money and the police have more time to look for harder crimes and still control the issue if someone is not following the law. STOP all this nonsense putting people to jail for a plant that doesn’t hurt, kill,effect, or get additive too

Posted by Brenetta Jones | Report as abusive

We may as well legalize drugs, this war cannot be won.

It’s not because we don’t want to, or we don’t have the resources to fight, but the very nature of the problem.

What we try to do is to fight a distributed system with a top-down system. A distributed system, e.g. trafficker, is much more flexible, highly adaptable. A top-down system, e.g. low enforcement, it’s more rigid has a very low rate of change.

Having said that, why we want to go to a battle that cannot be won?

Posted by andrei | Report as abusive

Dear Steve I don’t know where you are getting your information from as a long time nurse. Cannabis does not give you cancer like tobacco. Cannabis is not addictive like any other harder drug like cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or prescription pills that your doctor might had scribe to his/her patients. Cannabis is the most safest drug that is out there with no harsh side effects. Tobacco is nothing like cannabis there’s no way you can compare it cause it wouldn’t even get to that level. If people can teach their child from right from wrong then why worry about the choices they make. If they know how to follow the rules from there parents have gave them then everything should be fine. But, it wont cause their going to make their own choices in life cause that’s their life if they do smoke cannabis the parent wouldn’t have to worry about their getting cancer or to going to rehab for being addictive. Parents teach their children to stay in school an go to college. If the child deiced not to go are you going to blame to government your child didn’t go to college cause she/he had chosen not too. Life is about choices I don’t smoke cigarettes cause its a proven fact to link to cancer. I don’t drink alcohol proven fact again to link to liver disease. I had smoke cannabis all during my high school years never drop out have a diploma, working on my Bachelor Degree in Business. My parents had taught me right from wrong an when it was time for me to live my life I had choose to not do them things. The government is going to tell you stuff just to feed you make you full until you vomit. GET IT ! GOT IT! GOOD!!!!

Posted by BJones | Report as abusive

Can you imagine what the country would be like were government to try to mandate that people stay away from anything that could cause them serious harm? An incomplete list: Automobiles, gas stoves, fire, water, knives, guns, various cleaners, insecticides, jet planes, tall buildings, the carcinogenic sunlight. And of course alcohol and tobacco.

What of the “countless stories of lives ruined by addictive substance abuse”. It seems all we get to hear when it comes to drugs are THOSE stories. Why not the ones that don’t end in trauma and tragedy? Owing to the fear of ‘sending the wrong drug message’ combined with the fact that trauma and tragedy make more gripping sensationalist news copy, we end up not ever hearing them, unless we’re part of that culture outselves, and then we get the truth.

When someone “loses everything” to drugs, how often are they fired from jobs because of a urine sample? How often do they lose their families because the wife fears the consequences to her children and to her own reputation if she stands behind an outlaw spouse? How many of the “memory loss” patients are senior citizens who were hippies? If they didn’t do drugs, they lose their memory because of aging; if they did, the DRUGS caused it.

I don’t agree with the “tax it” part. And sell those SWAT APCs and machine guns for scrap.

Posted by travman67 | Report as abusive

Bravo: with all of the propaganda against “drugs” – from government, police agencies & law enforcement lobbyists, who have their own agenda in maintaining the status quo, and the pharmaceutical lobby’s – only the illegal ones, the legal ones have the commercial airwaves saturated with their propaganda & have everything to cure all our most minor aches & pains: like the elixir’s of old, legalized snake oil sales-men.

God forbid someone should take it upon himself to find his own natural, medication.

The hypocrisy in this society is unbearable most of the time.

One thing you left out: the plan you propose would also cut out the Drug Cartels, or at least minimize their control.

A recent PBS documentary on Independent Lens, called “Tulia, TX” highlights & underlines some of your points.

This country needs to change its attitude about marijuana & the booming U.S. hemp industry, destroyed & criminalized by the government & “legal” drug companies in 1937.

