COMMENTARY | The people of Colorado and Washington have spoken: They want marijuana legalized for recreational use. But it isn’t likely to happen, because selling marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and there’s big business on the federal level for the war on drugs.
According to Reuters, two former U.S. drug control officials said on Wednesday that the federal government may sue to block parts of the state’s laws pertaining to the sale and taxation of marijuana. The Department of Justice also may respond as they have to medical marijuana, by sending threatening letters to marijuana shops. And while the argument against the legalization of marijuana will always be couched in the notion of keeping it out of the hands of children, what is actually behind the earnest pursuit by the feds of those growing and selling marijuana in accordance with state law appears to be money.
Consider these facts from the group Drug Sense: The U.S. federal government spent more than $15 billion dollars on the War on Drugs in 2010. In 2009, law enforcement made more arrests for drugs abuse violations than any other offense, including more than 850,000 arrests for cannabis violations. According to Drug Sense, an American is arrested for violating laws against cannabis every 30 seconds.
That’s a lot of bread and butter for workers in law enforcement and justice systems. But the prison systems get booming business too, with about 25 percent of the average 43,266 people incarcerated each year serving time for drug law violations.
As a parent, I not only understand but also actively participate in the desire to keep kids away from drugs. I’m not in favor of a society full of addicted adults, either. But just as prohibition didn’t prevent people from using alcohol but, rather, merely criminalized it, I’m not convinced that prohibition is preventing people from using drugs either. It certainly wouldn’t appear to be the case based on Drug Sense’s statistics.
There are a lot of benefits to rethinking the U.S. “war on drugs,” and regulating and controlling the drug industry. Yes, money is a big consideration. Legalizing marijuana could result in a boom for the state budgets of Colorado and Washington — something that proponents of the legalization in those states have pointed out. However, for now at least, it would seem prohibition is a way to get money to the agencies at the federal level. To rationalize hiring more workers, building more prisons, having a bigger empire.
I wish the federal government would be honest about all of their reasons for wanting to keep marijuana illegal rather than just going with the emotional argument. Whether you’re for or against marijuana, it’s a money-making proposition either way.