Friday, July 22, 2005

top us economists tell bush: tax marijuana and make $10-14 Billion a year

In an important development in the United States, more than 530 distinguished US economists have signed an open letter to President Bush and other public officials calling for "an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition' adding, "We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal, but taxed and regulated like other goods."

They are endorsing an academic paper entitled "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition," by Dr. Jeffrey Miron, visiting professor of economics at Harvard University, which says that replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year.

These estimates may be conservative according to the Marijuana Policy Project which is the largest marijuana campaigning organization in the United States. For example, Miron based his figure for prison costs due to marijuana prohibition on an estimate that one percent of state prisoners are imprisoned for marijuana related offenses. However a report released this May (05) by the 'White House Office of National Drug Control Policy' put the figure at 1.6 percent, acknowledging that tens of thousands of Americans are incarcerated in state or federal prisons for marijuana offenses.

In Britain, the Blair government did a report into the annual cost of prosecuting nearly 100,000 people for cannabis possession, discovered it cost over £1 billion a year, and soon after brought in the 'Class C' policy, which ended most prosecutions for possession. They saved Britain plc £1 billion a year at a stroke.

In the States the emergence of this economic report could well be the begining of major change as happened in Britain; as usual it's money that talks.

So could we see George Bush legalising Ganja Bush? It is hard to imagine, but Bush seriously needs the cash so anything is possible. Also he used to smoke loads of weed, so he knows it's not as bad as his dad used to make out..

What ever happens, this new report, and the unusual public support it is getting from important US academics from both the left and the right, is an important development. It is now more likely that if there is a change in policy in the US, it will be to full legalisation including distribution and sale, rather than opting for the current British half way house policy of 'Class C' for possession, but supply still illegal.

The Independent Drug Monotoring Unit in Britain has estimated cannabis could bring the government extra annual tax revenue of £606,889,748 for hash and £735,304,101 for skunk, plus the income from VAT.

If cannabis was legalised and taxed in the US, we can be sure the British government will not be far behind the Americans - as usual. What won't be normal is that we won't be complaining, except when the Chancellor puts another 20 pence on an eighth in the Budget and only a penny on a pint. Then cannabis will be just part of our everyday culture.

However, "anarchist" and right wing libertarian cannabis users who do not want to pay taxes need not worry; there will always be a dodgy 'blackmarket' as with tobacco and alcohol. And, if the government adopts the Cannabis Trust policy, as they will have to eventually, people will be able to legally grow their own organic, GM free, tax free, non corporate, totally PC weed, just like you can brew your own tax free wine or beer now. This is why, when we end cannabis prohibition, everyone wins!

Dr. Miron's full report, the open letter to public officials signed by
more than 500 economists, and the full list of endorsers are available at


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