At the stroke of midnight on December 6, 2012, something extraordinary happened across Washington State. Pot smokers and enterprising entrepreneurs, (age 21 and older) no-longer feeling afraid of being harassed, arrested and forever being branded as a hoodlum / social delinquent, reached into their pockets and purses took out their lighters and jubilantly lit a celebratory “spliff”.
It’s rumored that 24 hour doughnut shops selling banana nut cake spiced with ganja, sold out of their confectionery goodies within the first two hours after midnight.
Without a doubt, freedom had finally arrived at the Evergreen State and millions of Washingtonians who were in possession of one ounce or less of Washington States’ best “sticky-icky” was experiencing the true “taste of freedom” via the sanctioning of Washington State initiative 502 .
Minutes after midnight on January 5, 2013, Western night-sky-watchers reported that the same herbal odiferous “cloud” was spotted hovering over the entire state of Colorado including the parking lots of every McDonalds and Burger King.
Meanwhile, at Aspen and Denver skiing resorts, vacationing tourists puffing on a blunt, held their champagne glasses high in the air, in honor of Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Amendment 64 (2012) …. Envious Californians and Oregonians dismayed by their state legislator’s rejection of legalizing weed, vowed to one day soon “taste freedom”.
What’s currently happening in Washington State and Colorado is much bigger in scope than simply passing a law that finally liberates pot smokers to recreationally puff on a marijuana cigarette without fear of prosecution. What has come to Washington State and Colorado is unlimited business opportunities that has the potential to earn billions of dollars in revenue in a variety of industries that’s based on the manufacturing and sale of hemp products; and that my fellow Americans is a good thing.
From Shreveport to Lake Charles to New Orleans, Louisianans are not shy about taking a stance on advocating the legalization of pot or on the flip side, taking a stance on backing and enforcing current Federal and State laws that prohibit the growing and harvesting of marijuana plants for medical, recreational and industrial use.
But why not legalize marijuana in Louisiana? What’s the great sin as compared to being able to legally buy tobacco and alcoholic products? When asked that very same question, naysayers of marijuana advocacy are never able to give a logical / straight answer…never.
Putting the question into proper prospective let’s begin by stating that based on several recent independent studies an estimated 24 million pounds or 384,000,000 ounces of marijuana is consumed annually by Americans every year.
Opponents of legalizing marijuana will argue that (1) marijuana causes permanent brain damage, (2) marijuana is highly addictive and (3) marijuana is more harmful to the lungs than tobacco. Each negative assertion made by marijuana opponents deserve serious review and should be addressed.
In response to the first claim that the use of marijuana causes permanent brain damage, scientific studies have proven that this belief is totally unfound and is totally fictitious. In response to point (2) that marijuana is highly addictive; studies indicate that only 1% of Americans who smoke pot annually, smoke pot every day. Myth debunked.
In response to the last major concern from opponents of legalizing marijuana who believe that marijuana is more harmful to the lungs than tobacco, well the fact is, moderate use of marijuana poses minimal danger to the lungs. Another myth obliterated. www.drugpolicy.org/marijuana/factsmyths/
So…in an alternate universe how would the legal sale of marijuana benefit the country and in particular the State of Louisiana?
Hypothetically, if legalized marijuana was taxed at a flat rate of $50 per ounce, an estimated 20 billion dollars in annual tax revenue would be generated.
Regardless of how the generated revenue is split between Federal, State and local governments, an extra 20 billion dollars in generated revenue would substantially provide a much needed boost to stagnate State economies that struggle each year to pay state employees and struggle to find the money to fund much needed programs that help economically disadvantaged children, senior citizens and families.
Social programs that could greatly benefit from a marijuana sales tax are, the National School Lunch Program or as we call it in Louisiana, the Child Nutrition Program, cnp.doe.state.la.us/ and the Louisiana Commodity Supplemental Food Program www.dhh.louisiana.gov/offices/page.asp which is designed to improve the diets and health of low income Louisianans.
Studies made in 2004 indicate that reform in Louisiana marijuana laws that would eventually lead to the legalization of marijuana in the State, would save Louisiana approximately 60 million dollars a year in reduced prison costs. www.drugpolicy.org/statebystate/louisiana/
Sixty million dollars would buy a whole lot of bowls of gumbo for families that are struggling in today’s economy to feed their families. Just as important, if one third of Louisiana’s prison population consists of low level drug offenders, and marijuana was to become legal, how much revenue would Louisiana stand to earn from potential personal state income tax?
Think about it, Louisianan families that wouldn’t have to be traumatized and threatened by jail time because of a transaction that ended up in the purchase an ounce of marijuana. Oh happy day?
The day that someone can honestly explain why the purchase of alcohol and tobacco is legal but the purchase of marijuana is illegal would be a day to remember.
If only Louisiana’s state legislators could be more like Washington State and Colorado state lawmakers…sigh…perhaps one day.
As always, Louisianans, the New Orleans Examiner is interested in what you think. Sound off. Can the legalization of marijuana fiscally help the State? Inquiring minds want to know.
Until next time Louisianans, Good day, God Bless and Good fishing.