Staff Editorial: Marijuana suffers from 21st century Prohibition

As state, local and federal governments struggle to balance their budgets, The Lamron believes that it is a prudent time to recommend a controversial method of alleviating budget stress. Our proposal? The legalization and taxation of marijuana.

There used to be a time when merely raising this issue would spark public outcry. However, this is a different era. A 2009 national telephone survey by Rasmussen Reports found that 40 percent of Americans are in favor of full-fledged legalization of marijuana, while 46 percent are opposed. As scientific and economic studies continue to favor an argument of legalization, the stigma surrounding cannabis will only lessen.

A 2005 study by Harvard University visiting economics professor Jeffrey Miron found that the legalization of marijuana would save an estimated $7.7 billion annually in "government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition" at the federal, state and local levels. In addition, Miron found that a taxation of cannabis similar to tobacco and alcohol would yield up to $6.2 billion in tax revenue per year.

The legalization of marijuana would get the industry and its necessary workforce out of the shadows of illegality, which would certainly help to reduce crime, in addition to the billions of dollars saved each year by government regulation.

As the Prohibition Era proved almost a century ago, criminalization of a high-demand good inevitably begets criminals. Your typical liquor store owner wasn't Al Capone prior to or after prohibition, and the ban on marijuana has mirrored this trend of violence in drug trafficking.

Tobacco, which is a legal, regulated item, is responsible for over 400,000 smoking-related deaths in the United States every year. Alcohol, which is a legal, regulated item, is involved in roughly 80,000 deaths every year. Not only have studies failed to link marijuana to cancer, but the drug's alleged therapeutic properties are so profound that it has already been approved for medicinal use in 13 states.

It's high time for pot to shed its Rockefellerian stereotype as a villainous narcotic and gain a more factual reputation, as an overwhelmingly benign drug whose legalization would be wildly beneficial to cash-strapped government budgets.

Coincidentally, the prohibition of alcohol was repealed in 1933 during a time of economic downturn. It's only a matter of time before one of the 50 states gets the ball rolling on the 21st century equivalent.