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Excerpt: "Tobacco use claims more than 440,000 deaths annually. Alcohol kills an additional 37,000 Americans every year, not including alcohol-related car accidents. Prescription drugs killed more than 30,000 Americans in 2009. These addictive drugs kill almost half a million Americans each year. Marijuana has killed zero. Critics argue that legalized pot would turn the country into a haven for drug abuse, yet Portugal has dramatically lowered their incarceration and addiction rates through decriminalization."

Illustration of a couple smoking marijuana, 06/15/09. (art: Unknown)
Illustration of a couple smoking marijuana, 06/15/09. (art: Unknown)

Legalize and Tax It, Already

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

05 December 11

Reader Supported News | Perspective


eporters at the Houston Chronicle are asking the wrong questions.

A November 11 headline reads, "30,000 Arrests Caught in Backlog at Sheriff's Office." The article explains that almost 20,000 misdemeanor warrants are backed up in the police database, straining Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia's staff. Garcia lamented that budget cuts and a countywide hiring freeze are prolonging the backlog. The Chronicle cited similar arrest backlogs in Bexar and Dallas counties.

In Harris County, there were 10,305 possession arrests for marijuana in 2007, more than any other county in Texas. Coincidentally, the other two leaders in marijuana possession arrests that year were Bexar and Dallas counties, with 8,128 and 4,398 respectively.

In Texas, possession of anything less than two ounces is a Class B misdemeanor, with a maximum fine of $2,000 and a maximum jail sentence of 180 days. 97% of the state's marijuana arrests were for possession. The Chronicle could have asked Garcia if treating marijuana with the same classification as alcohol and tobacco would free up county prison space, or provide Harris County with enough tax dollars to offset public safety cuts, or relieve 10,000 arrests from the county's backlog.

Tobacco use claims more than 440,000 deaths annually. Alcohol kills an additional 37,000 Americans every year, not including alcohol-related car accidents. Prescription drugs killed more than 30,000 Americans in 2009. These addictive drugs kill almost half a million Americans each year. Marijuana has killed zero. Critics argue that legalized pot would turn the country into a haven for drug abuse, yet Portugal has dramatically lowered their incarceration and addiction rates through decriminalization.

Alcohol prohibition was repealed in the 1930s after America saw organized crime thrive off of underground speakeasy bars and liquor bootlegging. Al Capone and his gang brutally gunned down all who opposed them in the streets of Chicago during the prohibition era. The repeal of the 18th Amendment eventually crippled gangs like Capone's, and helped solve social ills.

Alcohol and tobacco are both valuable sources of tax revenue for state governments - Texas is expected to make $2.8 billion this fiscal year from excise taxes on those drugs. As California's biggest cash crop, cannabis would generate almost as much tax revenue as the wine industry. Repealing marijuana prohibition would boost America's economy with jobs and more than $46 billion in tax revenue.

Before the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, landowners were encouraged to grow hemp due to its usefulness and versatility. The US Constitution was written on hemp. And one acre of hemp can produce as much paper as seven acres of wood. Lamont DuPont of the DuPont chemical corporation had developed products to synthesize with wood paper, but not hemp paper.

DuPont outlawed his competition in 1937 with the help of William Randolph Hearst's newspaper empire and Harry J. Anslinger's lurid testimonies as US Commissioner of Narcotics. Marijuana's criminalization was coordinated with the help of a factually-deficient, racially-inspired smear campaign.

Here's a question the Chronicle could have asked: Why isn't a medically beneficial, lucrative crop like cannabis legal, like other, more dangerous drugs? Even Gallup has found that half of the population already supports legalizing marijuana. It's time for a referendum on marijuana decriminalization. Let the people decide.

