the war on pot

A Cannabis sativa leaf.Image via Wikipedia

My brother has been living in California for the last couple of years.  We have talked many times about the politics in California, the diversity of the state, the short-fall of the budget ( like every other state ).  The question both of us have asked since the pot stores have opened on streets corners across the state is how much money could the state reap if marijuana was legalized? 

All the hoopla over legalizing pot, to me, is ridiculous.  Conversations range from drug abuse to the Federal Government continuing to pursue even small time dealers no matter what the outcome at the polls in November.  The answers I am interested in are the points that Nicholas Kristof writes about in his editorial in the New York Times today.

I want to know the numbers.  How much tax revenue will be generated with legalizing pot?  How much money will be saved in the "war on the drugs"?  How much money will be saved in the police department because the cops can use their time focusing on crimes of more significance.  Kristof points out that over 750,000 Americans are arrested each year for a small possession of marijuana.  That is astounding. How much does that cost our system not only for housing people in jail but the havoc is wreaks on families if the major bread winner is hauled off to jail for a small bag of pot they smoke at night.  Needless to say, more African-Americans are arrested by sevenfold as compared to the white population.  BTW, that does not mean that more African-Americans are smoking pot it just means that they are the ones being arrested. 

There is no doubt that for certain people smoking marijuana can lead to harder drug abuse.  Yet, in areas where pot has been legalized such as Amsterdam and even Portland, Oregon there has not been a significant increase in drug abuse.

I believe the pro's outweigh the cons.  Legalizing pot makes for a huge cash surplus which this country needs badly.  I am not so sure it is any different than prohibition.  After all, alcohol is the worst drug ever if abused and it is legal. 

In the Times today there was also an article about all the marijuana url's being snapped up for the possible future of pot being sold online.  Pretty damn smart.  I actually do believe that in my lifetime we will see that happen.  Call me crazy. 

I totally agree with Kristof as he ends his editorial with "One advantage of our federal system is that when we have a failed policy, we can grope for improvements by experimenting at the state level. I hope California will lead the way on Tuesday by legalizing marijuana."



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Comments (Archived):

  1. Steven Kane

    i favor legalizing marijuanathere is no downside scenario, financially speakingand i for one do not think legalization will in any way increase substance abuse problems (anyone who wants to smoke pot today already is)i do predict, though, that a lot of resistance to legalizing pot will not come from the sanctimonious right. it will come from the equally sanctimonious wit, the societal movement to restrict tobacco is much more a left cause than a right cause. i don’t see how one can be violently against tobacco smoking but not violently against pot smoking. i have never seen any data saying that smoking one plant causes cancer and all the other horrible health problems, but smoking the other does not. and legalizing marijuana will certainly increase marijuana smoking amongst the vast middle class and average person, who does not do so now as it is illegal (much as liquor consumption is so totally widespread across demographic lines)i suppose there’s an argument that marijuana is less adictive than tobacoo, or not addictive at all. but tobacco proponents made that arguments for a century until scientiifc data couldnt be refuted. to my knowledge no such scientific studies about addiction have been done on pot. (please correct me if i’m wrong)any case, i really dislike the movement to restrict tobacco usage — i don’t see why people can’t be allowed to make decisions themselves, and i don’t see why people cant choose to do things which are dangerous. but regardless, i can’t imagine a future where people inveigh against smoking one weed… but not the other

    1. Gotham Gal

      Never thought about the tobacco aspect. Bottom line is what you wrote….ifyou want to buy weed you can. Its simply supply demand economics so whyshouldn’t we allow that biz to create revenues for our tax system instead offilling the drug dealers [email protected]

