Thursday, February 26, 2009

Towards a sane marijuana policy

Signaling an end to one of the most senseless and destructive aspects of US drug policy, AG Holder announced at a recent presser that the "Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana clubs that are established legally under state law." Surely a relief to the terminally ill who depend on the plant to ease their pain, not to be forced into the black market to get their medicine. Arresting these people and their providers, who pose no real danger to society, cost us billions in tax dollars that could be better spent elsewhere.

Further, now matter what you think about the use of the plant as a medicine, the pure economics of generating income by allowing the dispensaries to operate instead of draining public coffers to shut them down, makes the strongest argument for the policy. Consider this for instance:
Harborside is charged an 8.75 percent tax. With revenue of around $1 million per month, its annual sales-tax bill comes in at something like $875,000 per year. And that's just one shop. Betty Yee, chairwoman of the State Board of Equalization, which oversees tax collection, told me that there's no way to break out exactly how much money the state is getting from pot clubs because it doesn't require them to state on their tax forms what product they sell. ("Regardless of legal status, anyone can get a seller's permit," she explained.) However, she did release the tax records of some clubs that had been raided by the federal government, noting that because they employed sizable numbers of people, they also paid state and federal income and payroll taxes. The Compassion Center, licensed by Alameda County, paid $3 million before being shuttered in October 2007 by the DEA. Nature's Medicinal, licensed by Kern Country, paid close to $1 million in 2007, which included $203,000 in state and federal income taxes, $365,000 in payroll taxes, and $427,000 in sales taxes. The Compassion Center employed and provided health benefits to fifty people; Nature's Medicinal twenty-five.
Additionally, marijuana legalization advocates estimate, if the plant was made legal for recreational use as well, the tax revenue in California alone would be in the range of $2 billion. At a time when our economy is tettering on the brink of collapse, our legislators would do well to listen to public opinion -- a majority of Americans support full legalization -- and consider ending the war on marijuana altogether. Our society has survived well with a thriving underground industry. It's about time we allowed the consumers to step out of the shadows and contribute to our economic health in the full light of day.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home