Pubdate: Fri, 4 Apr 2008
Source: Michigan Daily (U of MI, Edu)
Copyright: 2008 The Michigan Daily
Author: Jeff May
Note: Jeff May is an LSA sophomore.
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Regardless of whether Hash Bash is held this year on the Diag, every 
U.S. citizen should critically evaluate the continuation of America's 
failed drug policy, exemplified by the War on Drugs. Michigan and our 
country as a whole are facing economic and fiscal problems with no 
clear solutions in sight. But we continue to spend billions of tax 
dollars on policies that are proven failures. The War on Drugs is 
nothing but a financial blackhole. In fact, America's War on Drugs 
under the reign of George W. Bush has actually led to a two-fold 
increase in cocaine production worldwide.

The benefits of fully decriminalizing marijuana far outweigh the 
supposed consequences of its existence - this viewpoint does not call 
for the decriminalization of more severe drugs like cocaine, 
crack-cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines. According to a 2000 
estimate, prior to a spending increase by the current administration, 
the federal government alone spent roughly $19 billion annually on 
the War on Drugs. This number increases drastically when you factor 
in spending on drug enforcement by state and local governments.

But consider the many ways that our money could be better spent. For 
example, a city/state restoration fund could be established to 
finance renovations in struggling areas across the country (think 
Detroit or New Orleans). The money could also be re-routed to assist 
overburdened government programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social 
Security. It could be spent on public education, humanitarian work in 
developing countries, alternative energy sources, college financial 
aid and renovation of America's crumbling infrastructure. And don't 
forget our never-ending adventure in Iraq.

The damage caused to this country by the War on Drugs is not limited 
to its pocketbooks - it affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of 
U.S. citizens every year. According to The New York Times, about 
800,000 people are arrested every year for marijuana possession, with 
an outrageous majority receiving criminal charges for possessing tiny 
amounts of marijuana. Having such charges on peoples' records can 
prevent them from receiving higher-paying jobs - hurting employment 
rates and consumer spending - and can even cause some people to lose 
their right to vote in certain states. The right to vote is the 
essence of our government and should not be revoked under any 
circumstances, otherwise how will those who are wronged by the system 
have the opportunity to change it?

Given Michigan's dismal economy and budget problems, I'm surprised at 
the astonishing lack of practicality displayed by Michigan's 
legislators. It is going to take innovative solutions to bring 
Michigan back to national prominence, so here is one to consider: 
Full legalization of hemp and marijuana. The United States is the 
only industrialized country in the world to make hemp production 
illegal. Growing hemp would provide Michigan farmers with a versatile 
product that could be used in a wide variety of products.

I'm not implying that legalizing hemp would be the cure-all for 
Michigan's problems. It would have only a tiny impact on Michigan's 
overall economic situation. However, to be blunt, any step forward 
would be a good step right now. Legalization is beneficial in two 
ways. First, it saves the state money by reducing the costs of law 
enforcement. Second, it brings in revenue from the sale of growing 
licenses to individuals and from a tax on the marijuana sales by companies.

Enough is enough. Both the Michigan and the United States are going 
to have to wake up to the economic and fiscal realities they are 
facing. We have too many problems that need to be addressed to be 
wasting billions of dollars annually on policies that give no return 
on investment except to certain weapons contractors. And please, 
don't cling to the "moral" argument that marijuana is illegal because 
it is bad for you. There are roughly 16,000 alcohol-related deaths 
and even more tobacco-related deaths - yet, these substances are 
legal, even when there has never been a single recorded death due to marijuana.

America became great because of its innovation, I hope it does not 
continue its fall from grace because it desperately clings to 
outdated and irrational polices beautifully clad in the cloth of 
"moral superiority."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake