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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Case for Cannabis Part Two

I’m a thirty two year old married mother of six and mom to whatever children walk through my front door. That’s the way I feel and how I am and I’ve stumbled upon some quieter legislation via the faithful internet that I feel deserves some notice. Let me be perfectly blunt, I am an outspoken advocate for marijuana legalization. I’m sober and I’m smart and I’ll let anyone know right now that if they don’t see job creation and dollar signs among the hype, they need to rub the sleep out of their eyes and check again.

You see, for me it’s not a matter of whether I want to have the legal right to get stoned in the privacy of my own home. For me, the potential for money and jobs to come out of nowhere and restart a stumbled economy is too big a fish to just drop back into the lake. Maybe lawmakers just needed to be squeezed tightly enough but things they weren’t even considering before have now come under serious consideration and debate, like the legalization of cannabis on a federal level.

Let me be the first to introduce you to House Resolution 499: The Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013 if you haven’t been acquainted before. There’s a lot of legal wording going on in the written act itself but it roughly boils down to this: It would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, transfer the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority to regulate marijuana to a newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, require commercial marijuana producers to purchase a permit, and ensure that federal law distinguishes between individuals who grow marijuana for personal use and those involved in commercial sale and distribution.

Now, I don’t know about anyone else but insofar as I’m given to understand, this qualifies as the United States government beginning to fold over what has been a costly and ineffective war on a relatively benign drug because this would leave marijuana no longer criminal on a federal level. Does anyone besides me also see the potential for money making and job creation in this? That doesn’t include the decriminalization and release of nonviolent convicts and offenders from a strained prison system where their housing is costing taxpayers in the billions of dollars a year.

Let’s examine first the potential for money making in this because it is a hot ticket issue. Right now as it sits, the American economy is in shambles and is balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff. Just one misstep would not only be unwise, it would be fiscally suicidal. The commercial distribution of marijuana may not be able to fix the whole problem but it surely can put a big, heavy dent in the looming and ever present debt crisis and if the income from sales were managed wisely, begin to pull our nation out of debt. In explanation of this, I offer you two words: TAX REVENUE.

At present, Americans are taxed heavily on everyday items and taxed even more heavily under what many refer to as a “sin tax.” This includes tobacco, lottery tickets and alcohol. The cost of actually manufacturing these things is miniscule by comparison to the money charged at the check out counter after taxes have been added into the mix. Americans are even heavily taxed for gas to drive their cars. Did you know that the cost to manufacture a pack of cigarettes amounts to roughly thirty five cents? The rest of the money that smokers pay to purchase that pack comes in taxes and fees. The Master Settlement Agreement, state tax stamps and taxes added by the federal government for health care and schools make up the rest of the cost and the distributor and retailer make little profit off of tobacco sales.

The bottle of liquor you just bought the other night probably cost you no less than ten or fifteen dollars and that’s for lower shelf liquor, what people commonly refer to as “rot gut.” At cost, it is roughly half of what you actually pay. Once again, we come around to the taxes added to that bottle of liquor and the cost of cessation programs in the event raging alcoholics want to put down the bottle.

Let’s play a little devil’s advocate, shall we? At present, tobacco manufacturers already have the facilities necessary to manufacture and distribute cannabis as a commercial product. Should the federal government and then state governments successively get on board and allow commercial distribution nationwide, the potential for federal tax revenue can be conservatively estimated at tens of billions and even hundreds of billions of dollars the first year. And yes, I said billions, my friends. You know, where there are nine zero’s and then the bigger numbers start coming into play?

Want some hard numbers here? I’m game; let’s toss them out there. Let’s take a number out of the blue and say that it might cost a little more to manufacture a pack of joints. We’ll be safe and estimate seventy five cents per pack and that’s just an initial manufacturing cost. That will pay the workers that had to be hired and their employers’ cost for their benefits as well as the cost for opening new facilities that would be used for storage and manufacturing. Are we starting to see the potential for job creation yet? But I digress.

As far as a marketing trend, years of hard experience in the retail industry have shown me that you can put pretty much any price on something that is wanted badly enough and people will pay it. That would be the law of supply and demand. So let’s just say that for the sake of argument, the federal and state governments start pulling silly little taxes out of the blue and from off the tops of their heads and add those onto the cost of manufacturing. Let’s also estimate that those taxes and fees coupled with the manufacturing and distribution costs add up to roughly thirty dollars per pack. After you add in the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) you’ve reached about thirty five dollars a pack.

Now, at present there are approximately two ounces of tobacco in a regular pack of cigarettes. Two ounces of marijuana on the black market is going to cost you about one hundred and fifty dollars. With that being said, at thirty five dollars a pack retail even with all the taxes and fees, you’ve still undercut the prices of the black market by over a hundred dollars. That’s a big savings and a hefty chuck of change, if you ask me.

