The Issue: Marijuana Legalization…We Can or We Cannot?

We Cannabis

Jameka Williams

Recreational marijuana is here to stay, and may possibly spread across the nation. While science and health professions have seen the good and bad of pot-smoking, particularly on the teenage brain, Colorado and Washington have legalized the sale and consumption of marijuana for people 21 and older. Many other states, such as Alaska, are moving in this same direction. Now, state governments, and even the White House, are discussing marijuana. Economists and other analysts are considering the economic benefits of its legalization, possibly turning this bad habit into an economic push for the U.S., something which is certainly needed.

First, taxation on the plant is one of the issue’s hot-button topics. In their law referendum, Washington suggested a 25% tax rate, which would affect the growing, processing and selling of marijuana. A study out of Colorado reported that with legalized marijuana, the state could see $60 million in tax revenue and savings surrounding its production and sales. With the high taxes placed on marijuana, similar to those on alcohol and tobacco, many state governments could see positive economic growth. Economists estimate that the marijuana legalization “experiments” of Colorado and Washington, could ultimately bring about $300 million in revenue for those states, depending on how successful the marijuana businesses are.

Second, with legalization comes better control over the substance. Legalization and control of the drug by state-recognized retailers could possibly save upwards of $13.7 billion for the government. The states would no longer be hemorrhaging money by arresting people for minor pot possession charges. If you didn’t know, it costs the taxpayers significant amounts to keep criminals fed, clothed, and entertained in prisons. For example, studies show that it costs the U.S. about $1 billion a year to incarcerate people charged with marijuana-related offenses. To eliminate this taxpayer cost by legalizing marijuana would save a lot of money for the country while also curbing the criminal activity that haunts street-level drug dealing. In addition, legalization of marijuana will hurt the black market drug-dealing, as street-level dealers will be forced to raise the price of their product in order to keep up with the prices of state-controlled retailers.

Unfortunately, we cannot see into the future, but so far economists and proponents of legalized marijuana hope that tight regulation and economic prosperity can silence the naysayers.


We Cannotnabis

Lauren Bujaky

The hype of marijuana legalization is sweeping the nation, quite possibly to its detriment. Washington and Colorado are the only states thus far to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use. From the states not harvesting such benefits, the outcries are numerous: A cure for cancer! No more drug violence in Mexico! Tax revenues will pour into the nation’s schools! From an economic standpoint, this last claim exemplifies the ludicrous, and frankly unfounded, assumptions people have about legalizing marijuana.

To begin with, the estimated social costs associated with legal drugs – alcohol and tobacco – is roughly $200 billion per substance. These numbers far outweigh any tax revenue that we would receive from legalizing pot, and these costs are actually 10 times greater than any tax revenue that the U.S. receives from either alcohol or tobacco. As most can ascertain from the country’s current deficit, this cost to revenue relation costs the country billions each year. Legalizing marijuana would only make the cost-revenue gasp greater for legal drugs, ultimately increasing the country’s already huge deficit. So no, the amount of money going to our nation’s schools will not increase. As research is suggesting, if there is any increase in revenue, it will not be the panacea for fiscal imbalance that our country needs.

Another wrinkle in this cannabis debate: Tax revenues will be harder to collect because marijuana sales are cash-only. Marijuana marketplaces are run with cash now, and these same marketplaces will be run with cash in the future. No bank will knowingly approve credit card sales for this drug or take deposits from transactions since marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Financial institutions could be fined if they handled ‘marijuana money’, even in states where the drug is legal.

To those who claim that fewer people, and thereby fewer taxpayers’ dollars, will be caught in our criminal justice system, I offer a different perspective. Most citizens don’t realize that alcohol, not cocaine, heroin or marijuana is responsible for 2.6 million arrests every year. This is one million more arrests than those for all illegal drugs combined. If legalizing marijuana supposedly decreases the amount of arrests, the decrease will not be significant in light of alcohol-related violations.

Though this issue is not black and white, the supposed benefits of marijuana legalization are miniscule, feuled only by the hype of the drugs most avid fans.



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