Hopefully, people with common sense & new ideas will emerge from this crisis & take this bull by the horns – but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Posted by Steve Rousseau | Report as abusive

For those clueless parents out there who are concerned that legalizing marijuana will create a “stoned” nation of under achievers. Right this very minute it is easier for your child to get fifty bucks worth of pot than it is to get a pack of cigarettes or a can of spray paint for that matter. The drug war is an absurd waste of tax dollars. Especially when we find it perfectly acceptable to dope ourselves up with Rx drugs at the drop of a hat because the commercials say it’s ok.

Posted by B | Report as abusive

If we legalize drugs, we could stop building the fence along our border and turn all the acres into a wildlife preserve. Maybe we could also turn a profit by growing the hemp plant for commercial use.

Glad to see someone is actually voicing this opinion. I’m old enough to be classed as part of the “hippie” generation, so I’ve watched the War on Drugs unfold. It has not stemmed the use of drugs, but it has been very profitable for certain groups in our society. I agree with the doctor who posted the comment saying drugs should be a medical problem, not a legal one.

Posted by js | Report as abusive

Excellent article!! I have but one thing to say – I don’t know about legalizing ALL drugs but as for marijuana, how many times have you ever heard about someone involved in a deadly (or otherwise) smoking and driving accident???? I’m not talking about marijuana combined with any other drug, or marijuana combined with drinking. How many people committ violent crimes – or ANY crimes – under the influence of marijuana alone??? And don’t use the ‘psycho-babble’ that it’s a ‘gateway’ drug. I can tell you about people – but I won’t tell you who or how many people I could use as an example – who have smoked pot for a long time and have NEVER gone onto harder drugs. I think way too much money is spent on prosecuting the petty crime of marijuana; if pot was legalized, regulated and taxed the same way alcohol supposedly is, we could better afford to prosecute serious crimes. And, yes, that includes dangerous drunk drivers who kill.

What a pleasant surprise to hear about this Cali initiative. It’s so foolish that marijuana is illegal.

Posted by Victor Purinton | Report as abusive

Read a long time back that it would be cheaper to put heroin addicts in the Waldorf and give them free room service and free heroin for life then to continue the War on (some) Drugs. With the direction the war on (some) drugs has taken since I first read that, I bet we could now buy each and every druggie a new Bentley to boot and still save money/crime/death over the (religion based, not science based) War on (some) drugs.

Posted by Lee | Report as abusive

You should look at it like this, There are so many people already in this state using marijuana “Illegally” and they will continue to use it whether or not it’s “illegal” but why it’s “illegal” it facilitates other types of criminal behavior, like drug dealers which are usually involved in other criminal activities, and it supports other aspects of the criminal world. Further this entire combined crime buts financial burden on the police and prison system. It’s like this if I were a Marijuana user I would much rather purchase the product from a legal government controlled source as oppose to a shady dirt bag drug dealer. And if the government took over the sale of marijuana, all the “illegal” persons involved with its current distribution and criminal enterprises would disappear. Further marijuana is no worse than drinking alcohol for your health; also marijuana can be taken as a pill or even drunken like a tea. In which case the negative medical implications are minimal. I think that if it is decided to make it legal threw state controlled sources it should carry the same penalties if misused as alcohol such as DUI’s or drunk in public. This could make jobs for good people and take them from bad people “Drug dealers”.

Posted by Alex | Report as abusive

Don’t even partially joke Mr Saft – just get on and do it – legalise and regulate all drug use – the current set up is a waste of money and lives – the state should not protect individuals from themselves – but as it currently stands the state’s policy is counter productive, hugely expensive and wrecks far more lives than the abuse of drugs alone would do. If one good thing comes out of this economic crisis it will be the downfall of such nanny-state legislation. Freedom includes the freedom to make mistakes.

