Are you one of the almost 57 million Americans living in a state that’s voting on marijuana legalization this Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016? Your vote YES may help end the criminality of marijuana for over one out of six Americans, bringing the total to almost one out of four Americans who will live in a legal state.
Here are the ten best reasons to help convince your friends and family to do the right thing and vote YES on legalization:
How did we end up in a society where the two most damaging drugs—alcohol and tobacco—are the two legal ones? There are over a half-million deaths annually from those two substances. They also lead to countless illnesses and injuries that affect society in health-care costs, lost productivity, and law-enforcement expenses.
Marijuana is non-toxic and has never caused a fatal overdose in over 7,000 years of recorded human use. Its greatest harm is the arrest, incarceration, and lifelong hurdles created by prohibition. Opponents worry about “putting a third legal drug on the menu,” as if marijuana isn’t already the third-most popular drug used in America. It’s already on the menu; you just have to commit a crime to order it.
Next year is the 80th anniversary of the Marihuana Tax Act, our first nationwide attempt to suppress pot smoking. Back then, maybe a few hundred thousand people nationwide were “smoking reefers”. Today, it’s more likely than not that someone under age 50 has tried pot and there are over 30 million Americans consuming cannabis on a regular basis—whether it is “on the menu” or not.
The costs of this counter-productive prohibition are staggering. Since President Nixon declared a war on drugs, over 25 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana violations, costing us over $1 trillion to prosecute. But in the four states that have legalized, marijuana arrests have plummeted, crime has decreased, and youth use hasn’t budged.
The drug trade has long been a source of income for organized crime. But now that four states have legalized marijuana; their domestic product is beating imported Mexican marijuana in both price and quality. Mexican farmers growing for the vicious violent drug cartels have seen their returns drop from $100 per kilo to under $25.
Legalization isn’t going to put the cartels out of business—they’re criminals who will turn to other crimes for their funding. But we can take from them the market for the most widely-used drug and shrink their customer base substantially.
Heres another way to look at it: Why should we continue to give business opportunities to violent criminals who don’t pay taxes and follow no regulations?
America is coming to grips with institutional racism in our criminal-justice system. Marijuana prohibition has been a prime factor in fueling that racism. African-Americans are four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana violations, even though they use and sell marijuana at about the same rates.
Marijuana prohibition sets up an incentive for police to make easy arrests and reap forfeiture and drug grant dollars. This, in turn, leads police to concentrate on minority neighborhoods where pot smokers are more easily caught and have fewer resources to fight the charges. This contributes to the cycle of distrust between minority communities and the police. Legalization won’t fix bad racist cops, but it will provide them far less opportunity to act on their racism.
For the past forty years, the Monitoring the Future survey has asked high school seniors how easy it would be for them to get a bag of pot. For forty years, the answer has consistently been between 80 to 91 percent of them claiming access to marijuana was either “easy” or “fairly easy.” That’s because weed dealers don’t check ID and don’t lose a license if they’re caught selling to a kid.
Nothing’s ever going to stop a determined kid from finding a joint, any more than kids today aren’t completely stopped from accessing alcohol and tobacco. But with those drugs, somewhere along the line a corrupt adult had to be involved. Now, kids sell weed to other kids. Legalization moves weed sales into secure, adults-only stores and reduces the profit potential for illegal sales. (When’s the last time you saw a high school tequila dealer?) Last year, with four legalized states, was the first year ever that “easy” access to weed for 12th graders dropped below 80 percent.
While half the states have initiated protections for medical use of marijuana, that doesn’t legalize the use of marijuana by patients. Even in California, where nearly anybody can get a medical marijuana recommendation and possession of less than an ounce is just a $100 ticket, there are still over 2,000 people a year who go to jail for marijuana alone, serving an average of over five months in a cage.
That’s because doctor’s visits and medical cards cost money; it costs upwards of $400 in some states to qualify and register for a medical marijuana card. Why should a disabled person in poverty or a sick person suffering a condition not covered by law be treated as a criminal for using an herb safer than over-the-counter aspirin or cough syrup?
America is suffering from an opioid overdose epidemic. Legal pharmaceutical drugs kill more people annually than all illegal drugs combined. Marijuana is an herb one can grow at little cost and use to replace over 17 popular pharmaceutical medications. Legalizing marijuana will literally save the lives of countless patients.
The pharmaceutical industry knows this. That’s why Big Pharma has been funding anti-pot campaigns. This election, one of them, Insys Pharmaceuticals, has donated a half-million dollars to defeat legalization in Arizona. They’re a maker of Fentanyl, the opioid painkiller that took Prince’s life and is 100 times more powerful that heroin, and are seeking patents on synthetic cannabinoid drugs they’re researching.
The demonization of marijuana is so entrenched in America that we even ban the non-psychoactive variety known as industrial hemp. We are one of the few countries in the world engaged in the lunacy of banning a plant because it looks like one that gets you high.
It’s a little like banning powdered sugar because it resembles cocaine!
While many states have passed laws allowing for industrial hemp cultivation and the federal government has passed laws allowing that to happen, these are all work-arounds for a crop that our Founding Fathers grew freely and copiously. Marijuana legalization will help open up the uses of hemp from food to fuel, fiber to medicine, building material to revolutionary energy technologies and more.
9) Legalized Marijuana Raises Millions in New Tax Revenue
Legalization doesn’t invent marijuana; it just recognizes that it is a popular commodity that should be taxed and regulated like all other commodities. The market for marijuana is never going to go away; we can only determine who controls most of it—taxpaying, job-creating, law-abiding businesses, or murderous, police-corrupting, criminal cartels.
Prohibition doesn’t control marijuana—prohibition is the absence of control. States under prohibition gain nothing from it and spend money, time, and resources enforcing it. The four states that have legalized marijuana have already reaped over $200 million in combined tax revenue, while saving money in the police department, courts, prisons, parole and probation offices, and other agencies that are burdened by pot prosecutions.
10) Legalized Marijuana Works!
It’s not 2009 anymore. Legalization of marijuana isn’t some hypothetical policy proposal—we’ve done it already in four other states. We had some initial difficulties concerning kids and edibles, but those have been addressed through education, labeling, and packaging changes the newly-legalizing states will adopt as well. Meanwhile, the older folks that legalization was intended for have increased their use substantially.
But despite putting legal marijuana “on the menu,” the roads are safer than ever, overall driving fatalities are down, workplace productivity is up, problematic dependence on marijuana is unchanged, and millions of dollars in tax revenue are rolling in. In Colorado alone, legalization has created over 18,000 jobs and contributed over $2.5 billion to the state economy.