MARIJUANA: Legalize, tax it to fund Medicaid

A letter I wrote last week was published in yesterday’s Birmingham News

MARIJUANA: Legalize, tax it to fund Medicaid

The recent defeat of the jobs bill in Congress and the possibility Medicaid services will be underfunded for the coming fiscal year spell disaster for the state’s poor. Pregnant women who depend on Medicaid will be unable to get prenatal care. Alabama already has the second-highest infant mortality rate in the nation.

Here’s a solution: Legalize the sale of marijuana to adults and use the tax proceeds to offset budget shortfalls.

Currently, Alabama spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to enforce marijuana laws. That money is used to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate nonviolent citizens. It is the epitome of a negative return on an investment.

It costs $132 million to house the drug offender population in state prisons. That is almost enough to make up for the federal dollars the state budgeted for Medicaid but won’t get. If Alabama legalized marijuana, that would be another $132 million.

Marijuana will never be eradicated, and people will never stop growing, buying, selling or consuming it. Instead of enriching violent drug cartels, expanding the prison industrial complex and bankrupting taxpayers, let’s legalize it and use the money generated for positive, life-enhancing things.

Loretta Nall

Alexander City

A slightly different letter was published in today’sMontgomery Advertiser.