OPINION: If Marijuana Were Made Federally Legal For Recreational, And Industrial Use, The American (And World) Economy Would Be Crippled

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OPINION: If Marijuana Were Made Federally Legal For Recreational, And Industrial Use, The American (And World) Economy Would Be Crippled

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Assuming, for a moment, that marijuana were made legal on a federal level tomorrow – and I’m not talking about just medicinal use – but, that it becomes a 100% free-for-all, making marijuana for consumption of those over the age of 21 legal for ANY reason. Also, let’s assume that those incarcerated for ALL marijuana offenses, no matter how grievous (unless involving a murder or rape), were allowed back onto the streets. Not only that, but marijuana was also made into a cash crop and it’s medicinal and agricultural value were given the same legal status as cotton or oil? What would happen? It would destroy the American and, to a larger degree, most of the world’s economy.
The first thought people have is taxation. And yes, this is a big factor of things that would be affected first. Considering that since Colorado made weed legal this year, one could look at the profits that the taxes have pulled in, which (according to the Washington Post), from January-July 2014 of $58.6 million (for both recreational and medicinal taxes) isn’t anything to sneeze at. And yes, made legally everywhere, there would be an influx of tax, guaranteed. BUT …
There are a lot of peripherals that people don’t immediately think of. There are millions of them. But there are two that I am going to focus on in this article, specifically: The American prison system and oil.First off, let’s look at what would happen to the American prison system if all those incarcerated for marijuana offenses were released. In 2010, according to the FBI statistics, there were 853,838 people arrested in the United States. Of those, 750,591 were for possession only. That’s a lot of people in prison, content on only hurting themselves. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In 2010, American’s spent $3.6 Billion to enforce marijuana possession laws. Also, marijuana accounted for over half, 52%, of all drug arrests in 2010 (according to ACLU statistics).So, pot arrests are a huge money maker. But where does this money come from? More importantly, where does it go?
Let’s look at Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA is the fifth-largest prison system in the US. It has 51 owned and operated facilities in 16 states, and contracted management of 18 more state-owned facilities in 7 states. In 2012, CCA recorded $1.64 billion in revenue.Per person, in 2012, the amount CCA committed to employees salaries and benefits was $27.05. Over half of the $41.61 that was guaranteed per prisoner (no matter the offense), per day. And there are far fewer employees then there are prisoners in the system. So, including inflation, the amount that the CCA spent in 2010 to employee salaries, benefits and bonuses was $19.8 million on those for marijuana possession alone. This, beginning effectively if the laws where changed, would be gone. As would many jobs of many guards and others, as usually the first thing to always go are those on the lower rungs of any job position.

This, however, still doesn’t account where all the money is going. They made over a billion dollars. So where else does the cash flow to? Politicians.

In 2010 the combinations of those involved in the prison system: CCA, The Geo Group Inc. (GEO), and Justice Policy Institute (JPI) gave over $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians in 2010. This too, would take a huge hit. Those in power typically don’t like these things.

OK, so, there’s just one mere portion of how the American economy would be hit. But what about the world? Let’s take a gander.

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Oil. It runs the world. Both literally and figuratively. It simply does. One thing that few people realize is that one of marijuana’s uses is the ability to be converted into cannabis oil. Although there have been great strides in this substance and the way it combats the side-effects of epilepsy in children: one thing that isn’t looked at is how it can be used to power a car as fuel.

Yep, when changed, cannabis oil can be further processed and changed into a biofuel that a car can run on. And since pot is literally a weed and can be grown in climates that most other plants can’t, the amount lost in agriculture wouldn’t be as vast. The one thing even fewer know is that it would only take 6% of the agricultural areas of the U.S. to produce enough biofuel for us to be 100% energy-efficient. This means no oil from ANYONE. ANYWHERE. It would no longer be necessary. Sounds great, right?
Eh …

OK, we can all sit here and pretend that we’d love to be free from oil, or, at least free from some other country’s clutches. But what people don’t realize is that if we were to just cut ties … it would affect the global market in a breathtaking way.

In 2012, the U.S. spent $443 billion in foreign oil. This means that, immediately, there would be a vast amount of money from our “allies” and a bunch of other places that would vanish. In fact, a recently released report from the Brookings Institution found that attempts to restrict the free trade of one energy source – liquefied natural gas –  or LNG – would “likely weaken the position of the United States as a supporter of a global trading system characterized by the free flow of goods and capital.”

That’s not just where it ends. Although The University of Missouri estimates that an average-size metropolitan area production of 100 million gallons of biodiesel fuel could generate $8.34 million in personal income and 6,000 temporary and permanent jobs; the issue is, if there were no oil, or fossil fuels as they are now, and the fact that the refining and petrochemical industry supports nearly 2 million American jobs, there would also be large layoffs, pay cuts, and other “cost-saving” devices that large companies use to prevent those in charge be as deeply affected.

But realize that this is all speculation. If marijuana were completely legal, then maybe the world would crumble or maybe a bunch of sick people would benefit from the medicinal qualities of the drug. All I know is this (and in no way is this an endorsement of this stance): In 2000, Portugal legalized ALL drugs. Heroin, cocaine, marijuana, ALL OF IT. And what happened? Well, according to Forbes, “drug abuse is down by half.” Also, “Currently 40,000 people in Portugal are being treated for drug abuse. This is a far cheaper, far more humane way to tackle the problem. Rather than locking up 100,000 criminals, the Portuguese are working to cure 40,000 patients.”

With the 2014 elections having come and gone, there is some hope that the winds of change may be shifting. Alaska and Oregon have both voted to allow marijuana use on a recreational level (for those of a certain age), and even Washington D.C. has voted to decriminalize marijuana (allowing for a person over 21 years old to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use and grow up to six cannabis plants in their home. It also allows people to transfer up to one ounce of marijuana to another person, but not sell it). What will be interesting to see is what happens next, especially in D.C., as it pertains to what the politicians of our country do about this new law. Because of its unique status as a district, not a state, Congress has the authority to overrule D.C. laws and some lawmakers have signaled that they would likely work to overrule the popular vote. Considering a vast majority of lobbyists live, or at the very least spend a large amount of time in that area, I have a sinking feeling that over the next year or two there will be a lot of those on Capitol Hill who will go after D.C. and get the law either stymied, or outright removed, through their legal and political processes.

At this point, president Obama has said that the federal government will not get involved in this issue. Whether you like him, or not; whether you believe him, or not; I think the above shows exactly why this is one item I WOULD believe him, and most any other future presidential (for the next few generations, at least) candidates say that this will be “an issue of the states.” Because whether you think marijuana should be legal, or not; as long as someone, somewhere can convince a large enough group that something relatively harmless is a bane to the existence of mankind (and there can be money made off of it), know that YOU, the taxpayer, will be the one to foot the bill (and I’m sure all of those who are elected officials thank you, and the lobbyist, for your incredibly generous support)- but isn’t that the American way?

Opinion by R.G.B. Robb