Pubdate: Tue, 15 Jul 2014
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2014 The Advertiser Co.
Author: Josh Moon, Montgomery Advertiser
Note: Letters from the newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority


Gov. Robert Bentley Needs A Plan.

He hasn't come right out and said so, but looking at the facts, it's
rather obvious.

Alabama is the only state in the country to see its unemployment rate
climb in the last year. There's a prison overcrowding problem. There's
a general fund budget that's likely to result in more state workers
being laid off. The state is already short on state troopers and other
workers who inspect our food and make sure our waterways are safe. And
our courts are backlogged to the point of near shutdown.

There were actually rumors the other day that some state historical
sites might be sold off to make and save money.

And all of this at a time when the rest of the country is starting to
see recovery sunlight.

So, Bentley, who's facing underdog Democratic opponent Parker Griffith
this November, could use some help, because that easy waltz to
re-election that everyone assumed suddenly isn't looking quite so easy.

Here's your help, governor: Legalize marijuana.

Now, before we get started, do not attack this idea with some dopey
argument about the morality of legalizing marijuana. Not when Alabama
loves its alcohol and prescription pills literally to death.

In fact, no state loves prescription painkillers more than this one,
according to a recent study. And those prescription painkillers kill
about one person per hour.

According to the CDC, alcohol kills more than 88,000 people per year.
That number includes more than 250 DUI deaths in Alabama alone.

Weed, in the meantime, kills zero. There has never been a reported
weed overdose death, ever.

So, since we have no moral high ground to stand on, let's stand on
practicality. For once.

Because practically speaking, nothing gets us out of a hole faster
than legalizing marijuana. Not a lottery. Not legalized gambling. Nothing.

For proof of this, let's turn to Colorado, where recreational
marijuana has been legal for six months.

It's going so well that the state might have to refund some tax
revenue because it's going to take in more than it budgeted for.
Colorado officials expected sales tax revenues from marijuana alone to
be slightly greater than $70 million in the first year. Those taxes
could very well eclipse $100 million.

That's $100 million that simply fell from the sky for that state.
Colorado lawmakers didn't have to do anything other than sign some
papers and start counting. They didn't need a London air show trip or
to spend $200 million training employees and building the plant for
the marijuana.

Just, bam, here's an extra nine figures for your schools, roads,
courts and parks.

But it gets better.

The state has already experienced an increase of roughly 2,000
marijuana-related jobs - a total that's expected to increase
dramatically in coming years, as production and cultivation jobs
expand to the state.

There's also been another $10 million in licensing fees collected from
people who want the right to sell marijuana.

But wait, there's more.

Right now, Alabama could eliminate the cost of housing and caring for
the roughly 500 prisoners per year who are arrested on marijuana
possession and low-level distribution charges. In a few years, we
could eliminate about 1,500-3,000 prisoners from our overcrowded state

Additionally, not pushing all of those cases - and the thousands of
other marijuana possession cases - through our clogged court system
could save us an estimate $20 million-$40 million per year. It could
serve as a giant Roto-Rooter, virtually eliminating the backlog in our
courts system and re-employ dozens of out-of-work and needed clerks.

Oh, but it gets even better.

Back to Colorado: While even opponents of the marijuana legalizing
efforts readily admitted that revenue would be grand, they insisted, as
Alabama lawmakers do, that the resulting outbreak of crime from all
those potheads stealing to satisfy their habits would be devastating.
Certainly it would be enough of an increase to trump whatever decreases
were seen by removing pot offenses from the books.

Not so much.

Crime in Colorado, and especially in its larger metro areas, has
dropped over the last six months. The murder rate is down over 40
percent. All violent crime numbers in the state are down 5 percent.
Not even the most likely crimes that might usually be associated with
an increase in drug use - burglary and robbery - have moved upward in
Denver. The state's overall crime rate has dropped 10 percent compared
to the same period in 2013.

To recap: More revenue, less spending and lower crime.

There's just one snag: selling marijuana legalization to the
conservative masses might be tough.

But I've got that figured out too.

Marijuana is a plant. It comes from God. So, follow the usual
conservative playbook and just use the Bible to justify it to folks.

Conservatives have used the Good Book to justify all sorts of goofy -
everything from outright racism to not increasing teacher pay. Maybe
you could be the first guy to use it to explain a proposal that
actually makes sense.  
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D