America Wants to Get High
And cannabis could jumpstart the U.S. economy in more ways than one…
Living in a state that offers legal cannabis has opened my eyes to the inequality across our nation. We have people in some US states destined to spend the rest of their life in a jail cell for possessing a plant, while those in other states can openly consume without giving it a second thought. The war on drugs has failed and continues to spend wastefully billions of taxpayer money each year. Also, America is battling a recession and looking for a solution. Who’s to say cannabis shouldn’t be the answer? It could be our saving grace.
America wants to legalize cannabis
The majority of American people approve of legalizing cannabis. According to a recent poll, two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization. So, why haven’t we seen it legalized federally? Thirty-three states have legalized it for medical purposes, and 11 others allow it recreationally. Even the capital of the United States allows for the recreational use of cannabis. So, what’s the hold up on the federal level?
After going legal, we see states like Colorado with headlines flouting over $1 billion in state revenue since it legalized the plant. Those sales are repeatedly bringing in over $20 million in tax and fee revenue MONTHLY for their state since 2017. California brought in over $3 billion in revenue in 2019, and five other states topped $1 billion, including Michigan and Florida, who topped $1 billion solely from medical sales. The amount of money gained in this industry is anything but something to scoff at. And when you think of all the benefit taxes from these sales could do for the local economy, why would there ever be a debate about legalization?
Speaking on that note, some people complain about the money not going to the state. They talk about business owners finding loopholes to skip out on necessary taxes. Even the IRS auditors put part of the blame on the federal government. Since the federal government doesn’t see the sale as legal, it doesn’t allow dispensaries to operate like a normal business. They are forced to work as cash-only operations. By enforcing those types of restrictions, the IRS makes it easier to hide revenue. I’m not saying business owners should hide income, I’m saying if it were federally recognized, they wouldn’t have such an easy time doing it.
How are states using their drug money?
While we’re on the subject of revenue and taxes, what have these states been doing with their excess money gained in the cannabis industry?
- Illinois joined the pot business this year. In its second month of legal sales, the state saw $3 million in sales tax and $5.2 million in tax revenue. The state uses the money gained from these taxes to fund education, local law enforcement, community development programs for areas affected by the criminalization of marijuana, substance abuse and mental health programs — while the state’s general fund takes a whopping 35% of the cut.
- Oregon allocates 40% of its taxes earned to education. The rest gets distributed towards drug and alcohol prevention programs, the State Police Fund, mental health programs, and 10% goes back into the local counties and cities of the state.
- Washington dedicates its tax revenues to health care programs.
- Nevada uses the extra revenue towards its rainy day fund.
The point is the extra money from the industry gets redistributed towards programs to help each state. Imagine what your state could use the money to benefit.
The war on drugs is wasted money
America’s war on drugs costs its people 200 billion dollars every year in indirect costs. That’s insane. Much of that money is tied up arresting and prosecuting drug offenders. 663,000 people were arrested for drug charges in 2018, according to Forbes. Of that, 40% were arrested for simple marijuana possession.
Now, why does that matter to you? It matters because the time and money spent to arrest these people for marijuana possession have resulted in $43 billion of tax dollars being used to fund prisons in 2015 alone. That’s on top of the $33 billion in federal spending used on drug control and almost the same amount spent to cover justice expenditures related to drug crimes, like prosecution costs.
So, with all this money being spent to battle drug use, what kind of returns are we seeing? With $50 billion being used in drug eradication programs, the DEA captures 10% of illicit drugs — That’s a 90% failure rate.
The war on drugs must be helping with substance abuse, right? According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the use of marijuana has increased in recent years. In contrast, the usage of other drugs like prescription pills, cocaine, and even heroin use has gone down or stayed the same in recent years. So, if you take marijuana out of the equation, as states are beginning to do, what are we spending so much money to fight against?
We need a change
How can one person be allowed to legally consume marijuana while another is behind bars for simply possessing it, while both living in the same country? The war on drugs has created a system of wasteful spending, heightened costs in the prison system, and hasn’t helped fix any of the actual drug issues in America. The majority of American citizens want to see the federal government legalize cannabis, and the possibility of it guiding us to a more robust American economy has been proven on a state level. It’s past time for change. America wants to get high.