Letters: Michigan: Legalize Hash, Get Cash

Posted In: Politics, State, Local, Opinion,   From Issue 702   By: Review Magazine

15th April, 2010     0

Editor, The Review;

When a private enterprise fails, it is closed down; when a government enterprise fails, it is expanded. Isn't that exactly what's been happening with drugs? - Milton Friedman

Michigan is out of money. We, the people, are suffering. Our police forces are being cut, our schools are going down the drain, and our roads are some of the worst in the nation. Yet marijuana, which is, by far, the largest cash crop in the country, is still illegal. The officials in Lansing, and us, the citizens, want to complain constantly about how there isn't enough cash to go around.

I say quit whining and start doing something.

We could start by looking at our expenditures on marijuana prohibition. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 56% of all drug crime in Michigan is specifically marijuana possession. In 2006, Michigan spent a total of $326.02 million on arresting 19,973 marijuana offenders. Michigan also pumped $1.8 million in state funds into the drug court system. That's roughly $328 million in funds being used to prosecute crime that hurts no one but the 'criminal'.

That's a lot of money. Meanwhile, we're laying off state police by the dozens and cutting art and music programs in our schools; the roads that I have to drive on daily try to consume my tires for meals. I am not able to see the justification behind this.

Instead of putting money where it could actually do some good - the dying schools, the hungry roads, or the empty police departments - our officials have decided to spend it on drug crime. Apparently we'd rather have artistically and musically challenged children than let people consume marijuana legally - why not responsibly educate our children about the consequences of drug use and teach them music and art at the same time? This money could be put to better use.

Michigan just happens to be home to three of the highest-ranking violent crime cities in the United States - Saginaw, Flint, and Detroit. Yet we are consistently being forced to cut both state and municipal police forces because we 'don't have the money.' This is appalling and immensely frustrating to me because the money we spend on prosecuting people for smoking pot could easily pay for all of this if we developed a way to regulate and tax the industry.

Marijuana is a veritable gold mine for this state and its budget deficit problems. Not only could we use the money we would no longer be spending on prohibition on something useful, but also the tax revenues from this would be astronomical.

One of the biggest public outcries in Michigan has been for those who govern our state to import new industry. If we were to legalize marijuana, the industry generated from that could significantly decrease our 14%+ unemployment rate. This is something that would be good for everybody.

The state could license private growers to maintain a growing area on personal or commercial property. Michigan could make money off the licensing as well as taxing the income generated from the grower selling it. There are tons of licenses that are required to run a business and all of this amounts to money for the state of Michigan and the various cities in which these businesses would operate.

A 2007 survey found that there were 998,000 marijuana users in Michigan - that's a lot of tax dollars, especially if marijuana were taxed at a rate comparable to that of alcohol. These tax dollars could then be pumped back into Michigan's failing economy in the form of schooling, tax breaks for individuals, and police officers. This would be an effective economic stimulus package in and of itself.

Michigan could solve many of its budget and industry woes simply by turning marijuana into a private industry. We could build better schools and give our kids a chance for the future, fix our roads, hire back our police departments, and start fixing our broken state.

Kathryn Wahl

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