Carl Gibson, 24, of Lexington, Kentucky, is a spokesman and organizer for US Uncut, a nonviolent, creative direct-action movement to stop budget cuts by getting corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. He graduated from Morehead State University in 2009 with a B.A. in Journalism before starting the first US Uncut group in Jackson, Mississippi, in February of 2011. Since then, over 20,000 US Uncut activists have carried out more than 300 actions in over 100 cities nationwide. You may contact Carl at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+61 # fredboy 2011-12-05 11:30
The people continuing to oppose legalization are deep pockets who fund politicos. Just like prohibition, its those making huge money off the "illegality" of it who have the most to lose--and fund the most opposition. Quit letting opponents take the moral high ground--it's the criminals who are the financial base of most opposition.
+18 # John Locke 2011-12-05 13:29
You are taging into a government fund here, the CIA's main black budget is drug based, Opium, Marijane,and Cocain has mainly been so since Yale's charter club, "inmates" from the Skull and Bones, beginning during the mid 1800's forward and including(The Bushs) John Kerry, etc have taken active roles in the US Government, it was Air America's CIA Connection and the reason we were in the Golden Triangle after the French left, the CIA imports the drugs or takes a cut from those who do, think Manuel Noriega...after he was ousted (unlawfully) the amount of drugs going through the canal actually increased... if you aren't paying the CIA you don't bring it in....Follow the money from Iran/Contra, and George HW Bush, Colonel Oliver North et al, ALL intelligence communities deal with drugs, especially the US, France and Israel, as a matter of Fact the CIA is currently guarding the poppy fields in Afghanistan
+17 # steve98052 2011-12-05 19:15
As far as I can tell, the most substantial force opposing legalization (and even decriminalizati on) are people who want to legislate morality -- the same ones who want all sex illegal unless it's between straight people who are married to each other, and deny the legitimacy of any religious beliefs (or absence thereof) other than their own.

The biggest money in keeping marijuana illegal comes from those people.

However, they have one powerful ally with a monetary, rather than ideological, interest: the for-profit prison industry. Anything that generates more inmates is in their interest.


In reply to the article itself:

The article is correct that prohibition creates crime. Legalizing marijuana and setting a tax that's large enough to support corresponding public health efforts will wipe out a huge source of income for criminals.
+12 # steve98052 2011-12-05 19:16

On the other hand, although the article is correct that no studies have shown a definite link between marijuana usage and premature death, risk does exist (as the article linked on the word "zero" states). Marijuana smoke doesn't have the addictive power of tobacco, and marijuana smokers don't inhale nearly as much total smoke, but smoking pot is still inhaling smoke. All smoke is bad for you whether it's from marijuana, tobacco, firewood, or vehicle exhaust. But one joint is less smoke than a pack of cigarettes.

Marijuana also impairs judgement to some extent. Driving while stoned may not be as dangerous as driving while drunk (or driving while texting), but it's definitely more dangerous than driving unimpaired. Any legalization should include a mechanism to discourage driving while stoned.

Finally, while marijuana isn't physically addictive (like tobacco, alcohol, or many other drugs), it is habit-forming for some people. It also impairs motivation for some people. The risk that a user will become a "burnout" is real, but that's true whether marijuana is legal or not.
+22 # artful 2011-12-05 11:39
-9 # jlohman 2011-12-05 11:43
Okay, so it isn't perfect. But are we happy with what we have? See
+48 # James38 2011-12-05 11:50
The absurdity of the Drug War can be summed up in one short statement: "Drug Laws Make Drug Lords".

Prohibition automatically fails, and causes an inevitable snowballing of severe problems. Education and treatment programs for persons with substance abuse problems is far less expensive, is humane, and it works. The War Mess in the US has the opposite effect in all aspects. It is expensive, it is inhumane and cruel, and it fails to work.

The answer is clear. Portugal has shown the way. Can the US learn the obvious? Perhaps the economic squeeze can be a benefit in getting people to think clearly. Folks, you are being ripped off by the Drug War in every possible way. Why should you or your son or daughter be labeled a criminal and thrown in jail when a little counselling and job training will give you a decent life? Not to mention the fact that the whole society would benefit financially by doing the humane and decent thing. Any politician using fear to gain votes should be hammered with facts and questions that reveal the inevitable short sighted and cruel purpose of such propaganda. Most of them are probably already aware of the facts. If not, make sure they are aware, and that continuing support for cruel and unworkable laws will lose them votes. After watching this confusion for fifty years, it is good to see positive change.
+14 # James38 2011-12-05 11:54
RSN, please do something about the character limit. I was told that my comment was too long, but the character count showed 39 symbols left. This is terribly annoying, and makes some people just not bother to post, I am sure. Also, the limit is too low, unnecessarily so. I would recommend about 1000 characters more, at least an additional 500, to allow a concept to be developed.
+11 # Billy Bob 2011-12-05 14:31
The same thing happens to me ALL THE TIME. The only solution I have is to cut my comment into parts and upload the parts. It's annoying.
+3 # steve98052 2011-12-05 16:46
When I post it starts with "1400 symbols left". Sometimes that's not enough, but I'm fine with splitting my messages.

