Legalize marijuana and then ‘sin’-tax it
It’s time to decriminalize marijuana.
Let me be clear: I’m not advocating the use of marijuana, just the decriminalization of it.
A rising chorus of voices across the political spectrum is joining a reform movement that has long argued for an economically saner way to deal with personal use of marijuana.
After all, what folks do in the privacy of their own homes is rightly not a concern of a smaller, less intrusive government that we all want.
Here in Georgia the issue of prison reform screams for attention. As aptly pointed out in this paper recently, over a billion dollars a year of Georgia tax dollars goes into the prison system which in many cases incarcerates nonviolent drug offenders. This is simply not sustainable.
The prison reformists point to drug courts and drug rehab as a means to divert nonviolent offenders.
Certainly diversion is cheaper than incarceration but still a waste of tax dollars on someone who simply wants to smoke a joint.
As to the argument that marijuana is a gateway drug, show me the hard facts to support that assertion. I’ll show you lots of normal people that drink alcohol and aren’t alcoholics and lots of people that enjoy marijuana and don’t turn into crackheads.
So the push for prison reform should include marijuana law reform.
The economic argument goes even deeper. Legalized marijuana could be lumped in with the other sin taxes.
Farmers could grow marijuana and attach a tax stamp just like alcohol and tobacco. Individuals obviously could grow their own marijuana, just like I can brew my own beer, but the taxman must be paid for any retail transaction.
I see this as a win-win for Georgia taxpayers: Less money going into the bloated prison system for drug offenders and a new marijuana tax coming into the state for other worthy projects.
Added to the list of economic benefits is the boon to Georgia farmers who could legally grow hemp.
Hemp is a wonder fiber, widely used in a myriad of products. Look at the stylish clothing on sale at fashionable retailers now made from hemp fibers, much of it grown in Canada.
Although hemp is genetically related to marijuana, you couldn’t get high from inhaling the smoke of an entire bale of burning hemp. This genetic relationship is what makes the cultivation of hemp illegal, alas another economic loss to the state.
As for the “War on Drugs,” can anyone say this fight has been successful and a valuable use of our tax dollars? I would argue the war on drugs has simply created the drug wars and fueled the growth of the organized drug cartels.
Lastly state Rep Matt Ramsey crowed about the accomplishments of the recently completed legislative session. One of those accomplishments is Chase’s Law, named sadly for a local high school student.
Mr. Ramsey has added another law to the criminal code to throw more nonviolent drug offenders in jail, counter to the prison reform efforts ongoing even as Chase’s Law was being written. Chase was using a legal product, unfortunately a legal product that caused his death.
I suspect the illicit drug of choice for most high school students is marijuana; something everyone knows can get you a criminal record for mere possession.
If I were the grieving parents of someone like Chase, I would want a marijuana law reform so kids wouldn’t be using currently legal means to get high such as sniffing glue or paint or smoking the next spice the illicit herbal purveyors invent.
In the real world you aren’t allowed to get drunk and drive. Likewise you aren’t allowed to get high and drive. I know of no company that won’t fire you for showing up at work drunk or high so don’t do that.
But if you truly believe our tax dollars could be better spent by a smaller, less intrusive government, then the time is now to decriminalize marijuana for personal enjoyment in the sanctity of our private homes.