YES WE CANNABIS! Obama to Legalize Marijuana?!? …3 Reasons Why This Could Be Good
December 26, 2008 27 Comments
ATLANTA— The Obama team is clearly trying to think outside of the box as they address the current economic crisis gripping the United States. Esquire magazine is reporting that the Obama team is privately considering the legalization of marijuana as an economic stimulus. Such a move would be similar to FDR ending prohibition as part of his economic stimulus plans. Pent up demand at the time drove huge private investments into the production and distribution of alcohol, creating jobs and igniting a slight boost to an otherwise miserable economy. The thinking on pot is that people are buying the stuff anyway- why not legalize it and save on government enforcement and incarceration costs while earning new tax revenues on the sale of pot? Further, while pot may not be as widely used as alcohol, it could nonetheless spur investment and job growth.
The likelihood of the Obama administration actually doing this is pretty slim, in my view, for a number of reasons. If Mr. Obama wants to attract evangelicals away from the Republican Party (reference his pick of Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration), legalizing marijuana would certainly not be helpful. Even apart from the evangelical response, I could foresee enormous backlash from many other sectors on this one.
While I come to this topic with many personal reservations, I have nonetheless heard plenty of arguments in favor of the idea of legalizing marijuana over the years. After all, Milton Friedman, that famous free-market libertarian, was a big advocate for the legalization of the drug trade, for a number of very interesting moral, political and economic reasons. If all of the arguments I have heard are true, there are scenarios in which marijuana legalization could be a great idea. Here are just a few of the reasons I have heard for why legalization could be good.
The legalization of marijuana would likely save billions in enforcement costs while simultaneously providing billions in new tax revenues. According to a report released in 2005 by John A. Miron, a Harvard economist, titled The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition, “ending prohibition enforcement would save $7.7 billion in combined state and federal spending… while taxation would yield up to $6.2 billion a year.” That is admittedly a drop in the bucket when compared against the current federal, state and local government deficits we are suffering through. Nonetheless, it would be incrementally helpful at all levels of government.
Legalizing marijuana would bring a black market product into the mainstream and might depress marijuana prices, which would put a financial squeeze on the criminal organizations that currently distribute it. Prices might decline because the risk and supply premiums sellers currently charge would decline. The obvious legal risks associated with the production and distribution of the drug would be severely reduced for those who operated within the law. Further, as regulated suppliers develop more efficient methods to produce and distribute it, costs would invariably decrease, driving down prices. With the price collapse, an entire segment of the drug black market would take a financial hit. It might be like stripping the Big Mac from McDonald’s- criminals would still have the quarter pounder and fries, but they wouldn’t be as profitable. Accordingly, there would be a limiting of revenues to support certain types of criminal behavior.
For those like me who would be concerned about marijuana achieving broader use if legalized, its legalization could ultimately reduce its use. With marijunana more in the mainstream, it might become less appealing to youth. Rather then being the rebellious drug smoked to “stick it to the man,” it would become part of the commercial, capitalist machine many of its biggest fans seek to disassociate themselves from. Not only that, but anytime they buy bags of it at head shops and other regulated retailers, the bags would likely be covered in surgeon’s general warnings about lung cancer, etc. Infinitely less cool that way.
These are only a few reasons legalization could be good- there are surely plenty more. But despite these reasons, as a Christian, this is one that I would wrestle with significantly. My reservations are these. Marijuana is still considered a “gate-way” drug. If legalized, point 3 above could be wrong and its use could become more widespread. As the usage increases, would more people then start to dabble in other, more hard-core drugs? Separately, my general observance of regular pot users is that it breeds lethargy (no offense to my readership- there are some notable exceptions to this). It is not, in my view, a helpful drug. Again, if it becomes more widely used upon legalization, how would that impact worker productivity? Finally, while there are no bright-line prohibitions against marijuana use in the Bible, I nonetheless believe it is a drug that is difficult to use “in moderation.” What I mean by this is that I believe marijuana is difficult to use in such small doses that you can remain sober throughout the experience. Technically, you can- but how many people have you met who honestly prefer to use it in this way? I believe use in moderation is the litmus test for a Christian in judging the extent to which they should partake in alcohol and tobacco products. Accordingly, my convictions are that pot is still wrong to use, even if legal. I would have difficulty arguing for the production and distribution of a drug I am convicted is inappropriate to use.
In summary, I can see the arguments for why marijuana legalization could be a good idea. However, I am not without my reservations.
What are your thoughts? Should Obama legalize marijuana?