Mandatory 4-20 reading: A libertarian’s argument for the legalization of marijuana

April 20th has finally arrived, and my editors decided that an article discussing one of America’s most enduring plants would be appropriate. Having known people so partial to this dried flower that they’ve risked bodily harm by smoking it out of aluminum foil and plastic bottles, I hope that they accept my support in explaining why the government should just legalize cannabis already.

Now, I could focus my argument on the immediate governmental cost-cutting that would result from changes in the current law. After all, common sense would suggest that at the national level alone, such a move would reduce the workload of the DEA, which is set to receive an increase of about 3% in its annual budget during a time of federal belt-tightening. To be fair, the DEA’s 2010 budget increased 4% over its 2009 allotment, so I guess using John Boehner math, it’s actually taking a reduction in funding. But discussions on reducing the big scary deficit are for another day.

I could also harp on the long-run savings that would inevitably show up in Uncle Sam’s bank account due to cannabis reform. What with the reduction in judiciary paperwork and jury pay and lost public defender time, not to mention all that recently freed up jail space that could spare Jerry Brown from having to furlough potentially dangerous criminals, and all without the added costs of new jails. But a strategy for streamlining the costs of the criminal justice system would make for a boring article.

Describing the undeniable increase in tax revenue derived from regulatory fees and consumptive sales taxes, is also something I will not be discussing. Yes, a licensed dispensary in Colorado pays on average $18,000 annually in state fees, and prescription holders also pay a servicing fee that far exceeds overhead costs, thus earning the government a profit. And yes, with Obama’s new tax on prescription drug producers, legal cannabis would be generating funds to help lower the amount of income and capital-gains taxes Medicare Part-D needs from general revenues to stay afloat, but such talk is for comptrollers.

Or the medical benefits aspect. What good would it do to discuss cannabis’s proven benefit to AIDS patients, people undergoing chemotherapy, and those with multiple sclerosis? Would discussing the ability of a plant to treat ocular glaucoma, thus preventing the need for laser eye surgery hit home? How about studies that demonstrate its effectiveness in reducing the horror that is irritable bowel syndrome, (believe you me, a dreadful disease that I wish on no one)? I’d say not. This is not the Mayo Clinic, so touting a new way to treat pain without the use of heavily liver-toxic drugs isn’t appropriate.

And hopefully this article is not being read in an economics class, so I will pass over any talk of how cannabis could stimulate domestic economic growth. Sure, the presence of a desirable, legal product would ultimately lead to more revenue being spent into the economy on said product (and arguably on Totino’s Pizza Rolls), but that doesn’t necessarily warrant an article. Nor does the economic utility of industrial hemp (banned because of its similarity to cannabis) in the manufacturing of things like paper, textiles, or ethanol. And although I’d love to speak of how that the struggling tobacco farmers of my native southside Virginia could easily transition into cannabis farming to lighten their considerable economic burden, I won’t because frankly, I doubt it would be appealing to the student body.

No, I think I’ll just say that legalization is imperative, because a big government that seeks to control what I or any other citizen chooses to grow or ingest on private property is not what the founding fathers (who incidentally grew hemp) had in mind when establishing a social contract. To truly secure the blessings of liberty, the government must end the prohibition on cannabis, and allow we the people to decide for ourselves, what we will or will not smoke.

Editor’s Note: The use and possession of marijuana is illegal and is in no way condoned by the staff of The Informer. Likewise,this editorial does not represent the opinion of the Editorial Board or other members of The Informer’s staff, but rather solely that of the author.

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The Virginia Informer is a student-run publication at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The newspaper contained five sections: News, Features, Sports, Arts & Culture, and Opinion

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