Still, I agree that a larger limit would be nice, maybe as something people would be awarded after a certain number of thumbs up.

If the size limit is too long, some people go overboard on their replies. If it's too short, too many messages end up split, which is a bother for we who write and maybe a bother for the moderators too.
+62 # TomDegan 2011-12-05 12:27
Here is a list of ten famous people - heavy smokers all - who died too soon of lung cancer or other diseases related to their addictions to nicotine:

Humphrey Bogart
Edward R. Murrow
Nat King Cole
George Harrison
John Huston
Noel Coward
Betty Grable
Walt Disney
Gary Cooper
Peter Jennings

Here is another list. Ten famous people who died from alcoholism:

Tennessee Williams
Jack Kerouac
Truman Capote
Lorenz Hart
Veronica Lake
Bix Beiderbecke
Montgomery Clift
Dylan Thomas
John Barrymore
Errol Flynn

Now I'm going to ask you to name for me one celebrity who has died from too much grass.

Go on, I'm waiting.....

You couldn't do it, could you? Don't feel bad, neither could I. Not only have I never heard of any famous person dying in that matter, I am not aware of it happening in all recorded human history! Why in 2011 are we still having this same, idiotic conversation?

Is it a "gateway drug" as they never tire of reminding us? Yeah, it probably is. But so is Miller High Life - the Champagne of Bottled Beer. Let's get a grip here.

Tom Degan
+31 # seeuingoa 2011-12-05 12:45
Pot doesn´t kill anybody.
Tobacco kills yourself.
Alcohol is part of half the crimes that make prisoners end up in jail,
half of traffic accidents and
more than half the cases of domestic violence.


