Marijuana legalization would be a cost-effective, job-producing bonanza if the United States channeled its inner Amsterdam, says a Harvard University professor.

There is no financial justification for continuing the marijuana prohibition in the United States, particularly in light of the nation’s current marketplace woes. Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year, finds a June 2005 report by Dr. Jeffrey Miron, visiting professor of economics at Harvard University.

The report has been endorsed by more than 530 distinguished economists, chief among them are three Nobel Laureates in economics: Dr. Milton Friedman of the Hoover Institute, Dr. George Akerlof of the University of California at Berkeley, and Dr. Vernon Smith of George Mason University.

Here’s how it breaks down, according to Dr. Miron’s paper, “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition.”

“Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of legal regulation would save approximately $7.7 billion in government expenditures on prohibition enforcement — $2.4 billion at the federal level and $5.3 billion at the state and local levels. Revenue from taxation of marijuana sales would range from $2.4 billion per year if marijuana were taxed like ordinary consumer goods to $6.2 billion if it were taxed like alcohol or tobacco.”

Medical marijuana is already legal in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Yet, cannabis is still outlawed for all uses by the federal government, which confuses states and makes medical weed dispensaries perpetually nervous about getting busted by the feds. The economic impact of decriminalization of marijuana would be profound. According to the Marijuana Policy Project  in Washington, D.C., $14 billion in annual combined savings and revenues would, as an example, cover the securing of all “loose nukes” in the former Soviet Union, estimated by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb at $30 billion. Just one year’s savings would cover the full cost of anti-terrorism port security measures required by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. The Coast Guard has estimated these costs, covering 3,150 port facilities and 9,200 vessels, at $7.3 billion total.

Of course, opponents decry these alleged monetary benefits, stating that there is no amount of money that could offset the damage that would be inflicted if weed is legalized. Former Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks calls marijuana a gateway drug, while L.A. County Sheriff’s Robert McMahon is concerned about producing a generation of junkies if marijuana is legalized.

terry shropshire

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