You can not regulate something that is illegal. By making Marijuana illegal, all that does is push it underground. I does not slow the flow of the drug. All it does is put money into the hands of criminals and organized crime. Though, some would say, legalizing would still put money into the hands of criminals and organized crime(our government), at least some of that money would make it into the federal coffers.

FREE THE WEED!!!!

Posted by TX-Sunset | Report as abusive

why wait for legalization, everyone is breaking the law now with impunity in finance. Apparently there is no law in this jungle and when their is no law then you’re a dope if you’re not stealing or breaking the ‘recommendations’ that are not followed by anyone else.

So legalize it, who gives a ship anyway?

If you can rob billions and get a civil fine, then why fill the jails with crackheads, we have plenty of them running the wall street firms.

Empty the jails and sell guns out of vending machines, let drunk drivers run down children and legalize rape why your at it.

Jimmy, I love you bro but pull your head out of your a55.

You want economic recovery, throw a bunch of criminal bankers (THOUSANDS) in Jail and make an example out of them, then TAX THE PI55 out of the INTERNET.

I’d rather see that than my 5 year old daughter growing up with a crack-pipe.

stop being a bunch of dummies.

I have wondered for a long time if weed, if not all currently “illegal”drugs should be legalized and their recreational use taxed up the kazoo. There would probably still be a black market if the taxes were too high, but it also might help those who really are serious about getting clean by removing some of the obstacles to seeking treatment. How do other countries handle this problem?

Posted by susan nichols | Report as abusive

I agree that marijuana be treated the same as alcohol, legalize it, standardize it, and tax it. Our current Prohibition of marijuana is about as useful as our failed attempt to outlaw alcohol usage many years ago. There is the first law of holes to consider, “when you find yourself in a hole, STOP DIGGING”

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

Most of the posters here on on the side of common sense.
Not James Reginald Harris, Jr.
He is comparing marijuana usage to other crimes, saying if you make one legal, you might as well make others legal, like rape and murder? One thing, those crimes actually infringe on other people’s rights, you idiot! That’s just retarded and an old sad propaganda argument. Need I remind you Harris that the law is not always right. American history shows us this, alcohol prohibition, shows us this! Slavery shows this, we’ve never been a truly free nation, and you are a blind ignorant person if you believe otherwise.
As for your daughter smoking crack, that’s just bad parenting on YOUR part. But I guess you’d rather have government raise your daughter. From your irresponsible and uninformed comment, that could be true in your case. Would you smoke crack if it were legal? No? Then you can probably assume the same for your daughter. Educate, regulate, win. Further more, I’m a user, and I have not used any other illicit drug to date, and I also don’t drink alcohol anymore thanks to my new, more responsible friend marijuana, whose illegality is my and my peers concerns. No one dies from marijuana, 10′s of thousands die from alcohol EVERY YEAR (75,000+), and 100′s of thousands (400,000+) from cig’s. But pot has killed no one, unless you include 2 documented cases due to ALLERGIES, in which case every food group should be made illegal. My cousin could die from beans for example. You can’t overdose on pot, it’s the safest ‘drug’ known to man now and thousands of years ago.

Posted by Clayton R. | Report as abusive

It would just make to much sense to legalize marijuana.

Posted by Deborah | Report as abusive

Susan Nichols,

You are correct that if you apply to heavy a tax all you do is maintain a black market. Like when Canada decided to dramatically increase the tax on cigarettes thinking it would curb use. What a surprise they got. The Native American businessmen loaded up semi’s of cigarettes and crossed the boarder. There was nothing illegal about it since the treaties give them permission to do so and they made and are still making a killing on selling cigarettes in Canada. Today the US still sees a small black market in cigarettes coming up from Mexico and is fueled by the taxes the US government and states put on the cigarettes. However, even with a small black market the huge profits the current producers and dealers get will be gone. White market enterprises will arise and fuel the economy with jobs and taxes.