      1. Germainsteven

        It is simple economics???? People can get heroin and crack yet you do not propose legalizing and taxing it because it is available and used anyway. Your view on this is what it is because deep down you do not think pot is all that harmful and because it is popular. Try some Sour Diesel or some Kush. That stuff will make you hallucinate. I know, I heard all about the pleasures of Sour Diesel and Haze from a 14 year old in rehab last week – she can’t wait to get off the unit so she can start using again – and she cannot think of any reason not to use – it makes her feel so good, so relaxed so fun, so attractive to the boys who use with her and it makes her popular with her friends. (you know how many letters she will get from her “friends” when she is jail ten years form now for whatever messed up thing will get her sentenced (prostitution, dealing, concealed weapon, assualt), zero. And from there (soon) it will be Dust and from there Crack or meth or heroin (meth has been mostly a west coast thing but it is coming to the north east with a vengeance). Would making pot legal change her life one way or another – no. But by taking all sanctions off we grease the wheels – like leaving your windows unlocked. If a thief wants to get in he can break the glass but by keeping the windows locked maybe he will think twice. We need to keep the pot windows as locked as we can. But again, this is not ideology on my part it is simply an empirical assessment of the consequences or removing all sanctions – more adiction.

        1. Gotham Gal

          we can agree to disagree. the people who are ending up in rehab are therewith drugs that are illegal so not so sure much would change if pot waslegal.

          1. Germainsteven

            I agree, you said, you are “not sure much would change if pot was legal”. That was my point. Maybe there won’t be much change but maybe there will be. So we both don’t know. I think it is wiser in the face of that uncertainty to keep the breaks on while you hope California legalizes pot because you think the pros outweigh the cons. Reasonable people can certainly take different sides of that issue.

          2. Gotham Gal


  2. Mike Hart

    You go Gotham Gal!!

  3. Germainsteven

    We will see – my own belief is that despite the economic and other arguments in favor (alcohol is legal and is is more harmful that pot) the end result of legalization will be more addicts. In fact that has happened in other places – the Amsterdam argument is wrong. In fact, I think that when you know (really know – not form the penthouse view but form the street view) the incredible shattering of lives (and yes cost to society) of addiction, what to me are flip arguments, in favor are frustrating. I was surprised by Kristoff’s op ed piece, would he legalize sex trafficking because it has been going on forever and if it was regulated we could “control” it and generate a revenue stream?

    1. Gotham Gal

      i am not so sure that comparing the sex trade to smoking pot is fair.alcohol is definitely far more harmful than weed. getting stoned for mostis like recreational drinking. alcohol shatters lives too and that can beaddictive. i am not so sure that pot is addictive yet for some it does leadto other drug use as they are people who need a stronger high. if it wasn’tpot, it would be something else. addicts are generally addicts and if theydon’t use drugs or drink they become addicts in other ways.

  4. Germainsteven

    So because alcohol is bad but legal we shiould legalize another bad substance? Look, I understand all the arguments (though I really do not like the economic ones – you want to save money – cut the military budget and tell your friends to quit giving money to their alma mattas and give it to socially important causes instead (not looking for an argument on that one it’s just another pet peeve – the wastefullness and inneficiency of the Ivy endowments). Getting back to the main point – at the end of the day, legalizing pot will result in more addicts – that is the bottom line. If you think otherwise, that is fine, the answer is time will tell (in the meantime I’d want to be a lot more certain that it will not before I pormoted the idea). On the otherhand, if you think it will lead to more addiction but the economic benefits make it worth it then I think you are wrong on both the economic analysis (cost of addcition is as you know gigantic) and as I have said IMHO wrong on the likely consequence. If I could meet the guy in the band Pink Floyyd who wrote the lyrics to “comfortably numb” the anthem for a whole generation of pot heads who said “sign me up” some of whom are now on their 14 th rehabs with years lost and out the door, jail time, wasted potential, ruined lives enslaved to pot, opiods,benzos, crack, ectasy, alcohol etc., I’d hit him in the head for being such an idiot. PS, someone wrote about tobacco that people should have the freedom to make their own choice – huh? Tobacco is addictive and fatal. Whether it should be baned is onte thing but to herald it as an example of some sort of libertarian right to choose is to not understand the nature of nicotine.

