Our United States of America, a country in the grip of reality television, which gives the public instant gratification and the producers instant fat wallets due to minimal production costs needs to rethink its stance toward marijuana. Marijuana prohibition must be replaced with realistic, practical regulations and policies. Treatment and education should replace criminal sanctions. There is a statistical reality that will eventually lead to an already proved economical reality. My aim is neither to condone nor condemn marijuana usage. I’d like to show you, through FBI crime statistics and reports, why marijuana usage must be legalized. I’d also like to give you an example of a country, Holland, that reaps near billions of dollars annually through the legal sale of marijuana.
Consider this question that may be asked of a group, say a college class or a session of Congress- “How many of you know someone, be it a friend, neighbor, relative, or co-worker, who smokes pot?” I believe, even without statistical proof, it can be said almost every American knows someone who smokes marijuana. The FBI Census of 2002 gives the estimate of 83 million Americans having tried marijuana. That is almost 30 percent of our population. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports for the United States gives us the information of 1,538,813 drug arrests in 2002, of which 697,082 arrests were for marijuana. Marijuana arrests account for more than 45 percent of all drug arrests. Of those marijuana arrests 613,986 were for possession. Marijuana possession arrests account for 88 percent of all marijuana arrests and 40 percent of all drug arrests. A pattern of these arrest statistics that spans the past twenty years can be found in the FBI Uniformed Crime Reports for the United States. These statistics are staggering and prove a marijuana free America is an unrealistic goal.
Further thought of the effects of marijuana decriminalization should naturally lead to the need of 45 percent less resources for our drug enforcement agencies. Also, the 45 percent reduction in drug crime would reduce judicial caseloads and increase prison space in the criminal justice system. The Drug War budget could be reduced by as much as the reduction of crime.
Naturally, a pessimist would chime in that the reduction of budget would also be a reduction in employment; however, the business of marijuana would be a boon to our economy. Holland, a nation state populated by less than FBI estimates of pot smokers in America, has 800 coffee shops where marijuana and hashish can be bought in 2.5 gram quantities. These coffee shops bring in 340 million dollars in taxes annually on 3 billion plus dollars of gross sales. There is marijuana importation in Holland; however, in the United States there would be no need. Be it regulated federally or delegated to the states, marijuana could be a cash crop for farmers. A generalization would be a farmer becomes licensed to grow so much of a certain type of marijuana. This farmer needs to get his crop to the coffee shops in packaged form. These coffee shops must be manned to make sales. This simplistic generalization requires people to occupy jobs. Employment would increase. The counties, States, and Federal governments would enjoy the increased revenues, which realistically could be in the tens of billions of dollars in gross sales and the billions of dollars in annual taxes.
Common sense screams for the need of deeper evaluation by the powers of government as well as the people of the United States for the legalization of marijuana. This common sense leads to two admissions. The first being, there is widespread use of marijuana in America. Second, the legalization of marijuana sales to those Americans over 21-years-old would be a boon to our country economically.