Pubdate: Mon, 09 Mar 2015
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2015 The Palm Beach Post
Authors: Benjamin Powell and Audrey Redford
Note: Benjamin Powell is director of the Free Market Institute and 
professor of Economics at Texas Tech University. Audrey Redford is a 
Ph.D. student in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics 
at Texas Tech. They wrote this for Inside Sources.


Recreational marijuana use was legalized in Washington D.C. and 
Alaska on Feb. 26 and Feb. 24, respectively. D.C.'s legalization has 
prompted some congressional Republicans to try to undermine the 
city's reforms. However, the experience of states that have already 
legalized, and economic theory, both indicate that legalization 
creates more benefits than costs.

Recreational use and possession of marijuana up to 2 ounces is now 
legal in Washington D.C. for individuals 21 years of age and over (1 
ounce in Alaska). Although the sale of marijuana is still illegal in 
D.C., gifts of up to 1 ounce are permitted. Marijuana must be 
consumed on private property and individuals are allowed to 
"homegrow" up to six marijuana plants in both D.C. and Alaska. Alaska 
plans to allow marijuana retailer licensing beginning in 2016 but 
D.C. has not announced any plans to legalize the sale of marijuana.

This has angered congressional Republicans such as Rep. Jason 
Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. Chaffetz and Meadows 
sent the mayor of D.C. a letter stating, "If you decide to move 
forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, 
you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law."

But one has to wonder why. Colorado and Washington State have had 
legalized marijuana since 2012 (stores and dispensaries first opened 
in 2014) and appear to be doing quite well.

Colorado experienced a 77 percent drop in marijuana court cases and 
an 81 percent decrease in petty possession charges. That freed up 
police resources to prevent other crimes. Denver violent crimes 
dropped between 2013 and 2014. Homicides were down 24.4 percent, rape 
down 2.5 percent, and robbery down 3.3 percent. Property crimes such 
as burglary were down 9.55 percent, theft from a motor vehicle was 
down 21.8 percent, and auto theft dropped 1.1 percent.

Nor did legalization lead to reckless behavior on the roads. Overall, 
traffic fatalities in Colorado fell from 481 in 2013 to 466 in 2014.

But what about the kids? Survey data from Colorado in 2013 shows that 
teen marijuana use is on the decline. Accord for most drugs is not 
very price sensitive. As a result, supply-side wars drive up prices 
that do little to decrease consumption. Meanwhile, black market 
incentives drive suppliers to create ever more dangerous products.

The government spends more than $50 billion annually on the war on 
drugs and more than a half a million people are incarcerated in the 
United States as a result of drug convictions. Yet, few benefits are 
achieved from it. From 1971 - two years before the creation of the 
Drug Enforcement Administration - to 2007, the rate of death from a 
drug overdose per 100,000 total deaths increased by a factor of 10.

Marijuana, as legalization advocates often point out, is one of the 
least dangerous drugs out there. Successful legalizations, like 
Colorado's, have encouraged five more states to put legalization on 
the ballot in 2016 and another five states to work on legalization 
through the state legislatures.

Instead of hindering D.C.'s effort to legalize marijuana, Congress 
should be eliminating federal laws that are inconsistent with states' 
legalizations. In fact, evidence indicates that we would likely be 
better off if they legalized marijuana at the federal level too.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom