A reader writes:
Nonsense. The weed in Amsterdam, where it is functionally legal (technically "tolerated"), is more expensive by the gram than the East Coast black market weed (imported from California) we are lucky enough to get. And the quality of the US weed is every bit as good. It isn't that easy to grow world-class pot. As Michael Pollan has so eloquently pointed out, the best botanists of our generation are working underground on cultivating stronger and stronger pot.
One of the issues to keep in mind with legalizing cannabis isn't just the money government would be taking in; we also need to consider the money government would be saving.
DEA, FBI, and ICE resources would be reallocated, as would prison resources, and court resources. We would be saving money on prosecution, enforcement, and incarceration costs. That has to matter, doesn't it?
And that doesn't even get into tax policy. Tobacco taxes have little to do with the production value. I doubt taxes on cannabis would either.
Finally, when did legalization become an issue of "alleviating our budget woes"? I don't think I've ever heard anyone seriously say that legalized pot would balance the budget (I've heard, and made, jokes along those lines). There are so many better arguments: it isn't as harmful as alcohol or tobacco; it undermines the rule of law because so many people break it; it's bad policy and a waste of resources. Any help on the budget is just a fringe benefit.
Another differs on that point:
I think Mike Riggs is missing the point: The massive mark-up, that right now can probably be considered "danger money" for dealers at various levels, can be imposed by the government. After all, I can't get a pound of cigarettes for $2.
Naturally, people growing their own will limit the extent to which the government can simply fill the role of the cartels (who will lose big no matter how the price is affected, something to bear in mind!), but I'm sat half an hour's drive from the Dutch border in Germany, and there is little difference in price between their legal, and our illegal marijuana.
It is not the act of legalisation that matters, but how this is done. This isn't some magic South-Park-gnome-style "weed + ? = $" equation, and I have heard nobody who has made the economic argument for legalisation indulge in that sort of simplified fantasy. I firmly believe that it is the economic argument that will win this thing in the end.
The social and moral arguments of unfairness are all true enough, but they simply have not worked, and they have not worked for decades on end. The only way we are going to win this is by making the right people realise what an incredible pile of money is to be made, and we will probably have to tell them how it can be made, too, since these people have no idea about the drug industry as it is.
Anyone up for crowdsourcing a first-draft marijuana legalisation bill?