After discussing both sides of the argument in my last couple posts, I have come to the conclusion that the pros of passing Prop 64 do outweigh the cons, and I strongly believe that the state of California should legalize marijuana for recreational use. Ultimately it came down to two key factors, one, the enormous economic boost the state will receive and two, the fact that legalization will save thousands of innocent Americans from unjust mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug crimes.
As I explained in an earlier post, the recreational marijuana industry is expected to become worth billions of dollars, generating millions in tax revenue to help balance the state’s budget and debt crisis. According to Melody Gutierrez, an author for the San Francisco Chronicle, California’s debt is shockingly well over $400 billion and growing. Large chunks of this deficit can be taken care through the tax revenue that would come in after legalization. The LA Times Editorial Board announces that, “California dispensaries sold an estimated $2.7-billion worth of marijuana last year, and industry observers predict that recreational and medical market could increase to $6-billion by 2020,” showing the potential sums of revenue California may obtain and benefit from.
It is said that the tax revenue will be implemented into programs such as drug use prevention and treatment, lawmaking and enforcement, environmental cleanup and research, and helping at-risk youth by the first few years of legalization. Although tax revenue isn’t distributed straight to local cities or counties, according to Brooks Edwards Staggs, a writer for the Orange County Register, she says, “There also would be opportunities for governments, schools, public safety agencies and nonprofits in cities that welcome the cannabis industry to compete for hundreds of millions a year in grants that will fund substance abuse programs, offset enforcement costs and more,” that will give a chance to governments, schools, and public safety agencies to invest and create innovative projects with their money. I believe that the best way to utilize this new money is to invest it in our education system and help out poorer schools.
After coming from a private high school and entering college, I was shocked to learn that students coming from public high schools did not receive enough funding to be provided with most of the resources that I thought of as necessities. It is my hope that the revenue generated from this new industry will be invested in a responsible way that will help fund a better future while also preventing marijuana consumption from getting out of control.
Other than just the money generated, another reason I support legalization is that it will save many “innocent” people from being arrested due to such a minor offense and also save California residents from having to pay taxes to keep those innocent people behind bars. A supporter of legalization and an attorney for Drug Policy Action, Jolene Forman
says, “It wastes taxpayer dollars locking up young people, diverts law enforcement resources away from more important work, and places cruel burdens on black and Latino communities, even though whites, blacks, and Latinos sell and use marijuana at equal rates.” He also adds that, “In 2010, more than 54,800 people were arrested on misdemeanor marijuana charges,” exposing the unjust amount of innocent people, often young people, committing no crime other than wanting to have a good time with friends.
Overall, I support legalization because of the idea of killing two birds with one stone, which I proposed in an earlier post. The state California can both gain a billion dollar industry and significantly reduce crime rates through passing one single law. While there is the possibility of corruption as thirsty businessmen are eagerly waiting to take advantage of the new industry and all its potential profits, ultimately the pros outweigh the cons. If Prop 64 passes, however, we as citizens of California cannot sit around and just hope politicians and lawmakers use the potential money responsibly. We must put pressure on our government to ensure that the corruption does takeover the industry and that the money is invested into the right things, such as research, education, and substance abuse prevention. With that being said, I urge all Californians, young and old, liberals and conservatives, heavy stoners and casual smokers, to all vote YES on Proposition 64 and legalize our state’s long relationship with its good old friend, Mary Jane.