Many people have an idea in their head about the typical marijuana user and believe that legalization is just about making it easier for that stereotypical stoner to get stoned. But the truth is there are tons of reasons that legalization makes sense for California right now, and a lot of them have nothing to do with getting high. Here are just a few:
1. The prohibition of marijuana is rooted in racism and bad science
California was one of the first states to ban marijuana, it was added to the Poison Act in 1913. There was no widespread use of marijuana in California at the time, the ban seems to have been introduced due to belief that marijuana was somehow similar to narcotics like cocaine or opium, and also due to vague racist fears about marijuana use by immigrants. Over the next couple decades other states banned it for similarly illogical reasons. Bogus “scientific studies” and the film Reefer Madness from the1930s claimed marijuana caused crime, violence, and other bad behaviors and linked these behaviors and marijuana use to people of certain races. These “studies” were propaganda tools fueled by depression era fear of immigrants from Mexico who had brought with them the tradition of using marijuana medicinally and recreationally. In 1937 the Federal government bought into the fear mongering and passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which functionally made marijuana illegal. Legalizing marijuana is a way to reject some of the racist policies of the past, and a way to advance policy that is based on science rather than propaganda and prejudice.
2. Legalization would save California millions of dollars in law enforcement
Each year our State and Counties spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars investigating, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating marijuana users. In addition to the financial burden, the prohibition of marijuana also costs law enforcement time and other resources. Legalization would free up our law enforcement and courts to deal with crimes and criminals that pose an actual threat to Californians. The money saved could still be used for law enforcement or redirected to repairing our crumbling infrastructure, strengthening education in our state, providing relief for those affected by the drought, or it could even be rebated to taxpayers.
3. Legalization would earn California millions
In addition to the money saved on law enforcement another huge benefit of California legalization would be the money earned. In 2014, the first year recreational marijuana was legal in Colorado, the state earned between 50 and 70million extra tax dollars. Washington State enjoyed similar tax earnings from its legalization. California’s population is more than double Colorado’s and Washington’s combined and our state could easily take in as much in additional tax revenue, if not substantially more. One of California’s greatest strengths has always been our diversified economy, which includes a range of industries from agriculture to tech to tourism. Adding marijuana cultivation, sales, and even marijuana tourism to the mix would be an additional economic asset for our state and provide new jobs and business opportunities in addition to the added tax revenue.
4. Studying medical applications of marijuana will be easier when it’s legal
Each year tens of thousands of Americans die of prescription opiate overdose. Millions more suffer other negative consequences of opiate addiction, including moving from prescription opiates to using heroin or other street drugs. Marijuana and its chemical components could be used to create safer, less addictive pain management alternatives. Marijuana was used medicinally for centuries before prohibition, and great advancements have been made in medical marijuana applications in the last couple years. Unfortunately, this process has been slower than it should be because of the difficulty studying an illegal substance. Scientists and health care providers should have every tool at their disposal to try and address the opiate epidemic and other medical needs in our country. Fully legalizing marijuana removes an unnecessary roadblock to potentially life saving medical advancements.
5. If marijuana is legal then it’s no longer a business opportunity for criminals
The prohibition against marijuana has created a black-market economy where large criminal organizations, like the Taliban and drug cartels, are able to make millions of dollars. Because this entire economy exists outside the law, intimidation and violence, often horrific extreme violence, are the preferred methods of settling disputes and generally just doing business. The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington is already showing signs of cutting into this business and directing funds and customers away from criminals and towards law-abiding, tax paying businesses. If California were to legalize as well that could go a long way towards depriving these criminal organizations of the funding they need to exist, and that may end up being the most affective way to stop them and the violence and crime they spread.
6. We don’t need a government nanny
This counts as a half because you could say it’s about the right to get high. But what it’s really about is the American ideal of freedom and being clear about what the government can and should regulate. Marijuana isn’t chemically addictive like cigarettes or heroin, and individual usage doesn’t really affect others so it’s hard to see justification for government involvement. Legalization would help move us away from these types of illogical nanny state policies and towards more personal freedom and personal responsibility which we, as American adults deserve, whether or not we choose to use marijuana.