Aloha Marijuana

Legalizing pot could save money AND make money? Pinch me, I must be dreaming!

Stop the presses: A new study from University of Hawaii economist Lawrence Boyd finds that the state could save millions and make millions by legalizing marijuana.

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely shocking news, but its always interesting to see the cold-hard numbers. To wit: Boyd’s study, published last week, found that by legalizing pot and instituting a tax-and-regulate scheme similar to that used to control alcohol and tobacco, Hawaii could save up to $10 million per year in law enforcement costs, and would generate up to $23 million per year in revenue. Boyd notes that the price of a good ounce of pot dropped 12% between 1994 and 2003, which suggests that law enforcement efforts haven’t exactly worked – indeed, since 65% of Hawaii's pot possession beefs are dismissed before going to court, it seems obvious that the bulk of the pot-busting pot goes to cops, but without any tremendous pay-off: “[B]ans create black markets, encourage illegal activities, and may result in harm to innocent victims.” Now there’s an understatement.

Boyd also notes that nationwide, the burden of incarcerating low-level drug offenders is taking its toll: while there were just 24,000 drug offenders behind bars in 1980, that population exploded to 400,000 inmates by 2004. However, during the same time period, Boyd writes, there was “virtually no increase in [incarceration of] other types of offenders.” As a result prisons have become more overcrowded, leading to – surprise, surprise! – a reduction in the lengths of sentences imposed on other offenders – including violent offenders.
But, seriously, the drug war is worth it, right?

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