whom do you believe
+42 # noitall 2011-12-05 12:46
All the worn out arguments against IT fall flat on today's public. They've heard it for years and have grown to know that those words are bogus. Its not only the profitability of pot being illegal, its the profitability of the private prison business and the complacent judges, cops, etc on down the line, just like so many things in this greedy country, the people's health, wealth, and happiness is being controlled by the few. Big business doesn't want to be regulated but they want the government to regulate everyone else. On every front, the will of the people is ignored and life is being controlled by the greedy few. There are SO many reasons to be in the street and so many ways for ethical Congressionals to step forward and for once, represent the will of the people...where are they?! certainly not backing the one or two Congressmen that do.
+23 # Okieangels 2011-12-05 12:47
If it makes sense, it can't be done in America...
-32 # MainStreetMentor 2011-12-05 13:21
Getting “high” – whether through legalized use or continuing illegal use – means a degree of the user’s consciousness is diluted or impaired – NOT enhanced. We have more than one generation of Americans engaging in (currently illegal) drug use. We see youth of other nations’ surpassing American youth in test scores; we see the decline of ethics and morals in the business world (where many corporate leaders engage in currently illicit drug use) the very corporations that the Occupy Movement has identified as malfeasant, greedy gluttons. I have no proof that drug use is the cause or even a contributing factor – just as the opposition has no proof it isn’t. But … I have seen a decline since World War II in the behavior and conduct of leaders within the business community, and within our government. We mustn’t let revenue from legalization of substances, that may be causing our decline, be a motivator to legalize them. Else we become the very persons we are fighting to stop.
+9 # vitobonespur 2011-12-06 01:39
What a crock! All you need to do is read just about every other comment in this forum -- and actually pay attention. People are always going to try to modify their consciousness whether through drink, drugs (prescription and otherwise), or smoking dope. Personally, I think the country (world?) would be much better off if the millions of drinkers would switch to pot. I don't partake of anything along those lines, but that is a personal decision I made to stay clean and sober for these 20 years. But the fact that our young people aren't doing as well academically as other countries has less to do with drugs and alcohol and more to do with shitty schools and a general malaise in the attitudes of the population due to greed, societal sodomy by politicians and 1%-ers, and poverty. But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.
+26 # James Marcus 2011-12-05 13:52
As usual, 'It's all about the money'.
Legalized pot would destroy both the entire Drug Trade, and therefore the entire Enforcement Trade, as well. Available pot would send it's price into the cellar , as everyone could easily grow it.
Legal, Cheap, Easy to get, with almost no downside...
would then extend it's influence into all but the most addictive alternative drugs.. Those markets would also, then, collapse overnight, based on the readily available alternative.
That is an ENORMOUS amount of money, and efforts, that would no longer 'happen'. (and a whole lot less human suffering)
and all political/Enfor cement related 'pay-offs' regarding same, would cease.
+20 # Ralph Averill 2011-12-05 13:56
There are two huge and powerful lobbies that will go to the wall to keep pot off the legal market; Booze and Big Pharma. The reasons for the former's opposition is obvious, the latter perhaps not so. Pot would be in direct competition, and in many cases works better than, with many lucrative drug products. Valium, librium, anti-depressant s, muscle relaxers, sleep aids, motion sickness remedies, (pot is an instant cure for sea-sickness,) etc. etc. generate huge profits and in many cases pot would work as well or better. Legalized marijuana could never generate the same profits, hell, you can grow your own. The same with taxing it. A marijuana tax would be a joke. It's too damned easy to grow average pot, and it doesn't take much more effort to grow very strong pot when it's contraband. It would be in every garden if it was legal.
Big Pharma and Big Booze will fight it all the way.
0 # Billy Bob 2011-12-05 14:07
I agree with the sentiment. However, I think the push to "legalize it" is a huge distraction. Conservatives really only care about 2 1/2 things or so. A lot of people who would otherwise agree with the liberal agenda are easily fooled by conservatives painting all liberals as a bunch of "pot smoking hippies". If we can't win broader appeal, then things like saving Social Security, saving the human environment, ending torture and ending multiple wars for profit will be taken just as seriously as pot smokers are being taken right now. I'm ready to cut my losses and not have EVERYthing on the liberal agenda. If only we could have SOMEthing! Legalizing dope would be pretty low on my to do list.
+8 # wilhelmscream 2011-12-05 15:21
Legalize pot; they let the KKK exists and they're terrorists. Burning down black churches; bombing synagogs; killing minorities while the cops in the south did nothing till the late 1960's
+14 # ABen 2011-12-05 15:44
Legalize it, tax its legal sale, and take away the cash flow of the cartels that operate along the Mexican border. The primary reason marijuana can be considered a "gateway drug" is that pot smokers often get their product from people associated with these cartels, which also deal in cocaine, heroin, and human smuggling. I agree with those who say this ill-advised and unworkable law is sustained by those who are positioned to make money from the prohibition of marijuana.
+11 # steve98052 2011-12-05 19:21
You make a great point about the "gateway drug" risk: marijuana can be a gateway because buying something distributed by a criminal cartel makes it easier to buy anything else the criminal cartel (or its agents) sells.

If one buys marijuana from a legal business establishment, one never has to make contact with a criminal cartel or its agents.
+4 # Progressive Patriot 2011-12-05 16:18
I would venture that one of the reasons there are as many people using marijuana as there are is _because_ it is illegal.

