Obligatory Legalization of Marijuana Post on 4/20

20 Apr

Happy 4/20!  For you nerds out there who don’t know what today is, click through for the Wikipedia entry on the term which is maintained by the team from High Times magazine.

4204:20 or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) refers to consumption of cannabis and, by extension, a way to identify oneself with cannabis subculture. The notable day for these is April 20.

Since today is the national holiday for weed smokers everywhere, it seems natural to have an adult conversation about the legalization of marijuana and the positive effects such a decision would have on the local and regional economy.

Now, I’m not a regular consumer of marijuana, it’s just not my thing.  But I’m cool with people who do.  I also see the obvious economic benefits of legalization, especially in New York State.  Governor Andrew Cuomo projects that New York State will face a $2 Billion deficit in fiscal year 2012-2013.  This deficit remains after draconian cuts in the 2011-2012 budget lowered the projected deficit by $13 Billion.

The choice for Cuomo and the NY State Legislature is simple, either hike taxes on what revenue sources are left (us) or cut spending to the bone.  Since this is New York, cutting the budget beyond the 2012 cuts is not a realistic option.  How about a third option?  Why not write some legislation which would result in new taxable entities and products?

Step 1.  Legalize marijuana.

Step 2.  ???

Step 3.  Profit!

Leading financial minds and economists such as Milton Friedman, Nobel winner George Akerlof, George Soros, and Howard Margolis put out a study detailing the economic impact of legalization. They estimate that if just the same people who use marijuana now continued to use it once it was legal, the legalization would generate/save $12BN annually on a national level.  The study does not even account for the anticipated increased uses of medical marijuana, the industrial adoption of commercial grade hemp or the likely increase in recreational pot smokers/users if it were legal.  If you factor in those things, it pushes the numbers tenfold higher. Basically, it is a $120BN, annually renewable resource waiting to be tapped.

Of course, these estimates are based upon national economic figures, usage rates and such; but tremendous economic value could be derived from being the one state to legalize marijuana.

The study by Friedman notes that New York spends an estimated $564 Million annually in total marijuana prohibition costs (enforcement, judicial, incarceration), one of the highest rates in the nation.  The study also estimates that New York State would be one of the largest economic beneficiaries of a legalization plan, generating an additional $65 Million annually through the imposition of a low marijuana consumption tax.

Assuming that many of the prohibition costs are “legacy” costs in that the apparatus, personnel and capital expenditures related to enforcement can not be written off in one year, we’re looking at a 5-7 year draw down of prohibition costs while consumption tax revenue pours in.

$2.5 Billion in lower total costs for New York State over a five year period while generating $325 Million in revenue?  Sign me up.

I could write more, but I don’t want to sound like some high school debate club contestant detailing the economic benefits of hemp as a replacement for paper, plastics whilst marveling at the incredible tensile strength of hemp rope.

However, we are at a critical juncture in our collective history.  A time in which we need to be re-evaluating our consumerist culture, our massive reliance on credit and other issues too numerous to mention.  One of those issues is whether or not the continued prohibition of marijuana in this day and age makes sense. It has become a hot issue because many states are facing significant revenue crises and legalization is a way to raise new tax revenue and reduce the cost of arresting, prosecuting and housing marijuana criminals.

So, the discussion we need to have in this country is about the public health costs, taxation, changes in drug enforcement funding, changes in employment law, legalization or decriminalization and a multitude of different factors related to this change in public policy.

Let’s get over our ideological xenophobia and stereotypes and have a real discussion about the issue.

9 Responses to “Obligatory Legalization of Marijuana Post on 4/20”

  1. Bruce Beyer, member of the WNY Peace Center April 20, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    Makes sense to me!

  2. Leo Wilson April 20, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    New York also has the perfect climate and light distribution for marijuana production. If it were legalized on the mainland, NY’s farmers would be some of those to reap additional benefits and pay additional revenues to state and federal governments.

  3. Mike In WNY April 20, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    The number 1 reason to legalize marijuana is that the Government should not be in a position to tell people what they can do with their own bodies, absent harm to others.

  4. Gabe April 21, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Mike is 100% right on this one.

    Just think, If legalized (yeah right!) Canal Side could find new economic viability in becoming a “Little Amsterdam.”

  5. Sean C. April 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    The Medical Marijuana Bill was to come up during the budget lock-out. It didn’t stand a chance one way or another back then. That was the last I have heard and or sought information about NYS plans to legalize herb for medical use. With that said the bill was a “Xerox” of California’s law, which has flaws. I remember speaking to one of our State Assembly men (not sure if he’s made his view on the issue public) about the flaws in California’s bill. If these flaws would be ironed out, he would be all for it. The taxation is one obvious flaw. The unseen are that the growers & distributors are not regulated by inspection. By inspecting and regulating grow spaces and making sure they’re secure. In Ontario the powers that be make sure your space is properly ventilated and that you’re not using chemicals and nutrients you shouldn’t be. Security is a big issue in the Emerald Triangle. The Emerald Triangle consists of 3 Northern California Counties that produce most of the states supply and probably a good percentage of our illicit supply. Good people with permits work hard all summer to find that come fall they have been robbed. Plus you have the cartels growing in National Parks and conserved land. Guarded by men with Kalashnikovs of course. 

    We have the market, the work force and the hydro-power (no pun intended) for this to work and pull us out the hole. The logistics just need to be fine tuned and perfected. Once NYS makes Medical Marijuana Legal along with California the rest that haven’t will follow.  

  6. Greg April 22, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    OMFG, I agree with Mike on something.

  7. Jesse April 22, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    It’s always funny to see otherwise statist guys agree with libertarians on particular issues.

    Back when I could partake I wasn’t interested.  Now that I would if I could, I daren’t for personal reasons.  Legalize it already.

    The costs to society for the War on (some) Drugs is abhorrent and shameful.

    Imagine, just for an instant, if Buffalo had some brass ones and created a little “Amsterdam on Lake Erie”… you’d eliminate the population shrinkage problem, that’s for sure!

    Medical Marijuana is a waste of time.  Decriminalize it all, at the very least!

  8. Sean C. April 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    If you think we can just legalize it, you’re nuts. Sure it would be the logical thing to do, when have the feds done anything logical? Sure we should go the route of Holland and decriminalize and control Narcotics… in reality we all know it will never happen (well not in our lifetime). There is way too much money involved in the illicit drug trade, it’s a machine. And if you don’t think the feds want this machine to grind to halt you’re fucking stupid. Take the crusade the Buffalo News is leading against Rx narcotics, it should have happened 10 years ago. Now we have an epidemic. The feds want to monitor us more and more with the right to have open view of our medical records while we protect poppy files in Afghanistan. Dose that sound like a country that’s going to just legalize marijuana? It’s Iran Contra all over again.

  9. Weed Legalization May 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    Legalization is the best thing that could happen right now, for so many reasons. I think it’s coming soon.

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