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America is even more divided than ever before, although there is one issue about which we all seem to agree: Marijuana laws have to evolve. States across the board seem to be keen and willing to legalize marijuana, or at the very least to decriminalize it. Even sectors in the media you wouldn’t expect are on board. Of course, institutions like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) are moving for marijuana laws to change, but did you know that so is the Economist, a solidly conservative publication?

Marijuana legalization seems poised to one day sweep the nation, and why not? There is a myriad of reasons for its legalization: closing out the moral panic over drugs, decreasing crime rates and our overall prison population and challenging the racist marijuana policy. But among all these practical reasons, one may seem like to cry out louder than the rest: legalizing marijuana would offer the United States billions of dollars, giving our country’s economy a much required boost. Marijuana legalization would also seriously enhance state coffers, local communities, not to mention, would save regional and state governments big amounts of money in squandered law enforcement dollars.

The most apparent economic element of the case for marijuana legalization exists in tax revenues. After all, the annual trade of marijuana is now approximated to be at $113 billion, which is about $45 billion in taxes. Tax authorities are generally missing out on municipal, state and federal taxes which could fund a broad variety of resources. The money could even be well spent on support plans for hard drug users, given the existing incarceration rate. Also, if taking marijuana out of the black market and delivering it into the public light also offers clear savings for the government on top of net tax gains, in addition to ensuring a safe and controlled product. The drug war is infamous for costing the U.S. government a remarkable sum and while these projects incorporate a vast range of Schedule I drugs (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and meth, among others), spending to enforce the law for those illegal substances would significantly reduce without marijuana.

Through legislation, many other aspects of debt and spending would also minimize if marijuana laws were to change– first among them being prison expenses. Statistically, an estimated one in four people are in jail because of a non-violent drug offense. This involves the possession, sale, and repeat offense related to marijuana. Marijuana-related busts make up a significant portion of law enforcement actions involving drugs.

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Cutting down on the number of people incarcerated for a related offense also has secondary economic advantages, by keeping people in their own communities. Widespread poverty can be directly linked to fractured communities, such as those that have been torn apart by the drug war. Making it easy for people to remain with their family members, economically get included in their communities and add to society enhances not only their own economic situation but the community’s as well.

Economically, the legalization of marijuana would certainly create a ripple effect through relevant industries. Cultivation, farmers, farm workers, fertilizer firms, and other manufacturers of agricultural products all stand to benefit. In addition, given the vast power requirements related with indoor growing, it’s possible that the potential spurt in marijuana cultivation could also increase the alternative energy industry– particularly as consumers push for organic and ethically produced marijuana. In addition, a rise in open cultivation would lessen illegal farming, fertilizer pollution, and similar concerns, which is intrinsically better for the natural environment. Without the need to employ crews to manage expanding operations, such marijuana producers could spend their funds more productively.

It seems somewhat counteractive that a nation that loves to tout free market capitalism would be so lethargic to legalize marijuana. The tangle of morals and intoxicants doesn’t seem to possess an impact on the legalization of tobacco and alcohol, whose business communities are still genuinely controlled and exceptionally rewarding. There is some light poking through the clouds of pretension, nonetheless, with Washington D.C., Oregon, and Alaska now in the process of marijuana legalization. And even though the legalization measure was shot down in Florida, it was only a bit of a setback. It seems that at this direction, these states will be in the ranks of Washington and Colorado, who have actually completely legalized marijuana.


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