College professor says there may be hope (the financial kind) in dope

    College economics professor Carl Moody has endorsed a report advocating the legalization of marijuana, which, according to research done by a Harvard University professor, would create savings and tax revenues resulting in a net gain of approximately $10 to $14 billion annually.

    p. Harvard economics professor Jeffrey Miron’s report, published in June 2005, is called “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition,” and has garnered the support of over 530 economists from colleges and universities across the nation.

    p. Focusing on federal budgets, Miron’s report notes that “prohibition entails direct enforcement costs and prevents taxation of marijuana production and sale.”

    p. Moody decided to express his support for the matter because he has long agreed with Miron’s argument, despite the controversy surrounding the issue.

    p. “It just makes so much sense. I’ve done lots of research, never published it, but I looked into it, and the cost of drug prohibition is just enormous,” Moody said in a phone interview. “It is controversial, but look who else supports it. I’m with Nobel Laureate winners. If [Nobel Laureate recipients Dr.] Milton Friedman and [Dr.] Vernon Smith can take the heat, so can I. It’s just so sensible, why wouldn’t people agree?”

    p. According to the report, lifting prohibition and allowing for the taxation of marijuana would save the government approximately $7.7 billion per year in enforcement costs. Of these savings, $5.3 billion would be accumulated at the state and local levels from such expenditures and $2.4 billion at the federal level.

    p. In Virginia, the police, judicial and corrections budget combined is $2,935 million, of which $99.46 million is attributed to expenditures related to marijuana prohibition, the report says.

    p. In addition to these savings, the report says that the tax revenue gains would be considerable. Depending on the method of taxation, anywhere between $2.4 billion (if marijuana were taxed like an ordinary product) and $6.2 billion (if it were taxed like alcohol or tobacco) would be accrued annually.

    p. Many of the esteemed endorsers of the report, however, think that the economics are only part of the problem about marijuana prohibition.

    p. “Look at the factual consequences: the harm done and the corruption created by these laws,” Friedman said in an interview with Forbes magazine. “The costs are one of the lesser evils.”

    p. Although the report espouses the view that legalizing marijuana would have many economic benefits, it acknowledges that the social impacts and consequences of eradicating prohibition were not considered.

    p. Moody, however, feels that the social impacts of lifting prohibition would all be positive.

    p. “It’s an unnecessary infringement on rights as a person and the right to do what you want with your body. It’s not anybody else’s body; it’s not the government’s. I support [legalization] on philosophical grounds,” he said.

    p. His support for the issue of legalization also stems from his view of the negative impacts of prohibition on society and individual freedoms.

    p. “Prohibition leads to empowerment of the law enforcement and police side of government. We’re not a police state, but if you stop people from doing what they want it reduces freedom overall. [In situations like this,] police are forced to go undercover or rely on snitches or break into houses [to seek out the criminals.] If prohibition were lifted, there would be a significant shift of usage from alcohol to marijuana, and also from more intense drugs to marijuana, which [in comparison] is pharmacologically mild,” Moody said.

    p. Prohibition, in Moody’s opinion, is the reason that harder drugs have become more popular.

    p. “[During prohibition in the 1920s,] beer wasn’t smuggled in, they took in hard alcohol. Essentially the same thing holds true now. Dangerous, designer drugs are popular because they’re easier to smuggle in. You can’t fly a plane of marijuana leaves,” Moody said.

    p. The report has been summarized in a letter to President George W. Bush, requesting “an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition” and advocating reform that would allow a system of regulation and taxation similar to that used for the distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages.

    p. “I don’t expect significant movement [to change marijuana policy as a result of] the report,” Moody said. “This is essentially one drop in a Chinese water torture method to change [the current] policy. Our one drop says ‘your policy is stupid.’ Sooner or later, reason will win out.”


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