In the United States, marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug, despite decades of prohibition. Our concern is that current legislation supports the use of alcohol and tobacco, while both cause much more harm than marijuana. According to norml.org, around 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning and nearly 400,000 die from tobacco smoking. In comparison, marijuana is nontoxic, meaning that it does not cause any poisoning deaths. Although marijuana smoke contains carcinogens, in a study done by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, smoking Marijuana does not hurt lung functionality like tobacco smoke does. We propose that the state of California fully legalizes and taxes the recreational use and purchase of marijuana for people 21 and over because prohibition is costing too much money, marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, and taxation would provide needed funding.
California has taken great strides in the process making medical marijuana available to patients for medical use, as well as decriminalization, but this does not fully solve the problem. People are still unfairly prosecuted for recreational possession. While decriminalization is an excellent first step, full legalization is the necessary next step. The problem is that currently, U.S. taxpayers spend 12 billion dollars arresting and prosecuting marijuana violations annually and almost 90 percent of these punishments are for marijuana possession only, according to norml.org.
Marijuana legalization is also an effective way to increase California’s budget. Less spending on marijuana related crimes coupled with tax revenue would lead to huge monetary gains. We’ve seen the effectiveness of this type of change before. From 1976 to 1985, California saved nearly $1 billion dollars simply by decriminalizing personal possession of one ounce of marijuana, according to a study of the state justice department budget. We have already seen the success of legalization in other states. The state of Washington estimates that it will generate up to $1.9 billion dollars in additional revenue within five years, according to their I-502 - Fiscal Impact Statement, through full legalization and taxation of marijuana.