An Easy Way To Save Tens of Billions In Government Dollars: Legalize Marijuana – Part 1

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The taxpayers just forked over $10,400 dollars to arrest this guy for smoking dope.



A man is arrested for possession of marijuana without a medical marijuana license in Aspen, Colorado prior to the passage of Prop 64. According to NORML, state and local justice costs for marijuana arrests are now estimated to be $7.6 billion, approximately $10,400 per arrest.

Think of the more useful things this police officer could be doing. For instance, enforcing speeding and traffic laws. Given the number of Americans killed or injured in automobile accidents each year, wouldn’t he be better employed at doing this? Or directing traffic at dangerous intersections? Or going after meth labs? Or arresting drunk drivers?

I constantly wonder how long we as a nation are going to continue not only the stupidity of this situation but the incredible monetary and social costs to the nation. As a substance, it isn’t marijuana causing immense damage to the population and social fabric of the nation: it’s alcohol.

From Rolling Stone of 30 October 2012:

Pot Possession: An Arrest Every 42 SecondsNew FBI data reveal the grotesque, monumental stupidity of the drug war.

There were 757,969 marijuana arrests in America last year — 87% for simple possession. That’s one possession arrest every 42 seconds, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Meanwhile, 56 percent of Americans support decriminalizing pot and regulating it like alcohol.


Princeton University Square

One year of prison costs more than one year at Princeton.

Let non-violent prisoners convicted of possession of marijuana, small amounts of cocaine or prescription drugs, out of prison. And do it now. I’m sick of paying for them to sit there and you should be as well. Garnish their wages if they can get a job. Make them do community service. Do anything but stick them in prison.

From the Atlantic Monthly:



One year at Princeton University: $37,000. One year at a New Jersey state prison: $44,000.
Prison and college “are the two most divergent paths one can take in life,” Joseph Staten, an info-graphic researcher with Public Administration, says. Whereas one is a positive experience that increases lifetime earning potential, the other is a near dead end, which is why Staten found it striking that the lion’s share of government funding goes toward incarceration.

It is worth taking a look at the full article along with a detailed chart on prison costs.

San Quentin State Prison in California

Since all levels of government are cutting education dollars and everything else, it is time for a “national conversation” about both what should be illegal and who we as a society believe should be sentenced to confinement in an actual prison as opposed to some other form of punishment.

All of us want our local, state, and the Federal Government to be frugal with our tax dollars. Is this a frugal way to spend the public’s money? Putting people in jail for possession of marijuana? Isn’t there another way?

What is even more bizarre is community mental health budgets are being slashed and people who are mentally ill are cut off from those services and medications and end up in prison. The cost of treating someone with mental illness in a community program, group house et al, is dramatically cheaper than confining them in prison — where few of them receive the mental health services they need.

Following are the costs to imprison people incurred by state governments alone – not the Federal Government:

Among the 40 states surveyed, representing more than 1.2 million inmates (of 1.4 million total people incarcerated in all 50 state prison systems), the total per-inmate cost averaged $31,286 and ranged from $14,603 in Kentucky to $60,076 in New York. The methodology provides an “apples to apples” comparison of state prison costs because it standardizes the measure and counts the comprehensive costs to taxpayers in every state.

The full report, The Price of Prisons by the Vera Institute of Justice, is available on Vera’s website. Vera is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit center for justice policy and practice.

To Murder! Insanity! And Death! I would add, “The Munchies!”

Having smoked a fair amount of marijuana as a youth, I can tell you (if you don’t know) that marijuana mellows you out, like, you know, dude? And all you really want to do is eat and chat with others in a slightly garbled way. In college, when we were really stoned, one of us would look at the others and say, “only dopes smoke dope,” which expression reduced us to helpless laughter.

Marijuana was legal in the United States until 1937. Then it was banned, along with industrial hemp which isn’t the same thing, by the same jackasses who were behind prohibition, partially because it became associated with “Negro jazz.” Racism was and remains a powerful force to enlist in a variety of causes. “Race-baiting” on marijuana was a useful smokescreen to obscure who was really behind the prohibition on the growing of marijuana and industrial hemp in 1937: the cotton and synthetic fiber industry. Surprise. Surprise.

The “Devil’s Harvest?” Really. Given the terrible problems of alcohol addiction in the US, I would say alcohol is the “Devil’s Harvest.”

One of the most common uses of industrial hemp is making rope. During the era of sailing ships, demand for rope by the Royal Navy was immense. So the British government did what we do now: subsidize farmers to grow various crops. Only the crop they subsidized was different than today:

By 1721 British colonists were receiving farm subsidies for producing hemp. England and Holland looked to their colonies to furnish enough hemp to supply their two enormous navies. At times colonial governments made the production of hemp compulsory.


Hemp Rope

After the US Congress prohibited the growing of marijuana which cleverly included industrial hemp, Americans were bombarded with anti-marijuana propaganda such as the film Reefer Madness, actually made in 1936 but shown extensively after the prohibition of marijuana. In the 1970s the film became a cult film among college students — as a comedy.

Theatrical poster for the film Reefer Madness (1936).

Unfortunately for those against marijuana and industrial hemp, a small event known as Pearl Harbor which happened on December 7th, 1941, caused the US to go from “Reefer Madness” to “Grow Hemp for War”.

Oops. We needed industrial hemp in World War Two so the law against growing it was suspended for the duration.

The following from Global Hemp:

During WWII the Japanese cut-off supplies of hemp from the Philippines. Therefore, the US government formed the War Hemp Industries, a subsidiary of the Commodity Credit Corporation, to build over forty hemp fiber processing mills throughout the Midwest to produce cordage for the Navy.In 1942, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) produced a pamphlet, Farmer’s Bulletin 1935, as well as a short film, “Hemp for Victory” to educate farmers on the history, uses, cultivation, and harvesting of hemp.


Grow Hemp For The War

[Sources: Rolling Stone, NORML, Atlantic Monthly, Vera Institute for Justice, Baked Life, and Global Hemp. Images courtesy of Rolling Stone, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Americans for Cannabis, Writing, Manitoba Harvest, Wikipedia, Global Hemp, and Global Hemp.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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