The debate concerning whether or not marijuana should be sold for medicinal purposes continues to rage with a vengeance. It is hard to imagine an argument that is more heated until one brings up the topic of selling marijuana for recreational purposes. Many argue that doing so is to break all of the boundaries set for the drug, making an illegal and supposedly dangerous substance available to the public at large. At least medicinal marijuana would serve a purpose for those who are suffering; why would selling marijuana for recreational purposes be a good idea? Despite popular opinion there are many reasons that selling marijuana recreationally would be a good idea: it can generate revenue for the state as well as the country, legalizing it and selling it in dispensaries can save time and money in the legal system, selling it legally would allow for more effective regulation, and the legalization of recreational marijuana streamline the production of hemp.
The legalization of recreational marijuana would allow state mandated vendors to sell the drug to the public. Typically the drug goes untaxed and is sold in secret but being sold recreationally would allow the government to insist on a state and federal tax on the drug, as they would with any other good being sold in a professional establishment. Jonathan P. Caulkins and his associates outlined in an article entitled, “High Tax States: Options for Gleaning Revenue From Legal Cannabis”, published in Oregon Law Review that certain states stood to earn upwards of $5 million a year in tax revenue alone (24). These were low estimates based only on projections of individuals in the state known to use the drug, as well as projections based on age. The number was significantly higher when the researchers took into account the amount of individuals in the country suspected of doing the drug illegally, falling more in the $10 million range (28). Simon Lenton’s article, “New Regulated Markets for Recreational Cannabis: Public Health or Private Profit?”, published in Addiction projects Colorado and Seattle to earn somewhere within $10 and $15 million this year in tax revenue from weed, respectively (354). To a country in debt, that’s nothing to scoff at.
The prosecution of small time offenders for the selling of, possession of, or use of marijuana takes up billions of tax dollars every year, as well as countless hours in the legal system, as Stephen B. Duke assessed in his article, “The Future of Marijuana in the United State”, published in Oregon Law Review. Duke found that the legal system spends up to $6 billion dollars a year finding, prosecuting, and processing offenders who have committed crimes related to recreational use of marijuana (46). He projected that the manpower, house, and time used to complete this task prevents more serious crimes from being stopped or solved (48). The use of marijuana is frowned upon by many but it is not as bad as murder or robbery. While those who regularly partake in marijuana use may be undesirable to be around by some, at least they are not dangerous. Duke posed the question that if marijuana was made legal, how many real criminals could be caught, tried, and kept from harming others while harmless miscreants are finally legally allowed to do what they as they please (50)? Marijuana is not as harmful as a bullet or as scary as an abusive partner; law enforcement should refocus their efforts on things that matter. Duke also mentions that even if it is not murderers that law enforcement refocuses their efforts on, there are far more serious drugs on the streets that require legal attention (48).
Many are hesitant to stand behind the legalization of recreational marijuana because they fear that individuals will begin using it incessantly or using large amounts of it. What some do not understand is that to legalize something is to regulate it. Selling marijuana legally from a vendor means that the government could regulate the amount an individual could buy, how often, and the potency of the product, as Steven W. Bender points out in his article published in the Albany Government Law Review (41). Instead of an individual buying an unregulated amount of marijuana from anonymous dealers, untaxed, and using it at their discretion, the marijuana would be regulated. The individual would have to buy a taxed product at a certain amount within a certain amount of time, ensuring that they did not have too much at one time or receive a product that was too potent (45). Regulation would also mean that dealers would no longer be in business. Drugs would no longer be what is commonly known as “laced” with other drugs. Regulating the drug would make the use of it safer and help eliminate crime.
Normally, marijuana’s only use is thought to be getting individuals high and making them unproductive. In recent years the public has been changing their mind, deciding that marijuana can also aid in several medical afflictions. However, it is still unbeknownst to most that marijuana is actually an lucrative agricultural product. Jean M. Rawson explains in her book “Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity” that if marijuana were legalize, hemp could be grown as a crop (34). Hemp can be used for many different things; it is a very versatile material. It can be woven into a fabric to move clothes, blankets, or other materials, or it can even be developed into a biofuel. Its oils can even be used to replace some of the harmful substances we use in food today (69). Europe and Canada have already begun experimentations with growing hemp and using it in their countries. While some members of the United States want to experience what hemp can provide, because recreational weed is illegal in all but two states, growing hemp is also considered illegal and therefore the benefit of this crop are currently an impossibility.
As you can see, there are many benefits to legalizing weed for recreational purposes that have nothing to do with “getting stoned”. Legalizing weed recreationally would increase tax revenue and help our country’s significant debt. The legalization of marijuana would also stimulate local economies and provide jobs. Time and money would be saved by the legal system if recreational weed were made legal, as well. This time and money could be spent on matters that were more serious, such as catching dangerous criminals or ridding the streets of more harmful substances. Legalizing weed would also allow it to be regulated, making it safer. Finally, marijuana’s legalization would pave the way for the growth of hemp which could provide cheap and efficient clothing material, ingredients for food and even, eventually, fuel for cars. It is obvious that that answer to whether or not the United States should legalize weed for recreational purposes is an overwhelming “yes.”
Bender, Steven W. "Overdose: The Failure of the U.S. Drug War and Attempts at Legalization: ARTICLE: JOINT REFORM?: THE INTERPLAY OF STATE, FEDERAL, AND HEMISPHERIC REGULATION OF RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA AND THE FAILED WAR ON DRUGS." Albany Government Law Review (2013): 39-52.
Caulkins, Jonathan P., et al. "High Tax States: Options for Gleaning Revenue from Legal Cannabis." Oregon Law Review (2012): 21-35.
Duke, Stephen B. "The Future of Marijuana in the United State." Oregon Law Review (2013): 45-51.
Lenton, Simon. "New Regulated Markets for Recreational Cannabis: Public Healthor Private Profit?" Addiction (2014): 354-355.
Rawson, Jean M. Hemp As An Agricultural Commodity. Collingdale: DIANE Publishing, 2011.