If marijuana were legalized nationally it would have amazingly beneficial consequences on many different aspects of our legal system, culture and society at large. Here’s a list of ten of the most compelling benefits that will come about after legalized cannabis.
1. It would create a powerful marijuana industry, especially as opposed to the Alcohol and Tobacco industries.
California’s marijuana market is already the largest cash crop in the state at an estimated $14 billion annually. This estimate only includes the marijuana itself and not all the ancillary industries a legal pot market would bring, from accessories (eg vaporizers, grinders, jars) to fashion, from tourism to retail, and all the incredible markets for marijuana’s non-drug cousin, industrial hemp. Legalization creates new job and business opportunities and opens the door for industrial use of hemp, which can be another powerful sector of growth. The growing medical marijuana markets in Colorado and California are already bringing in much needed tax revenue for many cities.
2. It would help the cops focus on real crimes like theft and violence, instead of who’s smoking what in the privacy of their homes.
It is estimated that including the arrest, jail, prison, court, and marijuana eradication costs, the US spends more than $3 billion dollars. Then there is the time and space we can’t afford in our overworked court system and overcrowded prisons. Marijuana legalization alleviates much of those problems while maintaining the current laws against irresponsible use of marijuana, such as driving under the influence and giving marijuana to kids. Marijuana legalization focuses police priorities away from adults who enjoy marijuana responsibly and onto real crime.
3. It would cut down on the insane burden the War on Drugs is putting on our legal system.
In 2009, there were 858,408 marijuana arrests in the US. Imagine how much wasted money and effort our judicial system spends trying to stop people from doing something that isn’t harmful to themselves or others around them (unlike alcohol or tobacco).
As President Jimmy Carter acknowledged: “Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use.”
4. Amazingly, legalization of marijuana will decrease use among adolescents and teens.
In America, is easier for a high school teenager to buy marijuana on the street than it is for them to buy alcohol or tobacco from a connivence store. It might seem counter-intuitive to some, but illegal marijuana is much easier to acquire than regulated marijuana because weed dealers don’t check ID’s.
Listen, marijuana, like other drugs, is not for kids. There are many activities in our society that we permit adults to do, but not children, like driving a car, skydiving, getting married and drinking booze or smoking tobacco. However, we do not condone arresting adults who responsibly engage in these activities in order to dissuade our children from doing so. There’s no way you can justify putting an adult in jail because they like to engage in adult behavior.
5. Create a booming hemp industry, restoring this amazing plants utility and effectiveness.
Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa L. It is a tall, thin fibrous plant similar to flax. Farmers worldwide have harvested the crop for the past 12,000 years for fiber and food, and Popular Mechanics once boasted that over 25,000 environmentally friendly products could be derived from hemp.
More than 30 industrialized nations commercially grow hemp, including England and Canada. The European Union subsidizes farmers to grow the crop, which is legally recognized as a commercial crop by the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Nevertheless, US law forbids farmers from growing hemp without a federal license, and has discouraged all commercial hemp production since the 1950s.
6. Stop the profits of marijuana sales from going to violent criminals.
Prohibited marijuana brings with it the same problems as prohibited alcohol did – gangs and violence. We don’t see bootleggers shooting up the streets over rum distribution any more. We don’t see clandestine wine grape vineyards sprouting up in national forests.
7. Legalization will end the murderous drug war ‘cartel’ gangs in Mexico.
Many Latinos in the United States worry for the safety of friends and family back in Mexico. Residents in northern border towns face violence and murder rates usually only found in war zones simply due to the contraband profits associated with selling illegal marijuana. Law abiding Mexican citizens aren’t sure if their police officers and government officials are corrupted by the wealthy drug cartel gangs. The very stability in Mexico is threatened by marijuana prohibition.
8. Sick medical marijuana patients will no longer have to buy an expensive ‘recommendation’ from a doctor in order to get their plant medicine.
Currently a patient has to see a doctor and pay for a recommendation to use medical marijuana. The person has to carry around that recommendation to prove medical use to the police. A patient can designate a caregiver to grow for them or buy from a dispensary at grossly inflated prices. After legalization, you can use marijuana simply because you decide to, no medical marijuana doctors, no notes. Any number of your friends could be growing marijuana for you.
9. To end the disproportionate arrest and harassment of people of color.
Blacks in California’s 25 largest counties are arrested at rates two-to-four times greater than their white counterparts, despite whites using marijuana at greater rates. In the 25 largest cities, the arrest disparity ranges from twice-to-thirteen times the rates for whites. Arrest rates for Latinos also exceed the rates for whites. Legalization removes the probable cause for law enforcement to harass people of color for simply having marijuana on them.
10. To end street-level dealing of marijuana.
Marijuana’s profitability and rarity create the street-corner dealing that haunts many minority communities and utilizes youth to perform the transporting and selling of small amounts of pot. The profit enriches gangs and leads to violent confrontations over turf. Marijuana legalization will reduce the cost of marijuana and provide a regulated place to buy it that will undercut the street dealers.
Final Thoughts from NORML National Director Allen St. Pierre: