From the Daily: A wasteful crime

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published March 30, 2010

California voters have the chance to make history in November. If passed, a recently created ballot initiative in California would make the state the first to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The initiative would create a legal market for marijuana that would provide revenue to a debt-ridden state, develop a new sector for employment and allow law enforcement to put a better focus on violent crimes. California voters should pass the initiative and Michigan, along with the rest of the nation, should follow suit and legalize recreational marijuana use.

The Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010 — which is sponsored by Oaksterdam University, a cannabis college in Oakland, California — would allow those over 21 to possess up to one ounce and grow a maximum of 25 square feet of marijuana. The initiative received nearly 700,000 signatures, clearly surpassing the 433,971 it needed to be placed on the California ballot in November.

Decriminalizing marijuana would lead to immediate benefits for California. Current marijuana laws lead to waste of money and time pursuing, processing and imprisoning recreational marijuana users. If the initiative were to be passed, California could save about $200 million according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML, for short) — and law enforcement could concentrate on apprehending violent crime offenders.

California could also increase its revenue by legalizing recreational marijuana use. Marijuana taxes that could be enacted if the drug was legal would generate about $1.4 billion each year, according to California’s tax regulator, the Board of Equalization. The money could be reallocated to services like health care, education or transportation.

And legal marijuana use would create a lucrative industry that could generate thousands of jobs. According to the California BOE, a legal market for marijuana could become a $14-billion-per-year industry. This is only amplified by the $12 to $18 billion per year that NORML estimates industries related to recreational marijuana would make. NORML also estimates that a marijuana industry could create between 60,000 and 110,000 new jobs each year.

But California isn’t the only state that would benefit from legalizing recreational marijuana — Michigan could also reap the rewards. Michigan has a 14.1-percent unemployment rate as of February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and its average debt is high. The state could certainly profit from increased revenue and jobs created by a new industry. And according to the State of Michigan House Fiscal Agency, Michigan spent $38,012,000 on punishment of marijuana infractions in 2007, the most recent figures available. That excessive expenditure could be eliminated. A profitable marijuana industry would help pull Michigan out of its current economic slump.

If California passes the Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010, it would create a successful model of legal marijuana use that provides fiscal and public safety benefits that could be followed by other states including Michigan. California should pass the ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana use in November, and Michigan should follow its example.