My Irish Up: What’s the buzz around Maine?

Mike Corrigan

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

Speaking as one of maybe 11 or 12 college students of my or any generation who never even tried marijuana, and therefore also as one of the few from my era still capable of remembering my own name — Fred, isn’t it? Frank? Wait, it’ll come to me! — I am here to tell you that Maine, and the nation, ought to legalize the wacky tabbacky.

A country that already allows its citizens to kill themselves and others with alcohol, and ruin their own bodies and drive up public health costs by using tobacco, and that thinks nothing of letting public utilities burn fossil fuels that kill tens of thousands of people a year who happen to be so unwise as to keep trying to breathe in and out downwind, has no business telling people they can’t burn a little Jane in an attempt to forget that they are daily living among the criminally insane. If said country was smart (and it isn’t), it would profit from this situation. Yes, I am talking big money. Imagine, a positive use for government’s taxation powers!

The states of Washington and Colorado recently passed laws allowing private citizens, and even politicians (who must have been smoking something all these years, don’t you think?) to possess small amounts of marijuana. Maine may consider it. There are a lot of details to be worked out. Federal law still obtains. A knotty little problem, since it would be unwise to forget that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents have come to enjoy locking their fellow citizens up.

Maine groups are now pushing for legalization. You can bet that the state’s marijuana fans, most of whom have already inhaled, are waiting with bated breath for the results.

Let’s review a few statistics.

U.S. government annual spending on The War on Drugs: $51 billion. At this rate, do you think the War on Drugs will end when we run out of money, or out of drugs?

Were illegal drugs to be taxed at the rate of alcohol and tobacco, annual revenue that could be raised: $47 billion. Could the country use this extra $47 billion?

Fraction of people incarcerated for drug offenses in state prisons that are black or Hispanic, despite the fact that these people represent about a third of the country’s population: Two-thirds. Coincidence? Their own fault for even daring to leave their homes?

Factor by which government expenses of caring for a prisoner exceeds that of the cost of support for the average welfare family: 2. (Plus the health care is WAY better!) Might it be cheaper to just pay people to be good citizens, instead of locking them up for being pretend bad ones? Bonus Question: Can you imagine what would happen if we had actual paying jobs for them?

U.S. percentage of the world’s population: 5%. The country’s percentage of the world’s prisoners: 25%. Giving new meaning to the phrase “Leader of the ‘Free’ World.” Bonus Question: What percentage of jailbirds would that be if the current laws were enforced equitably?

Decriminalization of the distribution and use of the other illegal drugs would be a lot squishier, of course — but it’s hard to make the argument that illegal marijuana use is worse for society, or for users, or for families, than is legal alcohol or legal tobacco use. Get the pushers off the streets and break the drug lords: just put a duty on imported marijuana, tax the manufacturers and tax the users. Rake in billions, instead of spending billions.

We can do this. We are good at sin taxes. I was in a supermarket the other day and I happened to glance at the cigarette display. At first, I thought it had to be a typo: $67.50 a carton? $67.50! Now that’s a smart government — addict the suckers, then make them pay for their addictions until they’re impoverished! Time to get the marijuana smokers, as well. They’ll be too buzzed to care! Besides, many of them, being average working class Americans, are already impoverished anyway.

Please follow and like us: