by Anthony DelCioppo

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report there were about 693,481 arrests on marijuana-related charges in 2013, with about 88 percent of those arrests being for possession. Erik Altieri of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) said on NORML’s website a couple of weeks ago that he estimates at least $457 million was spent on arresting individuals for marijuana possession in 2013.

Though estimates and projections vary, some economists say that marijuana prohibition could be costing our government $20 billion a year. Jeffery Miron, a lecturer at Harvard University, estimates that $8.7 billion would be saved by ending prohibition and another $8.7 billion would be generated in tax revenue.

So what could we do with an extra $20 billion a year?

Let’s take a look at a few programs that our taxes pay for…

Education: With an extra $20 billion we could hire over half a million more teachers at an average salary of $36,141, or, we could just pay the good ones more.

National Defense: I don’t even want to get started on this, but $20 billion could barely buy 57 B-2 Spirit bombers, so, not much help here with an $800 billion defense budget.

Law Enforcement: Tax payers pay about $34 billion a year for law enforcement, of which $450,000,000+ is used to turn around and arrest people for possession of the very drug that could save the tax payers $8.7 billion and generate another $8.7 billion in tax revenue.

NASA: $20 billion could fund NASA for over a year. In fact, if you go back to 1958 (NASA’s inception) NASA has only spent about $600 billion in 56 years. Let’s put that in perspective – NASA’s entire 56 year budget has cost tax payers $200 billion less than 1 year of our $800 billion National Defense budget.

U.S. Veteran Benefits: The VA employs nearly 280,000 people with an annual budget of about $87 billion. An internal VA audit released in June of this year, found that more than 120,000 veterans were left waiting or never got care; think a 23% increase in funding could help get our Veterans the health care they need?

National Debt: In 2013 the government paid out $222 billion in interest alone on our $16.74 trillion national debt. Ending marijuana prohibition could help pay about 10% of the annual interest on our national debt.

If you’re suffering from vertigo from reading these statistics don’t worry, it’s not you that’s upside down; it’s our government’s egregious stance on marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

Marijuana legalization is so enigmatic that just weeks after Washington D.C. voted to legalize marijuana recreationally, congress introduced a bill designed to block the legalization of recreational use in D.C.

Yet in the same week, The Department of Justice announced that they will no longer prosecute federal laws regulating the growing or selling of marijuana on Native American reservations, even if state laws say otherwise.

So in case you’re confused about the government’s stance on marijuana, here’s a recap:

  • Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning the DEA considers it a dangerous substance that has no recognized medical use and has a high potential for abuse (heroin is also considered a Schedule 1 drug).
  • 23 states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana medicinally including 4 states fully recreational (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington).
  • The Obama Administration has said that it would not challenge laws legalizing marijuana, yet the DEA continues to raid marijuana grow operations in states where marijuana is legal.
  • The Department of Justice announced that it will let tribal governments decide what to do with marijuana on the 326 federally recognized Native American Reservations.
  • The government spent nearly a half billion dollars in tax payer money to arrest people for marijuana possession in 2013.

So as of now the government’s official stance is, uh… ‘Let the states and Native Americans decide what to do about marijuana. Then, we’ll continue to usurp the authority we granted the states and/or tribes, using their own tax money to arrest them for possession of the very thing we said we wouldn’t prosecute them for.’

To borrow a line from Skip Bayless of ESPN — it’s asinine, asi-ten, asi-leven, asi-twleve


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