If, in an imaginary world, we were to legalize - or even just make it a misdemeanor to use - illegal drugs (Pot, Cocaine, Meth, etc.) what would we do with the people already in jail for those crimes? It seems we, by we I mean legislators, would be faced with choosing between two options. They could keep them imprisoned, what they did was illegal when they did it. Or, they could write the laws such that they were retroactive - essentially freeing people currently incarcerated. Derek’s recent post about the “Unintended Consequences of Congress’s Actions” got me thinking. Previously, I might have said that the only fair thing would be to free them, now I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.
The prison system has some serious problems. One of the problems is that prison to often serves as a way for criminals to make criminal contacts and grow in their chosen ‘trade’. I worry that, perhaps, the criminals locked up for drug related charges will not be the same people who get released if a law like this were to be retroactive. Would we find a group of people with chips on their shoulders and new skills learned in jail or a group of people ready to accept responsibility for their past actions and move on to become productive members of society. I’m not sure… but Derek’s post has certainly made me take a second look at this.
Five years ago Portugal decriminalized all illegal drugs when it comes to personal use. This doesn’t make it legal, but rather this makes the personal use of illegal drugs a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Many U.S. states have similar laws concerning the use of marijuana, Ohio would be an example, but none have decriminalized illegal drugs to the extent of Portugal. Portugal’s decriminalization includes such items as: marijuana, heroine, cocaine, methamphetamine and others. Here we are five years later and the libertarian minded think-tank The Cato Institute has released a report detailing the fallout from this law change - and why the results aren’t what many would have expected.
Oregon currently has a bill in the House to have a state run marijuana production facility. Medical marijuana is already legal in Oregon, and they want to have more control over the substance. They say some of the current “growers” are selling it illegally and being targeted by crime. If the law is passed, the state will impose a $98 per ounce tax on the pot.
I am not really for socialism, I would much rather they let private enterprise take care of growing and selling the weed, but I am all for taxing it. In a recent article I talked about some of the reasons to legalize marijuana, and increasing government revenues from that taxes on it would be a huge plus. This bill doesn’t legalize it, but it might be a step towards that. Even crazier than state grown marijuana, the bill seems to have bi-partisan support. There’s something you don’t see every day.
Let me know what you think about this bill and check out my reasons for legalizing marijuana in the previous article.
It’s hard some times for policy makers to admit when a program has failed, but now is that time. Reading Derek’s post on legalizing marijuana as a way to solve the budget crisis convinced me to look up the ‘War on Drugs’. One look at the statistics for drug use in America and this failure should become immediately obvious. The War On Drugs has been a failure because it has failed to reduce drug use in America, has created a large vibrant criminal industry, costs the tax payers far more than ever imagined, and most of the ‘criminals’ we’ve caught are guilty of nothing more than Marijuana use.
The government has several reasons to legalize marijuana now. The costs associated with marijuana for the government are huge. A study by Jeffery Miron, a professor at Harvard, said that legalizing marijuana would save the government $7.7 billion a year. Second, legalized marijuana would bring in a large amount of tax revenue. Miron estimated that it would bring in $6.2 billion if it were taxed at the rates of alcohol and tobacco. Next, many studies agree that marijuana is actually safer than alcohol and tobacco. It doesn’t really make sense for marijuana to be illegal while alcohol and tobacco are sitting on shelves in the store. Finally, the prohibition of alcohol should have taught us something. Making it illegal made it much less safe and only served to make organized crime rich. Illegal marijuana is making our government broke and drug dealers rich.