- Drug arrests would drop and prison space would open for violent offenders. As it stands now, there is a drug arrest made every 18 seconds in America. Now, not all of these arrests are marijuana related, and in fact, marijuana arrests have declined. However, there were more than 800,000 pot-related arrests in 2008, and there are still a number of these arrests taking place as we speak. If marijuana were legalized, these drug-related arrests would drop immensely, freeing up jail space and allowing police to focus on violent crimes.
- Fewer kids would try marijuana. It may be counter-intuitive, but legalizing marijuana for adults could lead to less pot use by kids. Why? Studies have shown that even though pot is currently illegal, kids find it more easily than beer and cigarettes. Legalizing marijuana would put street dealers out of business who don’t care about the age of their customers.
- Street violence would drop. According to Jeffrey A. Miron, director of undergraduate studies at Harvard University’s economics department, street violence would drop. The problem with pot being illegal is that it forces people to resolve disputes themselves, often with violence. If pot were legal, buyers and sellers could resolve their business disputes just like everyone else — in court. Gang violence, which is due in part to the illegal marijuana trade, would decrease as well.
- State governments would have a lot more money. If pot were legal, state governments could heavily tax it just like alcohol and tobacco, creating a new stream of revenue. For example, estimates show California could rake in over $1 billion per year in pot taxes. What’s more, according to The Budgetary Effects of Marijuana Prohibition, taxpayers are spending about $14 billion each year on the war against marijuana. That’s money that would be saved if marijuana were legal.
- Accidents and emergency room visits may increase. Although marijuana doesn’t conjure up images of wife beating and recklessness like alcohol, it does impair motor skills and judgment, which could lead to more accidents. However, this assumes legalizing marijuana would lead to more people using it, which isn’t necessarily true. In Holland, where marijuana is legal for everyone over 18, the percentage of adults using it is less than half of that in America. Is this just a cultural difference between the Dutch and Americans? Perhaps, but even in Europe, the French, Italians, Spaniards and Britons all use more pot than the Dutch, even though it’s illegal in all those countries.
- The price of marijuana would drop and corporations would profit. In areas where medical marijuana is legal, the increased supply has already caused prices to plummet. If pot were legal for everyone, prices would drop even further as large companies grew, cultivated and distributed marijuana on an industrial scale. Such large companies and their shareholders would make billions in additional profit (a part of which goes back to the government in the form of taxes) and they would need to hire more workers. Of course, some small-scale growers could also thrive, much like some microbreweries thrive in the face of Bud Light.
- Mexican drug cartels would be crippled. Marijuana accounts for as much as half of Mexican drug cartel revenue, which means legalizing it would cripple their business. This would free up the border patrol, the forest service and local law enforcement to worry about deadly drugs like meth, cocaine and heroin, not to mention terrorism. A financial blow to Mexican drug cartels would also weaken their control over American street and prison gangs.
Until marijuana legalization takes place in the US, we’ll never really know how things will pan out. However, we could get a glimpse of it in November when Californians vote on legalizing marijuana for everyone over 21.
What do you think would happen if marijuana became legal?