For the other drugs like Cocaine and Opium products, the only society I know who has attempted any thing in this area is the Netherlands. They legalized Heroin and sold and dispensed it from clinics with nurses to administer the quality controlled pharmaceutical grade substance. What was once a $100 a day habit became a $5.00 a day habit and the addicts have been ageing out ever since the program began which means they are not seeing an increase in new addicts. The addicts also could return to being productive citizens.

As for Cocaine, I do not know. All I do know is that is has been legal in plant form in South America for ever. As a natural plant it is used as a hunger suppressant and a stimulant similar to coffee. The powder form has been illegal for some time with little cooperation from law enforcement. I think this could be handled similar to the opium with clinics dispensing amounts that are under a lethal amount. Hey, that is better control than what we have on alcohol today so, it should work.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive

This is great idea that will never happen but I have even better idea that will never happen. Tax profits on ALL religious groups. Let’s face it, they’re not “non-profit” And if some of them actually are non-profit, they don’t have to worry since only their profits will be taxed just as all business. But again, religious groups have too much influence in government for this to happen.

Posted by Brian Choi | Report as abusive

Beyond the benefits of the tax revenue, would be an inmense savings in law enforcement costs, corruption, and crime, all of which add to those budget deficits. To date enforcement of drug laws only serves to maintain the street price and produce organized crime. Prohibition had all the same negative effects on our society as illegalizing drugs has had, increased crime, better financed and powerful drug organizations, kickbacks which corrupt law enforcement, lawyers, and government officials, etc.. Personally, I think the only reason drugs are illegal is because the sale of illegal drugs moves so much money and benefits so many people. Legislation must also be passed making the drug user responsible for his own medical care however, a case of more personal freedom meaning more personal responsibility. It is time the society learned from the Prohibition experience and from the “free ride” experience that neither work. Free medical care will destroy the economy; it must be made affordable just like education, but never free.

Posted by Helen | Report as abusive

Should we also legalize prostitution? Why not provide health benefits and collect tax?

Posted by Brian Choi | Report as abusive

Yes Brian Choi – of course we should legalise prostitution – not a free for all – and in a way that protects the vulnerable from slave-like exploitation – but one that recognises that some people want to offer this service and a lot want to use it and that, so long as it is a transaction between freely consenting adults, the state should not intervene on spurious “moral” grounds.

One of the big hurdles to legalization of marijuana is the current entrenched “legal” medical drug industry. I would wager even the plethora of non-medical uses for hemp would cause resistance from certain industries. These being papers, fuel sources, and any current fibers in use on the market that hemp is superior to. Why would companies want to allow an unpatented plant that has so many medical and commercial applications come to use, when synthetic drugs are so much easier to control and patent. Marijuana is less harmful to your health by a long shot then cigarettes and alcohol so the current ban on marijuana is just hypocrisy being kept in place with false science and weak arguments. Unless alcohol and cigarettes join the ban, it will continue to be an example of the racist, classist, and monopolistic policies that pervade the world.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

Want to stop the DRUG WAR in Mexico, legalize marijuana here. We better do something quick or Mexico will be our next Afghanistan.

Posted by Lucy | Report as abusive

Marijuana will never be legalized. The authorities are making too much money keeping it illegal, seizures of cash, vehicles, airplanes,and homes is a very lucrative
business. The illegal part of this whole fiasco is keeping adults from ingesting anything they desire into their systems. It should be strictly a personal matter, but our insanity has changed this.

@Jesse Meredith

Your argument merits consideration and you are probably right about the enormous costs of the anti-drug war. My point was that James normally provides us with useful analyses of central problems which right now happens to be the global meltdown of the financial sector. Moving the terrain of debate to very important peripheral issues such as drug policy takes the spotlight away from core economic dynamics.

I apologise for saying this, can you imagine business and governments getting together at a global convention to discuss the merits of legalising marijuana to solve the problems in the financial markets? That would be insane, wouldn’t it?

