Better to Make Money than to Spend it
Nations have been waging war on “drugs” for decades now, and it’s been a complete disaster. Like waging war on “terror”, we are learning that you can’t just declare and wage war on something that has always existed, still exists, and will always exist. The war on drugs is destroying communities and poorer nations much more palpably than use of the drugs themselves would.
Marijuana decriminalization has been gaining some momentum in recent months, because of all the prohibited drugs, it’s the least harmful. It comes from a plant that grows in the ground and, unlike substances like crystal meth, crack, or heroin, you don’t need an explosive laboratory to prepare it for use. The worst thing about marijuana is that it makes people sleepy, lazy, and hungry. Maybe it makes them act a bit silly. Unlike alcohol, it doesn’t make them black out, pass out, belligerent, loud, or obnoxious. I’d rather encounter a stoner than a drunk any day, and the war on drugs has been disproportionately harsh on the poor and the brown.
So, Uruguay, Washington State, and Colorado have decriminalized and taxed marijuana. Consumers can legally buy, consume, grow, sell, and possess small quantities, and all of it is healthily taxed by the local authorities.
The arguments will come that decriminalization will be a slippery slope to the legalization of harder drugs, and perhaps this is a debate that needs to take place. But the amount of money spent on enforcing anachronistic marijuana prohibition laws that were brought about through an organized misinformation campaign is enormous, and perhaps it’s time for the people to have a smidge more freedom, and that a legal marijuana trade helps to fund government, rather than the status quo whereby the government feeds an illegal, violent black market.
Back in mid-December, state Senator Liz Krueger introduced a bill to decriminalize pot sales to 21 year-olds, and possession for 18 year-olds. Small amounts could be traded, grown, possessed, and taxed. As of right now, it is estimated that marijuana is a $3 billion annual market, yet the government doesn’t get its cut.
The Assembly bill is here, and the text of the identical Senate bill is here. As Governor Cuomo moves to minimally liberalize medical marijuana, catching up to many other states, perhaps it’s time to at least put marijuana decriminalization before the voters of the state.
It’s time the people made money off of this thriving market, rather than spending money trying, ever in vain, to stop it.