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Hundreds of Economists Agree Marijuana Legalization Could Save U.S Taxpayers $13.7 Billion Per Year

Jonathan Benson
Natural News / News Analysis
Published: Sunday 22 April 2012
“If drugs like marijuana became decriminalized, the prison industry would lose a large chunk of its business.”
Article image

Marijuana prohibition currently costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year to enforce, and it accomplishes little or nothing beneficial in terms of economic benefits. On the contrary, legalizing marijuana would not only save taxpayers billions of dollars a year in unnecessary costs, but it would also jumpstart the economy to the tune of $100 billion a year or more, say some economists.

In an open letter written to the President, Congress, State Governors, and State Legislators, more than 550 economists, including several nobel laureates, draw attention to a report authored by Professor Jeffrey A. Miron that highlights the potential economic benefits of marijuana decriminalization. Entitled The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition, the report states that legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana would do wonders to reduce inflated budgets and generate new revenue streams.

"[R]eplacing prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation [...] would save $7.7 billion per year in state and federal expenditures on prohibition enforcement and produce tax revenues of at least $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like most consumer goods," say the economists. "If, however, marijuana were taxed similarly to alcohol or tobacco, it might generate as much as $6.2 billion annually."

You can view the entire petition at:

As many as 60 million Americans are already estimated to be spending upwards of $110 billion a year on marijuana, the vast majority of which ends up in the hands of organized crime units. If marijuana was legalized, honest citizens could grow and sell it instead, which would inject new life into the flailing economy, and redirect billions of dollars in cash flow from criminals to legitimate growers.

"At a minimum, this debate will force advocates of current policy to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues, and numerous ancillary consequences that result from marijuana prohibition," add the economists.

Marijuana prohibition benefits Big Pharma, prison system

If marijuana were legalized nationwide, however, the drug industry and the prison system, much of which has now been privatized, would suffer greatly. And this, of course, is one of the primary reasons why these special interests are working hard to squelch all efforts to legalize marijuana at the national level.

According to a 2009 report published by NowPublic, the United States incarcerates the most individuals per capita compared to any other country in the world. And the "War on Drugs," which continually targets marijuana users and dealers, is largely responsible for making America the most imprisoned nation in the world (

"According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), 30 to 40 percent of all current prison admissions involve crimes that have no direct or obvious victim other than the perpetrator," says a 2008 DOJ report. "The drug category constitutes the largest offense category, with 31 percent of all prison admissions resulting from such crimes."

If drugs like marijuana became decriminalized, the prison industry would lose a large chunk of its business -- after all, who is going to fill all those empty prison cells in all the new privately-owned prisons being erected across the country?

The other major player in the "War on Drugs" is Big Pharma, which stands to lose a significant portion of its business if marijuana is legalized as well. Marijuana, after all, is a powerful, natural medicine that can eliminate chronic pain, balance brain chemistry, mimic the regulatory system of cellular physiology, and even treat cancer, among other things.

ABOUT Jonathan Benson

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Bryan Hemming's picture

Can't say I'm so amused to

Can't say I'm so amused to see Johnathan Benson's piece on the economics of marijuana and how it could help the economy when I submitted an article entitled The Myth Peddlars to NationofChange on exactly the same subject last October.

Perhaps not quite in the style the editors would like, nevertheless, I was still promised a reply very shortly. I'm still waiting.

Perhaps this is my reply, saying, despite our high-minded sounding principles, we're just like every other bunch of journos: we nick other people's ideas, change 'em around a bit, then call 'em our own.

Still, you don't have to take my word for it, judge for yourselves:

How old is this petition?

How old is this petition? Milton Friedman is the lead signer, and he died in 2006. Being old doesn't invalidate such a petition or a movement to bring change, but I think Nation of Change should clearly state the history and current level of activity of this petition. Is it in fact being delivered to the President, Congress, State Governors, and State Legislators in April 2012?

It will also stop the gang

It will also stop the gang warfare that is currently being waged in Mexico. The market can be meet by producers here in the states. Oh, but wait. I see corporate take overs happening. The tobacco industry will take over the pot growing and out source it to Mexico, and it again will become illegal to grow pot. It was a good idea while it lasted.

I think some of the

I think some of the commenters here are missing the point. It isn't just that legal cannibis could be taxed, but that the outrageous costs associated with law enforcement and encarceration for posession and use of Marijuana would be reduced or eleminated. Of course, in this country in the 21st century, there are profits to be made in law enforcement and the prison endustry and anyone whose paycheck depends on those industries will moralize and oppose the libralization of the laws on Marijuana and even the cultivation of industrialized hemp. The existing laws serve them and not the rest of us.

In a free society, the only

In a free society, the only restrictions on behavior allowed must always be based upon education and personal choice or it is no longer a free society.
The biggest problem with pot is that it is as easy to grow and prepare as alfalfa, and no one has a use for a whole bale.
If it is legal, it must be cheap enough, or only the lazy or homeless will not grow their own and have to buy it.There are industries that are currently protected from competing with pot.
If it were legalized those industries would not survive. The beneficiaries of those industries realize that and will make whatever political contributions are needed to buy protection at the expense of American society.The societal losses from hemp products also being illegal is just legal collateral damage.

There are few taxes paid on

There are few taxes paid on laundered money, you are naive. Sounds like you would lose part of your income were it legalized.

You are grossly misinformed.

You are grossly misinformed. Legalizing cannabis also includes the variety of hemp grown to produce fiber for clothing and rope, oil for lubrication, seeds and oil for nutrition and 101 other uses for this very versatile plant.

Marijuana has grown over the

Marijuana has grown over the years, too. It is now more popular to use it as an edible and/or oil. As an edible/oil, it provides greater relief for pain, cancer, etc.. Simpson Oil is curing brain cancer in children and tumors shrink in adults. Elderly who are undergoing chemo don't have to suffer after treatment. When did this society get so heartless to deny medicinal use to help those suffering? The trouble is that growing it under private ownership will make that business very that all our gov't will get - taxes? The very rich DON'T pay fair the government should control growing and let the ordinary citizen grow small amounts for medicinal purposes. How threatening can that be? Simpson oil costs $3000 - way beyond health insurance companies picking up the bill or an average to save their childs life.

This is bull. Legalization of

This is bull. Legalization of cannibus will not bring in more tax revenue. Already people making a living growing it are laundering their money and paying taxes on it. What legalization will do is make it virtually profitless for everyone, even corporations wishing to cash in, because people will simply grow it in their backyards. This will result in those now laundering and paying taxes to have no income and will then reduce tax revenue. If you don't believe it, just look at Canada. No profit in it.

Legalizing pot isn't the cure-all for economic stupidity. There may be good reasons to legalize pot, but stimulating the economy is simply not one of them.

Minor possession and small

Minor possession and small sales of marijuana in Canada are illegal, but not enforced. There is extensive criminal involvement in production just over the border from the Pacific Northwest, where I live, with rental houses destroyed by grow ops and some gang violence--there's big money in it, and interdiction just helps prop up the price.

Pot is already easier for kids to get than alcohol, in both Canada and the US. Regulate it like wine or beer--limited home production is OK, but all sales and commercial production are regulated and taxed.

Don't be stupid. You clearly

Don't be stupid. You clearly have no idea how many people buy pot. And it certainly could stimulate the economy, not as a cure-all, but what ONE thing is going to be a cure-all? Besides, it's time to face facts: pot is GOOD for you.

The so-called "drug war" is

The so-called "drug war" is about the biggest boondoggle ever created besides fake wars in other countries. It has failed and will continue to fail. It's something created to get our minds off of the real issues. Legalization of all drugs would not create increased usage of those drugs. Certainly there would be experimentation of banned drugs, but over the short term, nothing would change. Druggies will be druggies. The best way to stop drug usage is through education (not fabrication) and addiction treatment centers.

nuQlerOstrich's picture

"Prohibition will work great

"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."

Abraham Lincoln - Speech, 18 Dec. 1840, to Illinois House of Representatives

Thanks for the quote!

Thanks for the quote!

It is hard for me to believe

It is hard for me to believe that the arguments like "..what about the children..." and "it is a dangerous drug which causes brain damage" are sincere or that they are taken seriously anymore. The article explained how there were profits to be made by keeping this relatively harmless herb illegal, so it isn't surprising that nonsense is spewed by trolls on this issue. Anyone who still sincerely believes such misinformation is just an illinformed ignorant fool.

