Connecticut Law Review: Time To Change Marijuana Laws!

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director January 17, 2011

    Editorial: Time To Change Marijuana Laws

    There are substantial arguments for and against legalizing the use of marijuana. Opponents of its use strongly believe that marijuana is addictive, leads to the use of hard drugs, impairs short-term memory and motor coordination, and irritates the respiratory system. Despite these objections, on balance, it’s time to seriously consider legalizing marijuana.

    Proponents of the legalized use of marijuana believe the following:

    Marijuana has some beneficial qualities. It relieves pain, stimulates appetite in AIDS patients, reduces nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, is an antidepressant, and relieves anxiety.

    Our present laws are out of date. That is because too many people wish to use marijuana and we know Prohibition didn’t work. The reason Prohibition didn’t work is because an overwhelming number of otherwise law-abiding citizens wished to drink, and government couldn’t afford to stop them. When a very significant percentage of the population wishes to do something, which is not inherently harmful to anyone else, then government is facing a losing battle.

    Save the enforcement money and tax it. The economy would be strengthened if government saved the money they spend on enforcement of our marijuana laws, and taxed it just as they do alcohol. Jeff Miron, a Harvard economist, has calculated that marijuana could generate approximately $8.7 billion in national tax revenue per year if legalized. He also calculated that approximately $8 billion is spent trying to fight marijuana. Those numbers can be debated, but it is clear that state governments, and the federal government, spend billions of dollars enforcing our marijuana laws and they don’t tax it (unless they catch someone who has an unreported income). That $17 billion could be better spent on other government programs. In signing a new California law that greatly reduces penalties for people possessing small amounts of marijuana, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stated: “In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket.” In other words, it is too expensive to enforce the present anti-marijuana laws.

    Its use is not morally wrong. The use of marijuana is no more morally wrong than the use of alcohol. Therefore, it should not be a crime. It should not even be a misdemeanor. Each year approximately 750,000 Americans are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The only valid reason for its criminalization is that government needs to protect people from themselves. Statistically, it is difficult to determine what percentage of the people who use marijuana need protecting because they eventually move on to hard drugs, but one generally recognized range is between 2 percent and 9 percent. That is 2 to 9 percent of new users, because present users are still there even if it isn’t legal. Assuming that this is true, part of the tax revenue raised from the legalization of marijuana could be used for the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.

    Marijuana laws are not enforced equitably. According to Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, blacks and Latino men are more likely than whites to be stopped and searched, and when drugs are found, they are prosecuted. He claims that in Los Angeles black men are arrested for marijuana possession seven times more frequently than whites. It is doubtful that blacks use marijuana seven times as much as whites.

    Our present marijuana laws empower gangs and violence. The wars in Mexico are an example. Of course, these drug wars also deal with hard drugs, but eliminating marijuana from the illegal drug trade would make these wars less worthwhile. There is no sense encouraging drug cartels or violence.

    The time has come to treat marijuana like alcohol, tax it like alcohol, and sell it either in state-controlled stores or in private stores, like liquor or drug stores. Control of our marijuana laws should be returned to the states with the federal government having a limited role, as it does now, with alcohol.

    Some states or towns may continue to make marijuana illegal or control it through zoning laws. That would be up to them. But changing the law would not be difficult since government could simply add marijuana to its alcohol statutes and regulations. Once this is accomplished, the states and the federal government could tax it as they see fit. Let’s not kid ourselves. Government has lost this argument as they did with the Volstead Act. It’s time to learn our lesson.

    *Commentaries appearing above are produced by the Editorial Board of the Connecticut Law Tribune. The opinions are voted on and passed by at least one third of the members of the board. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of every member of the board, nor of the newspaper

    75 responses to “Connecticut Law Review: Time To Change Marijuana Laws!”

    1. obligated says:

      The arguments remain the same, but the voices who shout them grow stronger in volume and number every day. Keep up the pressure, and the wall will fall.

      Marijuana is a plant, not a crime!

    2. Finally. There is not another minute to waste. lets get it legalized and lets stat growing hemp all over this country. Hemp can and will empower rural America like no other product has ever done. For the first time in 100 years American citizens can be back in charge of their own destiny.Wont it be wonderful to once again have a crop we can make a living from and not be at the mercy of the corporations in this country. Fianlly, we can breath again.

