Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We Can’t Afford to Legalize Pot

I wrote this in response to an op-ed piece in The Oregonian. Knowing that they'll never publish it, I thought I'd best save the world this way.
Lauren Wiener’s Sunday opinion column in The Big O on legalizing marijuana was well reasoned and sensible. She adequately revealed the limitations of the medical marijuana program. She made a compelling argument for legalization.
Unfortunately, it was beside the point. The war against marijuana was never a public health or safety issue. It isn’t even a moral issue. It is a cultural issue. Marijuana is the drug of choice of the great unwashed bottom-dwellers who drag down society with their devil-may-care, scofflaw attitudes. Artists, musicians, actors, and no end of fringe creative types spend their nights sucking down vast clouds of marijuana smoke while planning the destruction of the American way of life. That’s why we have to prohibit marijuana, it creates disdain for the American political and economic system.
But the real reason to not legalize pot is that we can’t afford it. Anti-pot legislation and enforcement are the cornerstone of our whole incarceration system, which is the largest in the world. Legalizing pot would immediately throw millions of Americans out of work: judges, lawyers, prosecutors, policemen, security guards, bail bondsmen, court reporters, prison guards, parole officers, prison construction personnel, prison commissary operators, media people, not to mention farmers, harvesters, marketers, and transportation folk (should we talk about where all those people shop, buy homes, take vacations, etc?).
Legalizing marijuana would not only suddenly throw those millions of people out of work, it would also immediately throw millions of criminals onto the streets looking for employment. This would put a serious wrench into the economy from which it might take years to recover.
It could also provide a serious crunch in the international arms trade, another business in which we are the world’s largest player. Much of the world’s terrorist arms are purchased with money acquired through drug trade profits maintained artificially high by the drugs’ illegality. Legalizing drugs would tear the pocket book out of those organizations and provide a crimp in arms purchasing which would directly affect the American economy. Much of our foreign aid is determined by keeping those regional conflicts alive. Likewise, the great majority of guns used by the Mexican cartels are made in America. What would happen if they could no longer buy those guns? It’s our industries which would take the hit.
Sure, legalizing pot might get the hippies off our back, but the dismantling of the industries built around criminalization could send the country into a tailspin that would hark back to the 30s. Don’t forget, if America were to legalize pot, the rest of the world would follow suit, only exacerbating the problems. It could plunge the entire world into economic chaos.
The bottom line: we simply can’t afford to legalize marijuana. It’s a pipe dream.
Wish I could credit this excellent photo. Whose ever it is, it's yours.

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