As a matter of interest to you, I wrote to the UK Treasury on March 23rd 2008 to offer a remedy to assist in alleviating the credit crunch that was developing in intensity at that point. The best solution that the Bank of England could come up with just prior to the 23rd March was to offer emergency 3 day loans.

As it turns out, the HM Treasury did not acknowldge my email and instead on April 21st 2008, Mr King, the Governor of the Bank of England “unveiled” the Special Liquidity Scheme (SLS) and claimed that he worked it out on his “home computer” “around Easter”

You can read about this by typing my name, Gregory Hessenauer into google search.

What this brought home to me was that the world is not only suffering from a financial meltdown but is also enduring the rule of an amoral and unethical ruling elite.

Based on this, it is hypocrisy of the ruling elite to set the moral compass of human behaviour if they can’t and don’t behave in an ethical manner. This would support the basis for allowing people to make their own moral and health decisions instead of spending billions of dollars trying to control the behaviour of “the masses”.

Having said all this, it remains my view that alcohol, tobacco and drugs pose a risk to human health and in my view it is preferable that if these these items are used the user should be made aware of the risks that they incur by doing so.

I remain convinced that legalising drug use will not in any way address the global financial crisis and ought to be viewed as an entirely seperate issue.

Wish you the very best.

Posted by Gregory Hessenauer | Report as abusive

I agree our current drug policy is a costly disaster which hurts more innocent people than a regulate-and-tax policy would. While we cannot stop individuals from choosing to harm themselves, we have the right and the government has the responsibility to protect our society from those who make bad decisions. Random drug testing must be allowed. No individual has the right to endanger others on the road or to expect an employer to pay for shoddy work due to incapacity.

Posted by bella mag | Report as abusive

Wasn’t it Andrew Jackson that drew the line for personal liberty at “That which does not pick my pocket or break my kneecaps”? I rather like that. If you break down drugs into a class which turns people into monsters and a class which does not, you have a much more rational basis for deciding whether things should be illegal. Marijuana does not turn people into monsters. Many people use it regularly and lead productive lives. Even George Washington used marijuana. Cocaine? Now that’s another matter.
People call it a “War” on drugs. That’s OK, but how many fronts are you fighting the war on? Marijuana, cocaine, LSD, heroin, ecstasy, the list goes on. How many times did you hear of a country winning a war it fought on 7 or more fronts? Limit the number of fronts and you have a better chance of winning on the fronts that are really worth fighting. Come to think of it, why do we consider research into recreational drugs to be taboo? This is the best way to win the war. Come up with something that can get people high with minimal side effects. Then you get unemployed drug lords, well employed Americans making legal drugs and a ton of junkies that change over to something that doesn’t turn them into monsters.

Posted by Shadowrider | Report as abusive

Legalizing drugs at this time could cause the total collapse of the worldwide financial system (or what’s left of it). Banks make huge profits through money laundering operations. Without this source of revenue, international banks would be crippled beyond the ability of governments to prop them up.

Consider the case of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC). Since the days of the British Empire, it has made huge sums of money processing opium into heroin, distributing it and laundering the proceeds. Now HSBC has announced an urgent need to raise new capital.

Legalize if you must, but at least wait until this financial crisis is over!

Posted by Critical Thinker | Report as abusive

The only thing more appalling than the ignorant comment made by Father Brown, was the fact that he put the title with his comment. First of all, if we examine this fallacious warped logic, then why stop at drugs, including cocaine. Why not just legalize and tax other illegal activity like prostitution, and human trafficking and child labor, as long as they are willing, and polygamy. You are on a slippery slope- why not just tax abortion and child pornography and theft.

