by Emily Norton
Special to iVoryTowerz
Living on a liberal college campus, it’s no surprise that many of my peers are vocal about the legalization of marijuana. It follows that the announcement last week from Attorney General Eric Holder about medical marijuana sparked some rejoicing in the dorms. Holder stated federal authorities would no longer take action against medical marijuana dispensaries if they were in compliance with state and local laws. Often these state propositions proved to be superficial; medical cannabis was legal, but frequent federal raids and arrests were still being made on marijuana dispensers. Thankfully, this contradiction has officially ended. While this may seem only a minor alteration of the policies regarding the legalized dispensing of medical cannabis, it suggests hints of lasting positive change.
The biggest bang is the fact that the feds are finally stepping aside. Perhaps unintentionally, they are de-stigmatizing the drug and dipping their fingers into an expensive issue that has begged for transformation for the past three decades. In response to Holder's statement, The New York Times noted that Holder "appeared to shift Justice Department policy, at least rhetorically, away from the Bush administration’s stated policy of zero tolerance for marijuana, regardless of state laws.” I can’t help but to hope that this is a move towards total legalization of marijuana. Let me add I don’t smoke pot. So why would I push for this?
Without trying to sound like Jonathan Swift’s modest proposal, here is my brilliant (though a little naïve) idea to solve two problems at once. If marijuana were legalized in the U.S., we could lessen our deficit and decrease the violence in Mexico by lowering demand for cartel-supplied pot. As ABC News noted: “A 2005 analysis by Harvard visiting professor Jeffrey Miron estimates that if the United States legalized marijuana, the country would save $7.7 billion in law enforcement costs and could generate as much as $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like alcohol or tobacco.” And that was four years ago! Additionally, if marijuana were to be legally grown, sold, and controlled in the United States, the money flowing out of America into Mexican drug cartels would diminish. By cutting these funds, we could weaken their ability to buy weapons in the U.S., and ultimately suck their power. Basically, legal American weed = less violence, good for the economy, cost effective. Even nonsmokers can’t ignore these potential incentives. Props to the Obama administration!
(For an archival post on the Bush administration's view on marijuana, please see: "Rise Above the Influence.")
(The photo is from the National Institute of Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health and is in the public domain.)
War on Drugs
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by Emily Norton