    3. Kevin Tucker says:

      I was ALWAYS able to buy marijuana as a child growing up in California. Alcohol, however, was a REAL problem to try and buy. We had to find someone willing to go and “score” it for us from a liquor store. I don’t understand why we’re still having this debate. To keep this drug out of the hands of children we MUST regulate/control the distribution of it.

    4. km says:

      Here in SC it is punishable on first offense by a $500 fine and 1 year in jail. It costs the taxpayers of this state $38.06 a day to house a person in prison. Yet Alcohol is so prevalent here it is disgusting. The tax base generated would offset the expense of retiring “baby boomers” who will deplete the social security fund before I am able to retire. Raising the retirement age to 69 is ludicrous. The legislators who intend to remain this conservative on this issue need to be asked if they consume alcohol and if so is there some in your refrigerator? Is there a bottle in your desk drawer in your office? It means that you consume drugs also Alcohol is a drug and an addictive one. Every time your children open the refrigerator for something to drink do they have to reach past or around your beer or wine? America needs the money because of the lack of oversight by certain people and committees.

    5. truthandconsequences says:

      Public support of marijuana prohibition is based on ignorance, misinformation and bigotry. The more the public learns the truth, the sooner change will come.

    6. Just Legalize It says:

      ive been thinking… since its looking like a big uphill battle for legalization, why not try and get some voter initiatives in for decriminalizing personal grows? it could be sold as dealing a financial blow to crime.

    7. Tim says:

      Check out this guy’s comments in Florida:
      “…Studies have shown that long-term marijuana use may shrink parts of the brain and have lasting impacts on mental health. And despite efforts to pooh-pooh its reputation as a gateway drug, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports…(http://www.mapinc.org/newsnorml/v11/n031/a01.html)”???? yadayadayada…. He needs to catch up on stuff, doesn’t he? I haven’t had a seizure in 3 months now after having them every other week!!! I think ‘something’ helped my brain, and it hasn’t been the drugs that doctors prescribed me for the last 15 years…

    8. David762 says:

      There are substantial arguments for and against legalizing the use of marijuana. Opponents of its use strongly believe that marijuana is addictive, leads to the use of hard drugs, impairs short-term memory and motor coordination, and irritates the respiratory system. Despite these objections, on balance, it’s time to seriously consider legalizing marijuana.

      Actually, there are no scientifically credible substantial arguments against legalizing the use of marijuana. This has been debunked twice in government funded scientific studies: once in 1939 with the La Guardia Commission Report, and agin in 1971 with the Shafer Commission Report. Both reports are, with a minimal effort, still available on-line.

      The only connection between marijuana use and the use of harder drugs can be directly connected to their being made illegal, and hence available from the some of the same “vendors”. These vendors do not “card” for age eligibility thresholds, nor for any proper prescription — only “cash & carry”. But there is anecdotal evidence (and a few scientific studies) that would tend to indicate that marijuana can be utilized as a gateway away from harder drugs.

      Problems with short-term memory loss and motor coordination appear to be the exception, rather than the rule. Many, many currently legal prescription drugs from Big Pharma have far worse side effects that rate little more than a warning label.

      The argument that marijuana “irritates the respiratory system” is contrary to evidence that smoking marijuana is an effective treatment for asthma. Additionally, correlation of science data would indicate that (1) smoking marijuana by itself, or (2) smoking marijuana & tobacco produces a lower incidence of lung & respiratory diseases like cancer, than (3) smoking of tobacco by itself. The results far exceed the margin of error in the size of the sampled data in confirmation of these results.

      The Federal government’s longstanding prohibition and persecution of marijuana is not (has never been) based upon scientific or medical data. If it were, the propagandistic “reefer madness” meme would not be regurgitated regularly and repeatedly even to this day. And marijuana, more properly called cannabis, would not be a Schedule 1 designated drug, let alone be classified as a narcotic.

    9. J says:

      Very logical and well laid-out. If only logic had some power to change the minds of those supporting Prohibition this would be a wonderful editorial.
      I suppose though, if repeating a lie often enough will cause people to believe it, repeating the truth often enough may have the same effect. Would be nice….

    10. Nic says:

      GOD BLESS YOU Allen St. Pierre