This past election has been an emotional one for us all. Whether you think Trump’s victory is the beginning of a new era of greatness for the USA or the very end of civilization as we know it, there is some objectively good news coming out of this election. In addition to choosing the next president, voters in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine also decided to finally legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults. Arizona also voted on this matter but decided against legalization by a small margin.
With marijuana now being legal in a significant portion of the country for recreational use (and far more for medical use), it is only a matter of time before the federal government will have to address this issue. Contrary to many opinions, legalizing marijuana will have many benefits beyond making smokers happy. Here are 5 ways that legalizing pot will benefit everyone.
1. It Will Lower Taxes
One thing we can all agree on is that paying taxes sucks. Yes, I know they are a necessity of living in a functioning civil society, but no one can honestly say they wouldn’t be happy to have to pay a little bit less. Especially when the money would have otherwise been used for something stupid. One thing that most people don’t consider when thinking about marijuana legalization is how locking up pot smokers costs the American taxpayers an extraordinary amount of money. In 2010 alone U.S. taxpayers spent $3.6 billion on keeping marijuana users locked up. Prisons were meant to hold people too dangerous to interact with the rest of society, not someone who smoked a forbidden plant. While I completely understand why some people have a distaste for weed and those who use it, I doubt even they would argue against legalization if they knew how much money it would save. This is not even including the tax revenue that would be made from the sale of legal marijuana; which bring me to my next point.
2. It will Lower the Crime Rate and Weaken Drug Cartels
If there is one thing that almost invariably comes with prohibition it is organized crime. Looking back at the prohibition of alcohol in the United States there are many undeniable parallels to the current war on drugs. Not only is the prohibition of alcohol nearly unanimously considered to have been a monumental failure, it is the only amendment in the history of the United States to have been repealed. During the period of time that prohibition was in place (1919-1933) the rate of violent crime in the U.S. rose exponentially. Not only was there more crime, but criminal groups became extremely organized and well funded, which lead to an increase in corruption. This was the period where crime bosses such as Al Capone rose to power. Unsurprisingly, this wave of crime came to an abrupt end after prohibition was ended in 1933. Many experts argue that the legalization of marijuana (or end the war on drugs totally) would bring an end to much of the drug-related crime in the not only the U.S. but the world as a whole. Particularly, legalizing marijuana in the U.S. would significantly weaken the extremely violent Mexican drug cartels. This is not just a theory, it has actually been observed since Colorado legalized marijuana.
Being a capitalist nation, this should not have been a surprise to us. We have all heard of the laws of supply and demand. Just because a substance is made illegal does not mean that the demand will go away. When the government makes a product illegal, almost invariably a criminal group will set up to fill the demand. This not only results in well-funded criminal organizations but also inferior, sometimes outright deadly products. Instead of filling the pockets of criminals and terrorists, it would benefit us all to have marijuana taxed and regulated by legal entities.
3. Quality Control
One huge benefit to any legal product is that it is likely to undergo some quality control. When a product is sold on the black market it does not have to meet the same standard of quality as a legal product would have. This leads to the dangerous situation of people buying substances without knowing how it was handled, prepared, or even what it may contain. While not as prevalent with marijuana as other drugs, one of the main reasons for drug-related fatalities is a lack of quality control. By legalizing, taxing and regulating this issue could be almost entirely solved.
What makes America such a great country is its dedication to liberty and personal freedom. I can not think of many current policies that infringe on personal liberty as the government being able to tell adult citizens what they can, and can not ingest. This is particularly hypocritical considering how our country treats guns, alcohol, and tobacco. Not only do we allow these products that are objectively more dangerous than marijuana to be legal, we accept them as a part of our national culture. Now, I am not saying that any of the aforementioned things be made illegal, I’m suggesting that we take up the same attitude we have in regards to alcohol, guns, and tobacco with marijuana and even other illicit drugs. As long as an individual is not harming anyone else or infringing on the rights of another I believe that the government should leave them alone.
5. We Could Deal with Addiction and Substance Abuse in a More Effective Manner
Speaking of alcohol and tobacco brings up one more issue: addiction. Now, it is a fact that marijuana may be psychologically addictive to some individuals. While nearly anything can be psychologically addictive (food, hoarding, etc) it is still an issue to take into account. This problem is even more prevalent if one were to widen this argument to include all illicit drugs, some of which can be physically addictive. Even so, we now know that there are better ways to deal with these issues than locking addicts away in cells. The rates of cigarette smoking and alcohol addiction were lowered not by making the substances illegal, but by providing real education on the topics. When people are presented with accurate information instead of scare tactics and the threat of being locked away, they are more likely to make intelligent decisions in regards to their use of a substance.