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Over 95 Million Served July 21, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Drug War, Economy, Marijuana, Politics, Taxes, US Drug Policy.
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marijuana restaurantEveryone probably has heard at least one story about the unsuspecting tourist in Amsterdam that walks into a “coffee shop” expecting to get a cup of coffee.   For those that have not, a coffee shop in Amsterdam is where one can go to smoke marijuana – if you want coffee, go to a cafe.  I was amused to no end when an aunt of mine visited one of these places and brought back a menu.  I did not ask if she ordered off it.

Like many Americans, I have operated under the assumption that Marijuana is legal in the Netherlands.  To my surprise, it is not – it has merely been decriminalized for the use of small amounts – and the establishments that sell it are legal, though they are not allowed by law to grow their own supplies.  This is to ensure the safety of the supply as well as the government’s income from it.  Recently, the Dutch government has been cracking down on the Amsterdam coffee shops – new zoning laws are regulating where they can be located – but the city still has over 200 operational establishments.  One of the reasons cited is so that all drug use – including marijuana use – is discouraged.  It is estimated that about 17% of the Dutch population has ever used marijuana and 3% have used it within the past month.

Compare these statistics – in a country where marijuana use is discouraged but tolerated – to the U.S. policy wherein marijuana use is a crime and the punishments are severe.  Almost 37% of Americans have used marijuana in their lifetimes (about 95 million of them) and five and a half per cent have used in the past month.   The American “War on Drugs” has certainly not been successful in curbing illegal drug use.  About 20% of the inmates in American state prisons are incarcerated on non-violent drug offenses.  Of these, 47% are marijuana offenses and 90% of those are for simple possession.

There has been a growing chorus to rethink American drug policy – especially where marijuana use is concerned.  California estimates the value of marijuana grown and distributed in the state at approximately $6.4 billion annually.  Taxed at a rate similar to alcohol, California could bring in revenues of about $1.5 million per year plus achieve savings on prosecution and incarceration of drug offenders.  About eight and a half per cent of the California prison population – about 13,000 inmates – are incarcerated for an average two years.  It costs California $31,000 per year to house a single inmate.  This translates to over $800 million to keep those prisoners incarcerated for two years.  A non-violent offender caught up in the “three-strikes” policy would average a 25-year sentence and cost the state over $750,000 to keep him incarcerated.  When does the end – cost – no longer justify the means?  Law enforcement has more important responsibilities than arresting 750,000 individuals a year for marijuana possession, especially given the additional justice costs of disposing of each of these cases. Marijuana arrests make justice more expensive and less efficient in the United States, wasting jail space, clogging up court systems, and diverting time of police, attorneys, judges, and corrections officials away from violent crime, the sexual abuse of children, and terrorism.

Many on the other side of this debate, those who would argue for the continued prohibition of marijuana, cite the drugs addictive and “gateway” properties.   Several studies, however, have shown these arguments to be erroneous.  In a 1999 study by the Institutes of Medicine, researchers concluded that “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”   They reasoned that marijuana was considered a gateway drug in that “Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana — usually before they are of legal age.”  As far as addictive properties, marijuana is considerably less so than alcohol; alcohol has twice the intoxication rate of marijuana and three times the dependence rate.  The dependence rate of caffeine is twice as high as that of marijuana.

Lastly, there are other economic benefits to marijuana legalization.  Foremost among these is the development of Hemp as an eco-friendly cash crop.  As one of the fastest-growing biomasses on the planet, the Hemp plant can be cultivated anywhere in the world and requires nearly no pesticides or herbicides.  Because of its density, it has been valued in farming for weed control and soil enrichment.  The plant can also be used to “mop” impurities and chemical out of the soil and water.  Hemp fiber can be used in cordage, building materials, biofuels, fabric, and paper.  Hemp seeds are also a nutritionally sound foodstuff and could bring more food security around the globe.

When you stack up all the benefits of marijuana and hemp against the policies we follow in this country today, it is clear that we are going down the wrong road.  We need voices and politicians that are unafraid to bring this issue to the forefront and turn us in the right direction.

(Please see the NORML website for more information on legalization)

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3. Get_A_Life_Druggies - June 10, 2010

morons, if you wanna destroy your body, go ahead…. BUT YOU AINT GETTIN’ NO REPLACEMENTS FROM ME!

4. kay - March 26, 2010

weed rocks i dont know what i would do if i didnt know what weed is i live on that shit i would never, never ever give it up if i had to i could never live without weed in my life. FREE THE WEED !!!!!!!

5. pennie - March 25, 2010

wow i think if it gets into the right hands its okay =}

6. josef erlebach - March 19, 2010

no one gives 2 shits about the police coming to their house, and if they did it would be retarded because if they did, they would need a warrant, and if a judge gives them a warrant to search your house or go there at all for saying you love marijuana, then that would be really fucked up. and pot isnt bad people, alcohol and cigarettes are. pot has never killed anyone, but THEY have.

7. HIGH :) - March 17, 2010

IM SO HIGH RIGHT NOW 🙂 🙂 🙂

8. Lee - February 25, 2010

i live in Ottawa canada.. i got busted for selling rock.. thy gave my weed back to me and gave me a court date.. i did not get charges for the pot… the cops here in Canada don’t give 2 fucks about petty shit like that…

9. dustin - February 17, 2010

i agree it would really help the econamey and clear out the jails there should be a law on it just like drinking you can buy it at stores and if you get pulled over with it you cant have more than an ounce with you or then it could be a ticket or sominthing you shouldnt be able to buy it on the street only in stores i mean whats the big deal it isnt hurting anyone when have you ever heard about someone dieing over smoking to much?? the only thing that can happen is you will just pass out and wake up and eat some pop tarts like really i can speak as a happy stoner -Dustin Seffron-

10. fred motz - January 23, 2010

i enjoyed reading your article.

11. GET HIGH!!!!! - January 8, 2010

legilize it nigga

12. ROSS - December 16, 2009

FREE THE WEED

13. fred - December 15, 2009

Dont you know that marijuana can kill you. it ruins you lungs and causes premature death and it deposits four times more tar that tobacco

14. fred - December 15, 2009

i heard that marijuana is really bad for u and im doing a project on it 😛

15. Yvette - December 11, 2009

i agree Legalize it! our U.S. governmen twould be out of debt or whatever and they would start making ALOT more money if they would sell weed!! Shoot i would buy it!!!

16. Ckol - December 8, 2009

u pplz r craZy u know that police can trace ur email to ur house

17. legalize IT! - December 6, 2009

I would definitely say it should be decriminalized! Marijuana is no where near as harmful as alcohol. If the Government were to regulate it along with alcohol and tobacco it would be a huge aspect to boost our economy. I would gladly pay a tax on a legal “marijuana cigarette.” I smoke a good bit, at least 4 times a day, and I still work forty hours a week, go to college full time, play on an indoor soccer team, run and work out every day…where’s the harm in it?! If anything, my to-do list every day is much more enjoyable. ha.
thanks

18. kimberly - November 24, 2009

hell yeah i love weed lol and i l0ove marijuana i think this is areally great idea just like if anybody needs a break or something they kan just go there after work or somethung you noe.

19. Aaron Jarvis - November 16, 2009

I agree,i just wish the united states would legilize it.i think the u.s would benifit from it.it would create busnisess and bring in tourist and that would help business every where.It would also cut down the crime.if pot was leagle it would cut the number of people in jail.
thats my opinnion about marjuana.
Aaron Jarvis


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