OP-ED: It’s Costing Us More Keeping Marijuana Illegal Than To Buy Everyone a Toke

photolona / shutterstock.com
photolona / shutterstock.com

Ever since Democratic President FDR made the (at the time) little-known marijuana illegal with the “Marijuana Tax Act of 1937,” the war on marijuana has been ongoing. Granted, limited exceptions have been made for medicine and industrial use, but for decades this incredible plant has been under-tested and explored.

With states making their own decisions about medicinal and then recreational marijuana, the time for the federal government to step up and address this factually has come. Sadly though, many Republicans are still sticking by the thought process that created the 1936 “Reefer Madness” film. Pushing the propaganda messages of Henry Anslinger, the film was able to carry his message through the ether. From his time under President Hoover, through the FDR years, and all the way through to JFK’s time in office.

The impact of the film’s message is still being parroted by hardline conservatives who believe the lies their parents fed them, just as they had been indoctrinated to by Anslinger. This has made for a very closed-off and unwavering conservative. While our strength to face the tough times as conservatives are what makes us the best choice for the American people, we also need to admit when the time for a once-good idea has passed.

Prohibition against marijuana is costing our nation greatly. Overworking our DEA agents, local K-9 units and the border patrol to worry about a plant that over half the nation has legalized at least for medicine is a horrible practice. It’s not producing the results it once did. In smaller quantities, most DAs are throwing out or pleading out the charges. When people are caught with larger amounts, we end up spending more on a trial and putting them in jail than the marijuana was producing for the dealers.

Yet we could eliminate all that wasted money with a stroke of the pen.

In states with recreational marijuana like Alaska, Colorado, and Washington, we have seen a tremendous glut in state revenue and taxation. With multiple layers to the taxes, the states have been making a massive profit. However, the black market still exists. With banking and many other facets closed off to legal cannabis due to federal prohibition, we as a nation are leaving a lot of money on the table.

Instead, I propose the conservative push for the legalization of cannabis. Much like alcohol, we can establish banking, testing, storage, and advertising regulations around it. We keep things fair so that much like with alcohol, the small “craft” growers can have a chance to share their special creations with the world, but we also allow the Budweiser and Millers of the cannabis world like Cookies, Trulieve, and Jungle Boyz carve out their niche and let the consumer make the decision.

With standardized testing, we would help encourage suitable consumption and help establish reasonable pricing to keep people enjoying the legal market. Funds to not only cover state but local taxes could help turn around the economy through a massive glut in tax revenue. By competing with the underground black market price model, with certified and reliable testing and proper safety protocols (akin to alcohol) it could be like having a cash printing machine.

This means not cutting corners for those who want to remain a premium brand. While some may race for the bottom to sell the cheapest product they can, it’s a necessary evil in any marketplace. It keeps it accessible to people of all tastes and price points. More to the point, it also can help right a decades-long wrong. Through numerous experiments, many have been able to uncover the long-hidden capabilities of the plant, and with legalization will come more testing, innovation, and growth.

As it stands the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR) has already discovered 68% of voters would cast a 2024 Republican primary vote for a pro-legalization candidate, and 70% are fine with states leading the charge in legalization. This 10% increase from the 2022 poll by CPEAR poll which only had 58% support marks a monumental shift.

With federal legalization, the American taxpayer can save tremendous money and we might even be able to lower the deficit if we use it right.