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Moser: Legalize Pot or Not?


Quick! What is the number one cash crop in America? Cotton is the number one crop, but could that change if more states legalize marijuana sales as Colorado has done?

Estimates vary, but NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) touted marijuana as the number four cash crop in a 1998 study: NORML Report on U.S. Domestic Marijuana Production. Other studies place the marijuana cash crop value at fifteenth place, at least that’s according to a team of researchers and public policy experts from Carnegie Mellon University, Pepperdine University, UCLA and the RAND Corp.

This 2006 chart ranked marijuana as the largest cash crop, with an estimated value of 35.8 billion dollars! If you continue to scroll the chart, you’ll find how marijuana compared to other crops by state using production figures from US Department of Agriculture and estimated figures for marijuana, but here’s the breakdown for Virginia:

Hay                 $ 304.8 million
Marijuana     $ 191.8 million
Soybeans       $ 106. 7 million

What does all that mean? Well, 50% of the population think legalizing marijuana is a good idea and 50% don’t. So 50% of American people will use these figures to show the potential for profit and taxable income from marijuana and 50% of Americans won’t care what the value is, they just will not agree it is a good idea to legalize pot.

Thinking about this after seeing a raft of photographers record the moment, left me with a lot of questions. I wonder about driving while impaired. We know the legal limit of blood alcohol and there’s a page full of questions and answers at the DMV web page. Driving while impaired seems to be the outcome, whether it is by drugs or alcohol, but what is the equivalent of a Breathalyzer for marijuana?

There is a device called SensAbues developed in Sweden and it is believed capable of determining if the driver has smoked marijuana, or used cocaine or methamphetamine. The technology is available to ensure drivers are not driving while impaired, and I hope that gets put to use whether pot is legal or not.

There were several recurring themes I encountered while I was researching this topic:

1. We are spending $8.7 billion a year nationally in law-enforcement costs to arrest, prosecute and jail marijuana violations by about 750,000 individuals. Legalization would not only save a ton of money, it would free up a lot of time devoted by law enforcement and courts.

2. Legalization creates jobs for the “good guys” (store owners, clerks, accountants, farmers, et al) while removing income from the “bad guys” (criminals and drug dealers)

3. Taxation at a rate similar to tobacco and alcohol would result in revenue of approximately $8.7 billion according to this study The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition.

When people protest legalization, the arguments generally follow a line of logic that includes: “Marijuana is a gateway drug!”

There really are very few studies that prove that statement to be true.  A Yale Study does state that adolescents who use alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are more likely to use stronger drugs as adults, but considering that over 1.5 million teenagers are smoking pot, I think that train has already left the station. I also think teens using alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana already have an addictive personality and that must be addressed.

So, what do Potomac Local readers think? Is legalization a good idea or not?

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  • Legalize pot now. We need to stop this insanity of making criminals of our fellow citizens … alcohol, pot, driving while using a cellphone: they all pose dangers.

    I grew up in Florida where possession of marijuana of less than an ounce was a misdemeanor until the early 1980s. People just did not go batsh*t crazy … and the stuff was everywhere. After they decided to get tough on its usage then there were problems.

    Just like the old ’55 MPH’ speed limit, if you condition a person to break one law then they have a tendency to break others.

    Pot needs to be legalized.

    • Interesting perspective, Bill 🙂

      I do hate any law that cannot be adequately enforced. If we removed many of the laws we don’t need, it would leave more resources for laws we do need…but I want the laws for driving impaired to remain and be better enforced.

      Also, I know you love your phone, but I feel like I spend an large amount of time looking in my rear view mirror, watching the person behind me approach the back of my truck at a high rate of speed while looking down at their phone!

      • I love my smartphone, my multiple tablets, and ice cream. However, I have a strict policy against using/holding any of them while driving.

        Driving while impaired, under any circumstance, is not acceptable: which is why we already have laws that cover that … to include putting lipstick on and curling your hair while driving.

  • Captain George S. Harris USN (Ret)

    Connie,While I may regret what I am about to say, I do agree with Bill. Let’s get on with it and hopefully some smart people will figure out what to do with the tax profits.

    • No regrets, George! I think there are a lot more (logical)reasons to legalize than to continue to penalize. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • What Bill said. If I can buy a bottle of Single Malt, I should be able to buy a pack of Acapulco Golds. Rules for responsible use (driving, anything where others might be harmed) should be the same.

  • Renate Vanegas

    Legalize Marijuana. Instead of the criminals/drug dealers making the huge profit, the State could use the same profit to help the needy, enhance our educational system, get the homeless off the streets, lighten up our jails of those with misdemeanor offenses, and help our police departments to enforce all the other laws, like drunken driving, etc.

  • Janelle Anderson

    Returning sooner than expected from the basement laundry room in our Honolulu apartment building, I caught my daughter’s father in the act of getting high on pot with our then six month old baby sitting nearby in her bouncy seat inhaling the smoke. If I had not returned unexpectedly for fabric softener, I might have never known of his irresponsibility.

    If pot is legal in Virginia, how do we protect our children from it?

    Getting drunk while babysitting young children is not responsible, either, but alcohol usually does not lead to a child getting drunk, too.

    If pot is legal, how can children be protected from second-hand smoke?

    • Janelle,

      Protecting our children from second hand pot smoke is no different than protecting our children from drunken, abusive, tobacco smoking or other drug induced state. It’s no different than protecting our children from being run over by a vehicle or kidnapped.

      We want to protect our children from anything that may do them harm, but that protection is a parental responsibility.

      I understand your concern,and I’m not trying to rationalize it, but we can’t possibly have enough laws to protect children from everything.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • Mario

      It shouldn’t be the government’s responsibility to protect our children from the activities of our private homes. Also most studies have shown that there is very little chance of getting “second hand high”

  • BossIluminati

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING!!!13

    new york just flipped today, medical marijuana is on the way….love and freedom are dominating


  • Mario

    Legalize it, regulate it, and tax it. Prohibition should of been a valuable lesson to us about banning substances that will still be consumed. Look at the damage the War on Drugs has caused, its completely destroyed an entire generation of inner city minorities and led to a civil war in Mexico. We need to reevaluate our entire drug policy.

    • Good points, Mario. Thanks for your comments.

  • good grief

    Heard about Andrew Cummo in NY. Don’t know all the in’s and out’s on this subject, but heard on C-Span last night that we have multitudes of inmates in prison that should not be there.

  • Potomac Clubber

    I don’t encourage smoking marijuana at all, especially when kids are involved. But, on the other hand I don’t think people should be charged with a felony either.

    • @ Potomac Clubber. I’m sure the intent is not to encourage smoking marijuana, but because such a large percentage of the population already does so, legalization would eliminate buying illegally through questionable sources, freeing up resources to pursue more “important” crimes.

      I definitely agree…no minors, just like alcohol and tobacco.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • Jen Coleslaw

    I am ambivalent because I don’t partake, nor to I really hang around with folks do do anymore, but tend to agree with legalizing/taxation and or decriminalizing pot. Cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, driving while texting etc are probably far more dangerous to the general public than pot smokers, unless there is a run on doritos. If it can be taxed and we can earmark a substantial percentage of that revenue to go towards something like, say, EDUCATION, then I think it is well worth it. Swimming Pools for All The Schools!

    • Thanks, Jen Coleslaw!

      I am certain that driving while impaired includes driving after smoking pot, (as does DUI or any other drugs.)

      I appreciate your remarks.

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