Secondly, there is a plethura of research to show that people who use marijuana are much more likely to also experiment with other drugs, not to mention the fact that often marijuana is used together with alcohol. Aside from the fallacious logic and moral issues as long as you have a “tax and spend” socialist in the white house, you can raise taxes all you want, it doesn’t solve the problem, just creates more programs for the lazy, and goes to pork spending like the 50 million to research the marsh mouse. A drunk sorority girl with her dad’s platinum card doesn’t care about the tax on the booze. If you legalize marijuana, then everyone can grow it in their house, and there is no need to buy it at Wal-Mart or Revco, and so who would be paying taxes on it?? The best thing about the recession is that it makes the dollar stronger overseas, and lets people get a taste of the socialist they voted for and will help put conservatives back in power in two years.

L Ozanne. American in Socialist Europe

Posted by Loren Ozanne | Report as abusive

In Alaska Marijuana is legal to grow, use in any manner, and give away. It is not legal to sell it, and I doubt the Alaska State government would ever attempt to sell it to increase tax revenues, but of course they don’t need the extra money. One of the main reasons that pot should be decriminalized is because of the sad situation in Mexico. It will never happen though because of all the “upstanding” “moral” paranoids that control much of our society, and an overabundance of self serving gutless politicians who always worry about getting re-elected. The situation in Mexico is especially sad – a direct result of their wealthy northern neighbor. One solution is for voters to never vote in an incumbent.

Posted by John R | Report as abusive

Seriously, when are we as a society going to grow up and put our ideals into action. We way we believe in and value the freedom of the individual but then we make people criminals if they want to get high? I personally do not drink or use illegal drugs, but I believe that we as a society should allow people to do drugs if they want to as long as they do not let it effect society in a negative way. That is why we have DUI laws which also apply to drugs. The tax revenue would be great. The reduction in crime and violence would also be nice. Also, teenagers are attracted to the mystic of the forbiden. By making drugs legal, we take away the mystic of doing drugs and teens simply see that doing drugs will make them a looser rather than the cool kids in school.

Go ahead and legalize marijuana, if only to shut these fools up. The legalization of marijuana would accomplish none of the stated goals of the cannabis-crowd. “Crime rates” would appear to fall as drug usage would no longer be “crimes”; that is until the robbery, assult, child endangerment, and vehicular manslaughter shot through the roof (not to mention bankruptcy, divorce, death). The large number of illicit growers would explode and a bumper crop of untaxed marijuana would flood the streets without a trickle into the state coffers. Drugs would still come across the border as the now legal gateway drug created addicts of even greater numbers of people. The only consolation I would find as I watched my country turn into a macabre version of a Jude Apatow film and flush itself down the toilet would be: “maybe they will all be stoned next Election Day”.

Posted by The Last Sane Man in the Room | Report as abusive

Mr. Saft, I applaud you for having the guts to say what millions of people already think. The so-called drug war is nothing but a sham. Politicians ran out of platforms to run on years ago and they made up this big bad monster that needed to be fought. What was the cost of drug use in this country before the so-called drug war? hardly a miniscule fraction of what the “war” costs today. And the employment of thousands of enforcement, justice and corrections employees now makes it so difficult to back off. The person who earlier said that if marijuana were legalized everyone would grow it at home negating a retail market is wrong. Do most drinking Americans make wine in their bathtubs? A legal, controlled, and taxed market for recreational drugs would generate billions.

Posted by T. Kaye | Report as abusive

Why not go one step further and require all people who want to use marijuana to register and get a license? Another revenue-raiser for the late, great, state of California. Currently you have to prove your age eligibility to buy tobacco or alcohol, so why not have to show your license in order to buy marijuana? Then, use this requirement to fine people caught in possession of or using it without the requisite documentation!

