Legality of marijuana debated as profit source

Marijuana grower Basil McMahon with his crop in Grass Valley, Calif., on Nov. 12, 2015. A sweeping new package of laws will reverse years of state silence by regulating and licensing every stage of the medical marijuana industry.

The legalization of marijuana would provide many benefits to the United States, while the current policy has proven more of a hindrance to the country than a benefit.

The legalization of marijuana would help the economy and security of the United States. Some states have led the way in marijuana legalization, and these states are becoming portraits of a legal marijuana world.

Marijuana has had a long history in the United States. Some of the Founding Fathers grew hemp on their plantations.

The story of marijuana’s criminalization has more to do with racism than actual medical science. Marijuana was believed to cause white women to run off with people of color. In the early 20th century, when racial lines were maintained at all cost, anti-marijuana groups used this to persuade others that marijuana was the “devil’s lettuce,” and that it was responsible for bad behavior among the youth.

Since then, marijuana has become associated with social rebels. Whether it was the beatniks of the late 1950s in “Mad Men,” the stereotypical hippies of the late 1960s, youths of the 1970s or your stoner friend that tells you about the illuminati conspiracy, marijuana has been associated with people that are careless and completely outside the social norm.

In reaction to the uprising and growth in drug use during the 1960s, President Nixon launched the “war on drugs,” which President Reagan expanded in the ‘80s.

The war on drugs entails steeper punishments for drug possession and active law enforcement activities to intercept supplies. This sounds like a great idea, but there are a few big problems with the war on drugs.

The war on drugs costs a lot of money. The federal government spent about $16 billion, and state and local governments spent another $25 billion in one year. Combined, it cost a little more than $40 billion. In comparison, NASA’s yearly budget is $17 billion.

In addition to fiscal cost, the war on drugs has pushed marijuana underground. There are no safety regulations governing the marijuana sold by a dealer and all the transactions pass without any sort of sales tax.

The war on drugs has added a large social cost to the country. Possession of a miniscule amount of marijuana can send a person to jail. Jail time breaks family bonds and isolates the individual. The individual can enter prison an ordinary person, be trained by other criminals there, and come out a bigger threat to the community.

The war on drugs and criminalization of marijuana has handed gangs a lucrative source of income and manpower. Drug money funds gang activity, and gangs will go to war with each other over control of the drug trade.

The criminalization of marijuana has failed in its purpose. Since the war on drugs began, drug use rates have stayed the same in the country. Criminalizing marijuana appears to have worked as well as Prohibition did for eliminating alcohol use.

Legalizing marijuana would help remedy some of the problems that criminalization has caused. Legalized marijuana would reduce government expenditures in the war on drugs. Nearly $9 billion would be saved in federal, state and local expenditures.

Along with savings, legalized marijuana would provide a boom of economic activity. An entrepreneur can open a marijuana dispensary and create jobs in their community. The people working are paying income taxes, the entrepreneur is paying a business tax and the customers may be paying a sales tax. This creates a horde of taxes that a locality can use for the betterment of their community.

Customers also can purchase safe marijuana that is not laced with other drugs. Legalized marijuana being sold would be subject to government health inspections.

Along with the fiscal and economic benefits, legalized marijuana would reduce the number of people being sent to prison.

People who might have otherwise gone to prison for marijuana possession would instead be free or working in a marijuana dispensary, earning an income for their family. Gangs would lose a critical source of income and be weakened, much like Capone’s gangs were weakened after Prohibition ended.

As Justice Louis Brandeis said, “The states are the laboratories of democracy.”

Thanks to the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, states are able to make laws in areas the Constitution has not explicitly delegated to the federal government. Four states have used this as justification to legalize marijuana. The policies they are pursuing are proving to be a testing ground for legalized marijuana and how it alters the community.

I support the states in their policy experiments. I think the best policy option is to legalize marijuana and levy a 10 percent sales tax on it, half of that sales tax going to fund updates to schools in infrastructure and curriculum and the other half of the tax going to law enforcement and training.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Hunter Balczo at

Weed. Republican Jeb Bush smoked it in high school, as has libertarian Gary Johnson and a plethora of democrats from Bill Clinton to the President himself. American colonists wrote on paper made from hemp, and George Washington grew it.