Freedom is a messy business,

Freedom is a messy business, and good parenting cannot be achieved by legislation. Continued prohibition is senseless.

One of the biggest problems

One of the biggest problems in this country is that we ask the economists what to do because all we care about is money. The money "saved" by legalizing pot would be triply lost trying to make up for all the damage that it would do.

Back before pot was made

Back before pot was made illegal there was no wholesale damages done. Potheads are not violent and their most illegal act is generally smoking pot.

Smoking pot and drinking

Smoking pot and drinking alcohol are like the difference between night and day. Alcohol--think broken families, domestic abuse and other violent crimes plus thousands of drunk drivers wreaking havoc on pedestrians and other drivers, and those are just for starters. On the other hand, pot--"Duuuude, chill..."
Get my drift?

Idk man, Smoking weed is

Idk man, Smoking weed is pretty dangerous.. for your refrigerator :D

The problem with asking the

The problem with asking the economists is that they know nothing about the damage the drug will do to our children if it is legalized, the increase in human trafficking that will occur, and the damage the drug does to the human brain. When you factor in children being exposed in their homes, apartment dwellers being forced to inhale the second-hand smoke from their neighbors, the problem doesn't look so easy to solve. Then add the fact that criminals are criminals: They won't go looking for legitimate jobs just because marijuana is legal and the fastest growing crime open to them is human trafficking. I know this for a fact because I worked in a prison and the inmates told me what they'd do if drugs were legal. Also, people would continue to grow their own: So much for taxes and government revenue. We'd continue to have a black market. Add to all that the fact that marijuana damages the brain, and you have a drug that SHOULD NEVER BE LEGAL. Those who don't believe that last fact can just do a web search for marijuana and brain. More than a decade ago, research proved that serious damage is done to people who smoke marijuana, and people can see for themselves by looking at the pictures.

okay, lets take a look here

okay, lets take a look here at the facts. You say "over a decade ago it was discovered that pot can cause serious damage". You know what else they did a decade ago? They tested it on monkeys. They put on breathing apparatus' and pumped an amount of smoke equivalent to 46000 Cuban rolled joints per 5 minutes. The monkeys obviously died after prolonged exposure to too much smoke in their lungs, not because the harmful drug. Another thing, human trafficking. That is a HUGE escalation of what the initial argument is. Just because the legalization would happen, there are still PLENTY of other things that Gangs are related in. You think just because you worked in a prison that provides any sort of validity to your argument? I want facts. Because all you've given me is 50 year old evidence that has already been refuted in recent studies. Marijuana of course has some bad effects, but nothing compared to CIGARETTES, PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS, and FAST FOODS. In fact, the plant Cannabis Sativa has more positive effects than negative. The negative effects are literally incapable of killing you, or bringing you closer to death. Notice how pot smokers have outlived any other drug abusers(Cheech and Chong are a great example.) And apartment dwellers are forced to inhale the second-hand smoke from their neighbors? Oh, so second hand cigarette smoke is perfectly fine because you know, it only destroys your lungs and kills 443,000 people in the US a year. How many people have died from habitual Marijuana smoking? None. I'd rather be inhaling a natural herb second hand, than shit chemicals that are man made and destructive. You must be a troll, cause those were ridiculous arguments that you've provided. NICE TRY THOUGH :D

Legalizing Marijuana is a

Legalizing Marijuana is a really bad idea and here is why. When I grew up the drinking age was 21 and yes 18 year olds occasionally went to clubs with fake ID's. However during Vietnam it was lowered to 18 and that began high school kids drinking, why, because 18 year old boys more often than not date 16 and 17 year old girls and often have younger siblings. That brought it into the house and it has never left. If you legalize Marijuana you will have the same problem with between one eight to one quarter of High School kids as regular users and a lesser number with serious addition problems.

The official drug policy is

The official drug policy is asinine and doomed to failure. Not the role of government to rule over morality, it's religion's. Let pastors threaten addicts with hell like they do with fornicators. No country is exempt or has monopoly over corruption with 25% to 80% of world lawmen on the take from the drug trade.

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