Posted by Kathy Thompson | Report as abusive

Has anyone see the March, 2nd article here at Reuters titled “Cost of locking up Americans too high: Pew study?
How can we continue to do this? You have “Last Man” who thinks society will collapse others who think legalizing marijuana will lead to slavery and forced child labor. Who are you people? Without the high cost currently associated with illegal drugs who motivation will users have to rob and murder? The markets dissolve because there is no more profit there. The White Markets pick up marijuana and sell it in a manor similar to alcohol. Even Heroin has been decriminalized and dispensed through clinics successfully in other countries and huge social benefits were realized. As for prostitution it is already legal in Nevada and I do not see their society falling apart. Give your moral outrage a rest and try looking at these problems from the view point that we live in what is supposed to be a free society. Does prostitution or drugs violate any of your constitutional rights? Of course they don’t! Does human trafficking or forced child labor violate the rights of those being forced or trafficked? Of course it does! So, do not try and confuse the issue with these kinds of illogical arguments. This is supposed to be the Land of the Free. We are not suppose to be a society that jails 1 out of 31 adults giving the US the largest per capita prisoner population in the world and the fastest grown gang subculture in history. If you want to stop this and the gang problems south of the boarder legalize marijuana and decimalize cocaine. You want to break the back of Middle Eastern terrorists decimalize opium products and get off oil as a fuel base. Without profits they are nothing. This would go along way to eliminating crime world wide. But of course if you wish to stand by your moral outrage and have an over powering desire to needlessly control the lives of others please feel free to exercise your constitutional right to protest any action that might empower people to exercise their god given right of free will.

Remember there is always someone who desires to usurp your freedoms. Stand up, unite against them and Be Free!

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive

I’m a smoker. And I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have started smoking if it was illegal just as I never did marijuana. Kids nowdays are already tempted into smoking and that’s when most of them start.
Just step back and think about what this means. We have broken economic system. Our current system requires endless market expansion and we’ve reached its limit. Instead of trying to fix the system, we’re trying to expand into drugs… This may be a temporary fix but what are we going to do if THAT market dries up? Gambling? Prostitution?

Posted by Brian Choi | Report as abusive

Mr. Choi,

Do you have a choice? Are you an alcoholic? If you do not want to smoke, stop. If you have trouble stopping, get help. However, there are millions of people in this country that still smoke and enjoy it. I smoke but only at night when I am reading. I smoke only natural organic tobacco but unlike many smokers I can go all day without it and I can even go days without. I still smoke because I enjoy it. If you are an addict please get help but do not blame the tobacco for making you an addict. It has no will. There is and always will be a difference between use and abuse and there will always be addicts. Like alcoholics you first must admit you are an addict and that you want to quit before the healing can begin. But just like alcoholics and alcohol there are many millions that use alcohol without ever becoming an alcoholic.

Good luck to you.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive

1) Legalize & tax recreational drugs (Marijuana, cocaine, heroin)

2) Add at least marijuana and heroin to the medical armamentarium

3) Release/parole all imprisoned individuals who were convicted of non violent drug related crimes.

4) Eliminate the IRS, and all the attorneys and accountants associated with it, and all the enforcement crap, and move to a straighforward transaction tax at the level of financial intermediary organizations – which becomes a software modification of current programs, and frees up over 50 billion dollars a year while providing the money congress claims it requires.

Posted by nexien | Report as abusive

B.Free. You missed the point. I said the kids are temped into smoking. Kids are less responsible for decisions they make. I’m sure you think pure pressure is just a myth and conspiracy as well but majority of us parents do not. And by the way, I think you’re perfect rehab. Just walk up to any addict and tell them to “stop” I think it’s working miracles.

I have quit smoking for three years and started again just a few months ago partially thanks to this economy but for three years, I was constantly tempted. I asked someone who quit for 30 years if the temptation goes away. He told me it never goes away. I have a choice to start smoking as an adult but I wish I was never exposed to it when I was in school. And I certainly wish the same for my kids. Cigarette or marijuana.

And you’re also implying that if there are people who enjoy it, it should be available. Do you believe cocaine and heroin also should be legalized because there are people who enjoy it? You agree to child pornography if the child consent to it and actually enjoys it?

