Here is Anita Bartholomew directly echoing what I wrote back in mid-December: end the stupid, costly, and ineffective drug war.
"With our economy going to pot, President-elect Obama has promised a “top-to-bottom audit to eliminate spending for programs that don’t work.” So, here’s a sane, simple proposal to save the country billions of dollars a year: end the war on marijuana users.
This failed and counter-productive program is an assault on people who pose virtually no threat to themselves or anyone else, certainly no more than that all-American "Joe Sixpack" revered in our recent presidential election.
Yet, getting caught with a few seeds or trace marijuana residue on a pipe is enough in some jurisdictions to trigger an arrest. Most who favor continuing the war assume that law enforcement focuses on sweeping up kingpins and members of cartels. But, here’s a sobering statistic. Of the 872,000 arrests in 2007 for marijuana-related offenses, almost 90 percent were for simple possession of the dried vegetation in question. The typical arrestee is younger than 30. Think college-age kid caught lighting up a joint. Now, multiply that by 775,000 — that’s where a significant chunk of your drug war dollars are going.
The price of deploying an army of local, state and federal cops, prosecutors and guards to arrest, try and imprison the perpetrators of this non-scourge? Using data from 2000, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimated it as $7.7 billion4 per year while a 2007 study, by public policy expert Jon Gettman, figured it closer to $10.7 billion 5 per year.
Most of that money is eaten up by law enforcement according to Miron, with $2.94 billion going to prosecution costs in 2000, and less than half a billion toward incarceration.
Add in the revenue we’d eventually gain if marijuana were regulated and taxed like alcohol and tobacco (from $6.2 billion to as much as $31.1 billion per year), and you’re talking real money."
We could use those lost billions right now. Estimates of the combined savings from legalizing marijuana, and revenues from taxing it like alcohol or tobacco, range from $13.94 to $41.8 billion per year. That’s enough to pay for all or most of President-elect Obama’s proposed ten-year, $150 billion alternative energy investment. Or it could contribute roughly one-fifth to one-half of the $75 billion per year estimated cost of Obama’s proposal to extend health insurance to all.