As our prisons are becoming for-profit ventures, the pressure to fill them becomes greater ... creating _another_ venture for organized crime.
-22 # bilmonk 2011-12-05 16:19
I agree with the sentiment " low on my list". Also there is quite a lobby for marijuana growers that includes vast sums from illegal sources. This lobby is painting a rosy picture of how beneficial it would be to legalize it.
Most people who smoke alot of pot, that I know, are usually not that successful and usually are very deficient in one area of their lives (eg. Socially, Financially). Secondly, some people may have died from alcoholism, but the list of successful people who drink is enormous. Marijuana is not a medically beneficial drug for 99.4 % of people. Certainly smoking marijuana may bring some relief in rare instances, but so does morphine, in many more cases in fact, and it is probably so heavily regulated that it does not bring in much revenue, and people still abuse heroin which is very similar to morphine.
Didn't California voters just vote down legalization?
+14 # Jim Rocket 2011-12-05 17:28
Don't forget the culture war aspect. The "Conservative Movement" is essentially a reactionary backlash to "The 60's". To these people legalizing pot means the hippies win. Under no circumstances will this ever be acceptable. Logical arguments will never sway them on this one.
+4 # Billy Bob 2011-12-05 20:32
You pinned the nail on the head. Not only will logical arguments not work (not that I think we should care what conservatives think), but this is one of the most effective wedge issues they have. Like abortion, puting this on the ballot is a good way to ensure every possible repugnican will show up at the polls. It's also a good way to make a joke (to them and the so-called middle) of everything else we care about - including many issues that almost everyone would agree are more important. Right now, we can't even get a Democratic President and a "filibuster proof" Senate to undo the "patriot" act or pretend to leave single-payer on the table.

Whether people like it or not, "legalizing it" won't happen for at least another generation or so. And, more importantly, if it does it will just be a symbolic scrap thrown at liberals to make up for taking away our freedom of worship, freedom of speech, right to health care, right to clean food and water, right to privacy and our ability to stop torturing people for oil.
+6 # reiverpacific 2011-12-05 20:40
I'm convinced that this country, allied with it's still puritanical bent, has never really recovered from prohibition and it's accompanying perception of the Mob as the "Good Guys".
But as a side note, how many people have died as "collateral damage" related to the miserably failed drug war started by Reagan, in police (S.W.A.T.) raids on any miniscule excuse, and how many people are banged-up in prison with psychopaths and career criminals for possessing a small amount of Mo't? -And consider the impact of the US appetite for this and other "Illegal" substances and enrichment of the new government of Mexico, the drug cartels, who have the country divided up between them?
"Billmonk", you are living in a fantasy world; the US will be well behind the world in this as with many other progressive matters like nationalized health-care as too many of the powerful are manipulating this issue to their own advantage, starting with the C.I.A. Many nations in Europe and around the world have legalized a certain amount of Mo't, even including it in their health system under the holistic sub-category.
And that's not even addressing the industrial potential of the almost miracle mother plant, hemp!
+9 # old cynic 2011-12-05 21:40
Current marijuana laws are supported by a numbers players. All for the wrong reason. In addition to the Mexican Cartels, current laws are supported by the private for profit prison system, those law enforcement agencies and individuals on the take, and current elected officials in the pocket of the radical religious right.

Marijuana should be subject to the same current State laws that control the distribution and sale of alcohol and tobacco.

The "war on drugs" has just enriched the criminal element. Any way it was lost 40+ years ago.
+6 # wwway 2011-12-06 10:20
Marijuana should be grown in the herb garden like it was before Nixon used a false appeal to fear argument against it that worked to get him elected.
In all my years I've never seen or heard of anyone getting violent or committing crime while on marijuana.
I agree with the observation that the war on drugs should never have included marijuana and it certainly has been lost from the very beginning.
+6 # jmillay 2011-12-06 16:48
Cannabis is the biggest cash crop in the country. Trillions of dollars are exchanges with no accountability to the tax base. Our taxes are used instead to support the jail system, prison guards, lawyers and prosecutors. Confiscation of property has been used to buy more helicopters for catching growers. All this is against the 4th amendment to the Bill of Rights...."Peop le are secure in their persons, places and things." We should demand a Bill of Rights accountability to the lying, cheating FDA, DEA and their Big Pharm employers. You think the government employs them... well check where they worked last to find out.
-2 # Martintfre 2011-12-08 17:25
Switch to Republican and vote for Ron Paul in the primaries - Or keep getting screwed by big brother supporters of BOTH parties.

It is not the federal governments business to meddle in the personal lives of the citizens.
+1 # Billy Bob 2011-12-08 21:36
Unless they're peaceful protesters, ay-rabs, pregnant women, gay people who want to have a family, or just people who want to preserve Social Security, right?

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