California’s Economic Turmoil-Marijuana and Hemp Could Help

July 18, 2009 – Two days ago, StonerNation linked to an article from the SacBee that noted clear benefits to legalizing marijuana in California. These benefits included raising nearly $1.4 billion per year in state revenues. That money, while amounting Picture 7to a significant chunk of change, won’t do nearly enough to plug the hole in the state deficit, which currently rests at a mighty $26 billion. But just because it isn’t enough to stop the bleeding, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth doing. Raising $1.4 billion in revenue could be just the tip of the iceberg of the money that would either be saved or raised by changing the current marijuana laws and policies.

Most people who have some grasp of reality understand that the drug war is essentially the war against marijuana. California alone recorded a staggering 75,000 arrests in 2007 alone. (Just for a comparison, there were about 870,000 marijuana arrests in the entire U.S. in 2007) Perhaps the best illustration of how much money and resources are wasted fighting marijuana is that as of 2007, someone was busted for smoking pot every 38 seconds. I would wager that if you asked people in private whether they thought spending millions to bust first time offenders for mere possession was a good use of resources, a good amount would disagree. It just seems wasteful. There is a reason we have overcrowding in our jails and prisons, and it isn’t because we stow away a ton of murderers.

According to, there have already been about 475,000 arrests for cannabis-related violations this year, with about 90% of those arrests stemming from mere possession. As we stand about halfway through the year, the United States seems well on its way to matching or exceeding previous arrest numbers. So what would happen if we stopped arresting people for something as silly has having a joint or a gram of pot on their person? In California, decriminalization alone would lead to an estimated savings of $170 million, which includes savings generated from cutting budgets from prisons, jails, court costs and other general law enforcement costs associated with marijuana arrests. $170 million is a small fraction of what California currently needs, but considering the fact that all the major banks in California have indicated that they will stop accepting I.O.U.’s this week, California really doesn’t have much choice other than to find new and creative ways to squeeze money into the system. Combine the savings here with the revenue that could be generated from legalizing and regulating marijuana, and you have $1.57 billion in additional revenue that would show up immediately. This doesn’t count any potential revenue that would come from a revived industrial-hemp sector, and as some people know, hemp is stronger than cotton and can be adapted for numerous uses, including making paper, clothing, and building materials. One estimate places the California cotton industry at pumping roughly $3.5 billion into the California economy. Because hemp has more potential uses than cotton, it is quite possible that a newfound hemp industry would also have the capability of generating similar amounts of revenue for the state. Of course, it isn’t as simple as that, because a thriving hemp industry would likely destroy or at the very least severely cut into the cotton industry’s profit margins. But it would be interesting to see a cotton/hemp battle. Competition amongst the two could stir things up in a good way for consumers and the state. Considering the sad current economic state of affairs in the golden state, mixing things up might be the only way the state can dig itself out of this mess. Source.

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