Legalize Marijuana, Bolster The Economy (with $13.7 billion)

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Oregon already won the battle in the November election, now for the rest of the country…

Scores of stereotypical college types have been advocating to legalize marijuana for decades. But voiceless students who don’t exactly conform to professional standards of cleanliness and attire are easily ignored.

Now the cry for legalization is coming from a new crowd backed with credentials. Economists.

They’re the ones stoners, recreational users, and herbal entrepreneurs need on their side if the United States is ever going to legalize marijuana nationally. But even if you’re just an abstaining average Joe or giggly reporter — there’s good reason to support the work of voters in Colorado and Washington who legalized marijuana in early November.

The reason? Money. And lots of it.

Leading up to the high holy day of marijuana 4/20, The Huffington Post cited a report from Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron claiming the United States would save $7.7 billion annually by not enforcing the current prohibition on marijuana. The report continues to note an additional $6 billion that could be saved annually if the government taxed pot at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco.

It’s a $13.7 billion switch-a-roo.

More than 500 economists have since signed a petition in support of the study, including three nobel laureates.

Remind me again why we’re even having this discussion?

That’s right. Because marijuana makes you stupid, lethargic, kills brains cells, and ultimately renders you an unmotivated, worthless blob while at the same time opening the gateway to harder drugs, like cocaine and meth.

False.

Fact of the matter is that marijuana doesn’t even belong on the same playing field as alcohol or tobacco. To best understand the demonization of marijuana, we need to take a look at Brett Harvey’s documentary, The Union: The Business Behind Getting High.

The sooner we all understand the facts behind marijuana use, the sooner we can create a new, badly needed tax base that will help bolster our economy and allow law enforcement to prosecute actual threats to society.

20th Century Marijuana

Marijuana didn’t always have such a notorious reputation in the eyes of hyper-moral America. During the country’s colonial days, cannabis hemp was the largest agricultural product in the world. The only existing law involving marijuana was one in the Jamestown Colony ordering farmers to grow hemp.

The following few centuries went rather swimmingly for marijuana, particularly hemp. Our Founding Fathers even used the fibrous material to write the first two copies of the Declaration of Independence. Today, they’re revered as infallible patron saints of Democracy. It’s a far cry from the lackadaisical stereotype given to regular users of hemp in modern society.

So when did marijuana suddenly become this demonic drug bent on destroying the moral fabric of America? The Twentieth Century.

The turn of the century brought with it yellow journalism depicting African-Americans and Mexicans as savages who smoke cannabis to the detriment of the white readership. This stereotype continued to be perpetuated by opponents of cannabis hemp, who feared its potential to make products in direct competition to their own. Needless to say, they were successful in eventually bringing the downfall and outright illogical damnation of all cannabis hemp products.

Later in the century, Communists began to use cannabis as a way to depict their American enemies as pacifists. Not wanting to look like pansies in the eyes of Commies, Congressional leaders began to support any effort to criminalize all forms of marijuana use for the exact opposite reason they initially opposed it. This is all despite reports commissioned from government leaders across the world that said marijuana should come with no criminal penalty.

In order to sell the sham to the American public, opponents had to attach harmful health effects to marijuana use. Introducing for modern audiences, the Health/Tulane study of 1974.

The study pumped 30 joints of marijuana a day into test monkeys. They atrophied and died after 90 days. Scientists then examined the brains of both the monkeys subjected to marijuana and those who had not, discovering brain damage in the marijuana monkeys the scientists attributed to drug use. Then-Governor Reagan of California said of the study, “The most reliable scientific sources say permanent brain damage is one of the inevitable results of the use of marijuana.”

Au contraire, mon Reagan.

Years later it was revealed that Dr. Heath actually pumped 63 Columbian strength joints through a gas mask within five minutes over three months. Problem is, brain damage may occur after just four minutes without oxygen. Reagan’s reliable scientists effectively suffocated their monkey subjects.

Other negative assumptions have since been debunked. Marijuana is not a gateway drug, nor does it increase the likelihood of contracting lung cancer. Older studies support the later, but a closer look at these studies show strategic use of words like “should” and “may” cause lung cancer. Finally, a report from Dr. Donald Tashkin at UCLA reported from his case-control study that elements of marijuana do not increase the chance of lung cancer. It’s completely unlike the verifiable ramifications of nicotine use.

This all comes down to the obvious comparison with other party favorites — tobacco and alcohol.

In 2000, tobacco was responsible for 435,000 deaths or 18.1 percent of total U.S. deaths. Alcohol consumption caused 85,000 or 3.5 percent of U.S. deaths. Marijuana? Zero.

“There are no deaths from cannabis use anywhere. You can’t find one,” said Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Medical School, in Harvey’s documentary.

Legalize It

There you have it. What originally began as an economic driver of our agricultural economy has spiraled out of control into some kind of moral-drug war hybrid issue. A moral-drug war hybrid issue that resulted in 757,969 arrests in 2011 with questionable race disparity.

Bottom line, there’s absolutely no reason to continue criminalizing marijuana. Prohibition did not work with alcohol and it certainly isn’t working with cannabis now.

The federal government should listen to the experts and take immediate steps to decriminalize marijuana in all forms, freeing states to secure revenue from a new tax base, and ending the prosecution of a victimless crime. It’s not the cure-all for the nation’s economic woes, but it’s necessary start.

About Joe Baur

Joe Baur is a freelance writer, filmmaker and satirist with a diverse array of interests including travel, adventure, craft beer, health, urban issues, culture and politics. He ranks his allegiances in the order of Cleveland, the state of Ohio and the Rust Belt, and enjoys a fried egg on a variety of meats. Joe has a B.A. in Mass Communication with a focus on production from Miami University. Follow him at joebaur.com and on Twitter @BaurJoe
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