California: Prospect of Marijuana Legalization Brings Out “Reefer Madness”

March 20, 2010 – Pastor Ron Allen of Sacramento is one of the leaders of a coalition of cops and clergy who say legalizing marijuana will lead to the use of harder drugs and only cause more problems for society.

For Allen, this is also a personal crusade. He was a crack cocaine addict for seven years, and he says it all started with marijuana.

So, Pastor Allen, you have to admit that marijuana and crack being illegal did absolutely nothing to stop you from trying them, right?

And you’d have to admit that using marijuana put you into contact with people who sold crack, right?

I’m curious, Pastor Allen, if you have ever had an alcoholic drink, and if so, why you aren’t campaigning to reinstate alcohol prohibition?

Passage “would devastate California to the fullest extent. … This is the worst thing that California could ever try to do,” Allen said.

“To legalize marijuana with our kids, we are going to see more dropouts, we are going to see more crime, we are going to see more thefts, and we are going to see our kids just hanging out on the corner,” he said.

Boy, it’s a good thing that we’re not proposing to legalize marijuana for our kids, huh?  This is a proposal for adults 21 and over, Pastor.  What we have now is dropouts, crime, thefts, and kids hanging out on the corner, kids that say year after year that marijuana is easier for them to get than alcohol.

Pastor Ron ought to look at the data regarding California’s experience with limited medical legalization.  From 1999-2006, teen past month use of marijuana dropped by -1.19%, from the #22 state and above national average in teen use in 1999 to the #32 state and below the national average in 2006.

Advocates say taxing marijuana could generate $1.4 billion in revenue for California every year, and save the state tens if not hundreds of millions dollars more in enforcement costs.

But any tax revenue derived from legalizing marijuana would be “blood money,” Allen said.

“They would have to have new smokers and new smokers would be our youth and our next generation,” Allen said.

“And the money that they are talking about gaining on taxes, they are not telling us on how much more the parents will spend on funerals, on how much more the kids are going to spend in the emergency room,” he said. “It will exceed those taxes.”

So somehow, there is going to be more than $1.4 billion in funerals and medical costs due to people smoking legal marijuana.  These numbers are very easy to calculate.  All you need to do is take all the cannabis smokers in California now, some 2.3 million people who use annually, divide that by the money they and their families spent on medical bills and funerals due to the marijuana smoking, and you have the base number that a California marijuana smoker costs per year.  Then divide $1.4 billion by that base to project how many more new pot smokers there would have to be to eat up all the tax revenues.

Hmm, that’s a problem, because marijuana is non-toxic and causes few medical bills and no funerals (not counting people shot over marijuana because it is illegal).  Division by zero is impossible.  We’ll have to think of this another way.

Let’s suppose that the same 2.3 million Californians smoke pot after legalization as before.  Let’s pretend that those 2.3 million somehow eat up the $1.4 billion in tax revenues.  That works out to $608 that each pot smoker would have to cost California per year in funerals and medical costs (and lost productivity, crime, and whatever other crazy non-marijuana-related causes you’d like to add) in order to make pot legalization revenue-neutral.

But that’s not really fair, because if we make these assumptions, then we’d have to assume the pot smokers are costing $608 each now as we’re bringing in $0 tax dollars and spending $426 per smoker in law enforcement costs.  So realistically, there would have to be an increase in the number of pot smokers in order for a net loss to be realized.

Let’s say pot smoking goes up by half following re-legalization – quite a stretch, because that means for every two pot smokers now, there’s one who really wants to but won’t until it is legal.  The current 2.3 million smokers allegedly cost $608 each, but we’re saving $426 each by not arresting them, so the current smokers will cost a net $182 each.  That’s $418 million.  Then the new 1.15 million pot smokers will cost the full $608, so that’s $699 million.  So in this insane scenario of Pastor Allen’s, even with pot smoking increasing by half, we’ve only used up $1.117 billion of the $2.1 billion in taxes (since the tax revenues would go up by half, too.)

So even with a completely wild-ass guess of $608 in health costs per cannabis user and the well-documented $426 in law enforcement costs per cannabis user and an implausible 50% increase in cannabis users, California still comes out about a billion dollars ahead.  California comes out even farther ahead when realistic estimates of health costs are used, like Canada’s recent study that showed a cannabis user cost Canada $20 each per year, not anywhere close to $608.


One response to “California: Prospect of Marijuana Legalization Brings Out “Reefer Madness””

  1. It really makes you wonder if any of the opposition to legalization have actually read all the data. It’s kind of like HCR. An independent panel says the plan Obama signed will reduce the deficit, but they just are sure they’re wrong. So produce evidence to the contrary or shut up. And being a past drug user, with your anecdotal experience, is irrelevant.Most marijuana users have opposing anecdotal experiences.

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