Recently, Rolling Stone’s Kristen Gwynne looked at five of Marijuana legalization’s biggest opponents- Kevin Sabet, Mel and Betty Sembler, Michele Leonhart, Gil Kerlikowske, and David Frum– and the financial and political motives for their opposition to legal pot. While I can understand the motivations of these individuals, I don’t understand why Obama, a president that I strongly support, though I don’t always agree with, continues to fight the war against legalization, when there is overwhelming evidence that it is time to make Marijuana legal for medicinal or recreational purposes.
1) The War on Drugs has failed to stop people from using drugs: U.S. citizens use more illegal drugs than the inhabitants of any other country. The US government’s 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that over 22 million Americans age 12 and over use illegal drugs.
2) The US Government has spent over a trillion dollars in taxpayer’s money the last forty years fighting a drug war that hasn’t stopped drug use. It is estimated that the yearly national cost for Marijuana posession arrests alone is over $10 billion dollars.
3) The United States has now incarcerated more of its own citizens than any other country in the world, thanks to the Drug War: Although the United States has less than five percent of the world’s population, it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. This is largely a result of the Drug War. Back in 1980, the U.S. prison population was about 150 per 100,000 adults. It has quadrupled since then. What drove this? An almost tenfold increase in drug convictions, from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 inmates to 100,000 adults in 1996. More than half of federal prisoners are in for drug crimes.
4) More people are now arrested in the United States for Marijuana posession than for violent crimes: There were more than 663,032 Marijuana posession arrests in 2011, which was more than the number of arrests for all violent crimes combined that year. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, one person is arrested for a Marijuana offense every 42 seconds. Nearly 86% of these arrests are for posession.
5) Black people are far more likely to be arrested on drug charges, although they don’t use or sell drugs more than white people: Human Rights Watch found that although blacks and whites use and sell drugs at comparable rates, blacks were arrested “on drug charges at rates that were 2.8 to 5.5 times as high as those of white adults in every year from 1980 through 2007”. One in three of the over 25 million people arrested for drugs during that time were black.
6) The United States spends on average more than $30,000 to incarcerate an inmate, which is money it could be spending in better ways: A Pew Study found that it costs 30,000 dollars per year to incarcerate an inmate. In comparison, the United States only spends an average of 11,665 dollars to educate a public school student.
7) Marijuana is far less deadly than legal substances like alcohol, cigarettes, and countless prescription drugs:
8) Legalizing and taxing Marijuana could generate billions in tax revenue each year: In a study for the CATO Institute, Jeffrey Miron and Katherine Waldock estimate that the U.S. government could take in 8.7 billion dollars of tax revenue yearly if Marijuana was taxed at the same rate alcohol and tobacco are.
9) More and more Americans see the Drug War as a failure and support Marijuana legalization: According to a Rasmussen poll, 82% of Americans say the US is losing the war on drugs. A May 2012 Rasmussen poll found that the majority of likely US voters supported legalizing Marijuana like alcohol or tobacco.
10) Numerous prominent politicians, including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, have admitted the War on Drugs has failed: In the film Breaking the Taboo, both former presidents admitted as much.
I was happy to see Obama change his opinion and come out in support of gay marriage. Here’s hoping he’ll eventually come out in support of Marijuana legalization as well. I have a feeling he will eventually.
So what do you think? Do you think Obama will ever support Marijuana legalization?
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