Posted by Brian Choi | Report as abusive

About thirty five years ago the editors of Consumer Reports published a remarkable study done by Edward Brecher called Licit and Illicit Drugs. This was an excellent survey and in depth study of the history of the use of a wide range of drugs and the rising attempts to regulate them. He observed that if one were a drug lord and were seeking to design a system that enriched himself to the maximum level possible, he could not do better than the system we now have in place. This observation is as true now as it was in the early 70′s. Demand for drugs is, to a large extent, driven by its forbidden nature. If drugs could be secured at a minimum cost from a dispensary, stocked by legal and regulated channels, the illegal drug cartels would wither. I assure you that the strongest opposition to legalization of any drugs will be from the current pushers and the gang bosses. Their unwitting front men in the debate will be, ironically, the most self-righteous among us, certain that they know best what is good for us and determined to throw us in jail if we disagree.

Posted by John Hawley | Report as abusive

BUY AMERICAN!

I totally agree with the legalization approach.

Let’s stop subsidizing the international drug lords by producing what America wants right here in America. No more will international terrorists and criminals profit from exporting drugs to America. Let’s see what happens to those drug lords in Mexico after their biggest market suddenly stops buying from them.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

This is an incredibly sane idea. What’s incredibly NOT sane is the status quo: there is a huge segment of government employees at all levels who are committed to stifling liberty by enforcing laws which appear very similar to Prohibition.

The results are:

1. The enforcers have a job
2. The banned products generate phenomenal profits for
those willing to risk peddling them
3. When “caught”, these people (or someone: taxpayers?)
pay an army of lawyers and others to prosecute
or defend them
4. The losers end up grist for the incarceration mill
5. After incarceration, the “losers” are often simply
better at their business, or better-trained in other
illegal activities. And probably more anti-social.

Overall, who benefits from the current set-up? Mostly the drug dealers and manufacturers who manage to remain uncaught while making incredible amounts of money, the government employees who pursue them, and still other government employees whose jobs are related to dealing with them when they are caught. And, to a small extent, the coffers of the venues that receive fines from those who are caught.

Now, who is harmed by the current mess? Virtually everyone not included in the above, which means a very large majority. This seems a good example of how our laws benefit a few while pretending to benefit the many.

I’m not a drug-interested person. I’m perfectly satisfied with the variety of alcoholic beverages available, so my support of legalization of marijuana is not motivated by the desire to lower the risk of using it! My motivation is: cut the lifeline of cash that supports this cancer of illegal drug traffic! Provide products that meet basic standards of purity and potency. License them, sell them with huge tax premiums (think– tobacco!!) and use the expanded tax base help reduce our deficit.

Oh, and some of the taxes could be used to fund some retraining for the newly out-of-work government employees and for psychological intervention and re-education for those drug dealers who might be interested.

Not that all of those people will be out of jobs, though: there are plenty of other drugs out there that can keep the anti-drug circus going. But the big part of the “show” seems to be marijuana. Let’s pull the plug on that NOW, and rake in some tax dollars!

Posted by ray barnum | Report as abusive

I am a grandmother of two Mexican boys. Their dad is Mexican and the boys also hold Canadian citizenship.

Now with all this U.S. policy against drugs causing huge violence and civic turmoil for Mexico and U.S. with no end in sight I am very disturbed about my grandchildren’s futures.

They are still safe in Canadian schools but how do you give the kids some confidence to believe in an honest Christian life when Americans keep holding up Mexico as the poster child or the “guilty party” of the American drug war.

America’s complete foreign policy is attacking most of latin America and South America and Central America and Canada and Afghanistan and Europe and pretty much the whole planet using the drug pretext as a “control stick” to affect democratic reform.

Of course, the only winners are the hired security agents and enforcement agencies with their big budgets and the real loosers are the American people who pay for a policy which does not deliver good security but a more dangerous society compromised by bad economic and social policy.