A quick glance at these and other interesting facts found on Google might easily lead one to believe the current prohibition on marijuana is ill-conceived and un-American. Given more than a surface inspection, the argument for marijuana legalization becomes more porous than the very hemp paper claims the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written on.

First, a moment of historical clarification for those who maintain our forefathers, Washington and Jefferson, dabbled in the devil’s lettuce.

The hemp grown by early Americans contained negligible levels of THC, suggesting the addictive properties of modern Mary Jane had no hand in a few famous founding farmer’s purported -- and conspicuously undocumented -- use.

A quick search of “hemp vs. cannabis” should clear up any further confusion between the colonial cash crop and its psychoactive modern cousin.

Not known as marijuana until the late 1800s, the plant did play a major role in the fledgling U.S. economy. Hemp was a cash crop which fed American prosperity, not American addiction. Rather than smoke or chew it, early Americans used “indian hemp seed” to make sails for their ships, cheap but rather uncomfortable clothing, and yes, pulp for paper.

A recent study published by the American Medical Association found over 30 percent of adults using this mind-altering drug recreationally over the course of a year developed dependency and suffered from compulsive consumption and withdrawal.

Some marijuana proponents may agree that while this is true, pot has never killed anyone, unlike the equally-addictive alcohol. Sorry to bust your bubble, but puff the magic dragon can be just as dangerous.

Clinical studies provide evidence that long-term consumption, even at moderate, recreational levels, inhibits short-term memory, retards reaction time, increases the risk of sudden cardiac arrest and can cause birth defects if consumed while pregnant.

I’ve known a few smokers, bakers and other enthusiasts in my day. Those most “enthusiastic” about pot, however, have always been the dealers.

In the United States, a man named Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, is more than happy to supply a majority of domestic dealers. A testament to his business prowess, his Sinaloa cartel has diversified from marijuana to hard drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines.

Why? For the same reason light beer and Marlboro Gold exists: customer retention.

El Chapo knows he can sell cocaine to an addict no longer satisfied by marijuana. Why lose business to a competitor if you can sell a more expensive drug and expand your clientele at the same time? Ruthless and brilliant, capitalizing on marijuana’s gateway properties is a major contributing factor to the more than 100 overdose-related deaths a day in the United States.

But pot never killed anyone, right? Ask a heroin addict if pot is a gateway drug.

Since cannabis entered the scene as a drug of choice for hippies, cowboys and suburbanites alike, the “war on drugs” began earnestly targeting Indiana ditchweed, along with Mexican black tar heroin and Columbian coke, contributing to the expansion of incarceration on a massive scale.

Legalizing marijuana could lead to more tax revenue and help cut state and federal spending on marijuana-related law enforcement. Under legalization, however, the underlying problem of addiction to a mind-altering, gateway drug still exists.

Those addicted to the intoxicating properties of alcohol are given therapy, not jail time. Given the added adverse effects of the sweet leaf however, marijuana requires a more nuanced approach.

The Illinois State General Assembly recently passed a decriminalization bill. Although I may not agree with some details, the idea is a good one. Rather than pay $30,000-$55,000 per year to incarcerate small-time drug offenders, a fine is charged (perhaps twice the value of the street price for the documented amount) and a limit is set to the number of times (up to three) this fine can be payed before prison time becomes mandatory.

This prison time should be tailored to the offender. Group narcotics anonymous sessions, as well as detox therapies, should be available at this time.

Those most likely to go to jail for weed have been or will return. Those in prison for drug-related crimes may not be hardened criminals, but could find themselves in a position where joining a gang is the only way to survive on the inside, further increasing their chances of reincarceration when their gang affiliation develops into additional crime on the outside.

According to the National Institute of Justice, nearly 77 percent of drug offenders are rearrested for a “new crime.”

While difficult, providing the aforementioned programs and changing the culture in prisons nationwide would be a huge step in curbing the crime rate and lessening the damaging effects cannabis and other drugs have on our communities. The answer isn’t more laughing grass, but may be a Department of Corrections that lives up to its name.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Jacob Schlosser at

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.