July 27, 2009 – Last week I posted an article reflecting the potential health benefits of marijuana. That article resulted in several posted comments as well as other marijuana-leaf(4)informal observations from readers regarding the issue of the drug’s legalization and its potential taxation. In this article, I will discuss the pros and cons of marijuana legalization and taxation.

The Top 10 List – (not necessarily in the order of their priority)

Most popular arguments against legalization:

1. Marijuana use often leads to stronger drugs such as cocaine and heroin (the Gateway Theory).
2. Driving under the influence will lead to more highway deaths and injuries.
3. Heavy marijuana smoking will cause serious physical as well as psychological damage to its users.
4. Legalization would increase the chance of the drug becoming available to minors.
5. Use of marijuana is morally wrong.
6. Secondhand smoke will cause harm to innocent bystanders.
7. Arresting marijuana users will keep those people most likely to commit more serious crimes off the streets.
8. The easy availability of drugs would create new consumers rather than rescuing current ones.
9. Legalization will send a message to children that drug use is acceptable.
10. Legalization could led to neglect of children by drug-addicted parents.

Most popular arguments in favor of legalization:

1. If used in moderation, marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco.
2. If marijuana is legalized, the FDA or other state agencies could regulate its quality and safety.
3. Drug dealers and other dangerous folks would lose a big slice of their business.
4. Legalization will reduce crime by reducing drug disputes while allowing police and court resources to be freed up for more serious crimes.
5. For some people marijuana (like alcohol, cigarettes or sex) is one of life’s pleasures and limiting the use of the drug intrudes on personal freedom.
6. Unlike tobacco and alcohol, there are many documented positive medical benefits associated with marijuana use.
7. Legalizing tobacco and alcohol, while criminalizing the use of marijuana, sends a confusing message to young people who view the inconsistencies as hypocritical and leads to a general disrespect for the law.
8. Legalization can lead to taxation as well as other economic benefits for states in desperate need of additional revenue.
9. By inhaling marijuana vapor rather than smoking it as a cigarette (joint), adverse health risks can be greatly limited.
10. Legalization can lead to the legal cultivation of the hemp plant which can provide a variety of “green” products such as fabrics, paper and other useful applications.

Now, if you come down on the side of legalization, the next question is whether it should it be taxed and, if so, how much new revenue would it generate?

Lets look at the potential revenue that may become available to the nearly bankrupted state of California if marijuana is made legal and is taxed. A bill by San Francisco assemblyman Tom Ammiano, would legalize the cultivation, possession and sale of marijuana by people 21 and older. It would charge growers and wholesalers a $5,000 initial franchise fee and a $2,500 annual renewal fee while assessing a levy of $50 per ounce fee on retailers.

According to a February report from a marijuana advocacy group (NORML), marijuana legalization could yield California taxpayers over $1.2 billion per year and provide additional spin-off benefits up to $12 – $18 billion annually. Those spin-off benefits include industries such as coffeehouses, tourism and industrial hemp.

I invite the reader to proffer their comments and opinions regarding the legalization and taxation of marijuana. Also, if I have missed any reasonable argument either for or against legalization please let me know via your posted comments. Let the debate begin.

Other informative web-sites:

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
NORML – Working to reform marijuana laws
Hemp Facts
Why we say yes to drugs – Salon
Other arguments pro and con