Rolling a Fat Joint Could Boost the Economy

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Author: Michael Darling

Last week, Feb. 23rd, State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano proposed a bill that has been a long time coming. Ammiano proposed that California could deal with its budget gap problems through the legalization and taxation of the recreational use of marijuana. According to Ammiano’s estimates, weed is a $14-billion industry which could make at least $1-billion in taxes for the state. The California legislature needs to take charge and legalize pot.

Now, before I go on, I feel I should lay my cards on the table and say that I am not a smoker. Much like Ammiano, a self-described martini guy, I do not use weed but I am in full support of its legalization. The fact that legalization could potentially put more money into California’s wallet is a brilliant incentive to end this prohibition. It is time we do away with the pot prohibition and dispel the myths used to damn weed in the past.

There has been a long-standing argument that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to harder habits. Of the smokers I know, only a small handful go past marijuana. Why is marijuana the only drug we deem a gateway? What about caffeine? It’s an upper but I never hear anyone saying Starbucks use can lead to cocaine abuse. Alcohol’s perfectly legal even though many have suffered alcohol poisoning. Even cigarettes are legal despite the never-ending proof that carcinogens in cigs cause cancer. In fact, pot is known to have many medical benefits. It’s not causing cancer; it’s being used to relieve the suffering of those that have it.

We continue to lose money the longer we keep pot illegal. For decades, we have been involved in an endless and pointless so-called war on drugs. I remember earlier this century there was a Super Bowl commercial that made the case that buying marijuana helps support terrorism. Aside from being blatant fear-mongering, this ad was wrong. True, some drug money does support highly questionable organizations and governments, maybe even the CIA, if you believe conspiracy theories.

However, pot is largely home-grown by individuals in back yards and under grow lamps. The British pot comedy Saving Grace features a dealer who needs to hurry off to pick up his daughter from soccer practice before his Dungeons and Dragons guild meets. In this country, the Showtime network has had a hit with Weeds, a show about a suburban mom who is also a dealer. Although these characters are fictional, they have roots in actual dealers who lead normal lives while selling pot. The government has been spending money pursuing growers and users who are not doing any harm to anyone.

One of Ammiano’s main points in favor of legalization is that by decriminalizing pot, law enforcement officers will be able to focus on serious crimes. Cities across the country already have laws on the books that reflect this belief. These laws often say that marijuana is to be treated as a very minor crime. Denver, for example, has made it legal to carry a small amount of pot.

When there are so many actual problems in the world, why should we spend so much money to stop people from lighting up in private? In these financially tough times, we need solutions and decriminalizing pot is one of these. Legalization and taxation will free up so much money wasted on chasing people who aren’t harming anyone. Meanwhile, people are making billions of dollars from pot.

Legalization would help stimulate the economy. When the prohibition of alcohol was ended in the 1930s, the selling of black market booze ended and the money spent on spirits helped the nation during the Great Depression. Imagine if we could do the same with marijuana.

Michael Darling is a junior History major. He can be reached at mdarling@oxy.edu.

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