  5. Germainsteven

    By the way, where do you get your information? You wrote: “Yet, in areas where pot has been legalized such as Amsterdam and even Portland, Oregon there has not been a significant increase in drug abuse.”In fact, from 1999 through 2005, the ratio of Oregonians using cannabis outpaced the general United States population by 32–45%. In 2003–2004, Oregon ranked among the top five states for cannabis usage of people 12 and older. In 2006, Oregon’s per capita drug use exceeded the national average. The most used substances were marijuana, methamphetamine and illicit painkillers and stimulants. In 2007, 63.7 pounds of cocaine were seized by federal authorities, up from 36.4 pounds in 2006. In 2007, 115 heroin overdoses resulted in death, up 29% from 2006. In 2008, academic researchers began studying waste water at various Oregon sewage plants, to evaluate the drug use of various communities. Every one of the samples, taken from 96 plants, contained methamphetamine; Cocaine was present in 80% of the samples, MDMA in 40%. Interestingly, meth use in Or. seems to be on the decline (in part because of disruptions in the market) but meth labs have been steadily migrating east and in laces like NYC meth use is now increasing among young people (the evidence for this is somewhat anectodal but met is showing up more and more among users admitted into rehabs.

  6. Jjahcvg

    Congrats to you and your point of view. Get back to me when your three little darlings are kicked out of school for smoking pot, or worse, for the drug use that will surely follow with a mother who has such a cavalier attitude. I suggest you read the following article…I know that living in NYC your children probably will not get behind the car when high…but they might. Or they might get killed by someone who is high. I wonder what your opinion would be then.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I have plenty of friends in the suburbs. For as many stories as the mediaputs out that will scare the pants off of you there probably more storieswhere weed is used in a safe environment. Kids in HS are having partieswhere kids leave the parties drunk and drive too and alcohol is legal.Legal at 21 which is the age I would assume marijuana would be legal attoo. Remember, alcohol kills too. Kids get access to what they want to doregardless of their age.When it comes to kids, I believe in transparency and reality. Kids aregoing to smoke and they are going to drink and they are going toexperiment. Talking to your kids about how to be smart about drinking,driving and smoking pot or any drugs is same conversation you would haveabout having safe sex. It is the best thing you can do as a parent. Talkto your kids and be realistic. Locking them up in your house and tellingthem no, no, no doesn’t work. It creates rebellion and they will go do itin someone elses house. If they have no idea what to do when they turn 21,those are the kids that go to college and end up in the hospital havingtheir stomach pumped and out of control.It is about moderation, education and constant communication. Turning ablind eye gets you nowhere. To believe that your kids aren’t going todrink, smoke and experiment is like living with your head in the sand.

  7. Germainsteven

    I was stimulated by this discussion and so yesterday had a chance to pose it to the head of the in patient addiction unit at a major NY hospital. (I do not want to mention who because I did not tell him I might post about our discussion). He replied as follows: a) he assumes that legalization will happen over the next 10 – 20 years because clearly that is the trend; b) he thinks that in terms of addiction to narcotics it will lead to an increase of about 5% (which is a big number given the existing adcied population). I asked why he thinks there will be an increase given easy access to marijuana that currently exists and his answer is because it will no longer have the stigma associated with illegality. We went on to discuss the implication of this in terms of trends in addtion treatment – the insurance/managed care reimbursement landscape is changing dramatically – we are in the misdt of a sea change – less and fewer in patient options in favor or more out patient – success rates in treating addiction are lower the less intensive the intervention.

    1. Gotham Gal


  8. Germainsteven

    and, for the doc’s perspective, frightening the cost to society of addiction is vast and the rates and harm increasing. There are of course a zillion reasons for this but one thing that contributes to the problem is that so many people see it as only happening to “others” and too easily walk past the shelters, the homeless, the prisons without connecting the dots. Addiction is hell but it turns out hell is full of good people as they they Group Of Drunks = G.O.D.