TIME Magazine: Why Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense

For the past several years, I’ve been harboring a fantasy, a last political crusade for the baby-boom generation. We, who started on the path of righteousness, marching for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, need to find an appropriately high-minded approach to life’s exit ramp. In this case, I mean the high-minded part literally.

And so, a deal: give us drugs, after a certain age — say, 80 — all drugs, any drugs we want. In return, we will give you our driver’s licenses. (I mean, can you imagine how terrifying a nation of decrepit, solipsistic 90-year-old boomers behind the wheel would be?) We’ll let you proceed with your lives — much of which will be spent paying for our retirement, in any case — without having to hear us complain about our every ache and reflux. We’ll be too busy exploring altered states of consciousness. I even have a slogan for the campaign: “Tune in, turn on, drop dead.”

A fantasy, I suppose. But, beneath the furious roil of the economic crisis, a national conversation has quietly begun about the irrationality of our drug laws. It is going on in state legislatures, like New York’s, where the draconian Rockefeller drug laws are up for review; in other states, from California to Massachusetts, various forms of marijuana decriminalization are being enacted. And it has reached the floor of Congress, where Senators Jim Webb and Arlen Specter have proposed a major prison-reform package, which would directly address drug-sentencing policy.

There are also more puckish signs of a zeitgeist shift. A few weeks ago, the White House decided to stage a forum in which the President would answer questions submitted by the public; 92,000 people responded — and most of them seemed obsessed with the legalization of marijuana. The two most popular questions about “green jobs and energy,” for example, were about pot. The President dismissed the outpouring — appropriately, I guess — as online ballot-stuffing and dismissed the legalization question with a simple: “No.” (Read: “Can Marijuana Help Rescue California’s Economy?”)

This was a rare instance of Barack Obama reacting reflexively, without attempting to think creatively, about a serious policy question. He was, in fact, taking the traditional path of least resistance: an unexpected answer on marijuana would have launched a tabloid firestorm, diverting attention from the budget fight and all those bailouts. In fact, the default fate of any politician who publicly considers the legalization of marijuana is to be cast into the outer darkness. Such a person is assumed to be stoned all the time, unworthy of being taken seriously. Such a person would be lacerated by the assorted boozehounds and pill poppers of talk radio. The hypocrisy inherent in the American conversation about stimulants is staggering.

But there are big issues here, issues of economy and simple justice, especially on the sentencing side. As Webb pointed out in a cover story in Parade magazine, the U.S. is, by far, the most “criminal” country in the world, with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners. We spend $68 billion per year on corrections, and one-third of those being corrected are serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. We spend about $150 billion on policing and courts, and 47.5% of all arrests are marijuana-related. That is an awful lot of money, most of it nonfederal, that could be spent on better schools or infrastructure — or simply returned to the public.

At the same time, there is an enormous potential windfall in the taxation of marijuana. It is estimated that pot is the largest cash crop in California, with annual revenues approaching $14 billion. A 10% pot tax would yield $1.4 billion in California alone. And that’s probably a fraction of the revenues that would be available — and of the economic impact, with thousands of new jobs in agriculture, packaging, marketing and advertising. A veritable marijuana economic-stimulus package!

So why not do it? There are serious moral arguments, both secular and religious. There are those who believe — with some good reason — that the accretion of legalized vices is debilitating, that we are a less virtuous society since gambling spilled out from Las Vegas to “riverboats” and state lotteries across the country. There is a medical argument, though not a very convincing one: alcohol is more dangerous in a variety of ways, including the tendency of some drunks to get violent. One could argue that the abuse of McDonald’s has a greater potential health-care cost than the abuse of marijuana. (Although it’s true that with legalization, those two might not be unrelated.) Obviously, marijuana can be abused. But the costs of criminalization have proved to be enormous, perhaps unsustainable. Would legalization be any worse?

In any case, the drug-reform discussion comes just at the right moment. We boomers are getting older every day. You’re not going to want us on the highways. Make us your best offer.

Article from TIME Magazine



  1. Anonymous on

    Hey man, calm down. You don’t even know what communism is from the sound of it. Go read a book, if you know where to find one. You might learn something about the world.

    Commies are like capitalists. The ones who truely lead the movement are hijacking a blissfully ignorant population who puts faith in the promises of their heroic leader figure. Freedom. Prosperity. That means Control and Inequality.

    Now, how about the idea that people can seek to govern their own lives, to get together and actually decide how to govern their communities and/or national policies themselves rather than electing some asshole who’s going to break all his promises? That’s what I believe in.

    Besides, a farmer is a farmer. A major agribusiness owner is a billionaire who employs a bunch of poorly paid farm/factory/office workers, often overseas for extra cheap labour. He fights against worker’s rights because rights cut out of his profits. Do you think local weed would stand a fair chance against weed farmed in a third-world country for cheap labour?

    Oh yeah, living profitably, off of the backs of the wage-slave working class, just like communism. Early on in American history, the wage idea was seen as more dangerously abusive than chattel slavery, by prominent American historical icons. Communists and capitalists both like to use force against their population when they disagree (peacefully or otherwise) with their “representatives”. It’s all the same when authority is making promises, except the state is also the corporation in communism.

  2. Anonymous on

    Are you a communist….you care about blocking whats important to anybody else but you?

    Who cares if they want to be a Marijuana farmers and have the benefits of it being legal…..I bet you hate the wine guys…the bourbon guys……the tobacco guys….the hops guys…..all enjoying a profitable life!

    Actually tobaco is good for windshields in crappy weather!

    yes your a commie trying to keep us safe……from what asshole?

  3. Anonymous on

    He’s saying some of the opportunities he particularly cares for have been trampled on hypocritically by the state. I’m not fond of the capitalist opportunities that will arise with legalization though. What if they pump it full of toxic crap like tobacco? Where in the world do you find organic tobacco? Cuban cigars? I hear those things are expensive. Good clean weed will stay expensive or get more expensive, and cheap tainted weed will be abundant all over the place just like McDick’s and Star*ucks. All I care about is that they make it legal to plant a seed and help it grow, so we can all avoid that bullsh*t scheme.

    Heck, while they’re at it, they can also stop bothering us over what kind of spores we choose to innoculate our substrate jars with. Let us develop our symbiotic relationships as we choose.

  4. Pot made NOTHING happen on

    So,what you’re saying is ,that without marijuana,you’re a complete nothing.

  5. Anonymous on

    I’m 65 and retired from 25 years blue collar/drug testing work. I drove a concrete mixer and I smoked every time I took a load and sometimes enjoyed smoking with the construction crew. I flaunted it in front of my bosses who new but I was such a competent worker….never late…never had an accident…driving or unloading. Never collected workmens compensation for injury…In 25 years of delivering concrete and smoking powerful home grown/ thai/columbian red/alcopulco gold….on every fucking load I left the plant smoking my ass off.

    I’ve also been busted growing 4 times and beat up on the system and thier stupid cop warrants. I challenged every warrant and won….3 times in superior court and one time in Calif Appelate court. All warrants thrown out for breaching my curtiledge.

    And after 1931…..your just getting around to realizing that its like wine. Well fuck you….You kept me from having a Marijuana farm and getting rich and content like the wine guys and now you think its time to legalize…..FUCK YOU!