Let’s also say that out of the three hundred and fifty million or so Americans (conservative estimate, everyone), roughly seventy percent of them are of a majority age. That is, old enough to buy alcohol. Out of those aged twenty one or older, we’re going to toss a number out there and say that about seventy five percent of them will be what we’ll call “first pack purchasers.” These are the people who have no intention whatsoever of actually smoking any weed, they’ll just buy a pack because they can for the first time in seventy years. This being established, if you crunch the numbers, that’s 183,750,000 “first pack purchasers.” Now, squish that number into the taxes and fees that add up to the cost of a pack we projected earlier and you come up with $5,512,500,000 dollars in tax revenue. That’s just from “first pack purchasers” ladies and gents. That doesn’t include people who are going to continue to buy above and beyond the first pack.

Now, let’s talk about those who buy more. If you’re reading this with reddened eyes and know the numbers but can’t quite finish a sentence, this one’s for you. Now before you go getting all offended over that, I want to give this group of people kudos for being the group of people who will manage to kick start a stagnant economy. This is no mean feat everyone and it deserves our respect. That being said, let’s examine their numbers, shall we?

Let’s assume just for the sake of argument and yes, we’re going to limit their ability to chief like a champion and estimate that they buy two packs a month. Now, some people are going to giggle at this and call me an amateur and some are going to flat out laugh. We’re also going to estimate that of the “first pack purchasers” about seventy five percent will continue to buy. This is the number that’s hard to nail down ladies and gentlemen, because as their tolerance goes up, so also do their purchases proportionately. On the other side of the argument, some people will be able to make a pack last awhile and while they continue to buy, it won’t be but a few times a year. I’m just going to estimate an average of two packs a month at seventy five percent of the first pack purchasers. Here we go.

Crunching the numbers there, you come up with 137,812,500 continuous buyers at an average of two packs a month for eleven months. When you do a little addition, multiplication and some other annoying math, you come up with this figure $90,956,250,000 which is a conservative estimate. That last number there is the potential federal and state tax revenue for first year sales. I didn’t even bother to add in that extra pack for the first month.

I’m also not taking into account the potential for income taxes relating to job creation here. I’m not even going to bother to actually break down those numbers as relates specifically to state by state job creation. That’ll make my brain hurt. Let’s just say that the nation would need workers across the board for aid in planting, growing, harvesting, production and manufacturing, distribution and sales and let’s not leave out quality control. As far as the sales and quality control are concerned, hey you connoisseurs of cannabis, you will have found your niche and your dream job all in one fell swoop. Need I say more?

I also haven’t analyzed potential pharmaceutical applications either. It has long been an accepted notion among doctors in several medical fields that THC, the active compound in marijuana, is a miracle drug that aids in everything from pain relief to the alleviation of a variety of symptoms associated with mental illness, social disorders and terminal illness. Am I saying that it’s going to get rid of all of our problems as a nation? No. What I want for you to consider is that the ability to prescribe even a low dose pill with an active ingredient compound at no more than about five percent with carefully monitored intake has enormous potential to make people feel better. The more severe the symptoms, the higher the recommended dose and the more carefully it should be monitored by your doctor. I’m still not seeing a downside to this part.

All justifications aside ladies and gentlemen, I do believe that marijuana has enormous potential on the open market. Legalizing it has to be something that everyone considers not just for the idea that you’ll legally be allowed to get stoned but that there are mind boggling implications for money and jobs but mainly the money. Do I believe that legalizing marijuana will solve all of the nations’ money woes? No, but I do think that it’ll go a long way toward making a big dang dent in that deficit everyone is worried about.

My proposal? It’s quite simple. Legalize marijuana and police it the same way alcohol is policed. A person must be of a certain age, I think twenty one is acceptable, to legally purchase and consume it with an emphasis on “safe possession” laws. By these I mean roughly the same idea, okay exactly the same idea as laws pertaining to safe possession of alcohol. A person should be under penalty of law should they choose to try to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated or if there are opened alcohol containers accessible to the driver and I believe it should be no different with marijuana.

Enjoy responsibly, ladies and gentlemen. Just like you do with alcohol, take it home and partake in the privacy of your own home or go to a friends house, give up your keys and crash on their couch. Planning on going out on the town to partake? Take a cab home or designate a driver. Designated drivers are absolutely awesome. Are you worried about a contact high? I have three words for you: Well Ventilated Area. You wouldn’t paint your living room with the windows shut and the house closed off tight, would you?

In the end, think about the lives of others and your own before doing something so rash, reckless and terminally stupid as catching a buzz and then driving. Think about the money making implications and the potential job creation in a rough economy and finally, think about the best interests of the nation as a whole. We need to do something to bring in cash flow while adding jobs and not raising taxes. Legalizing marijuana is the solution to the looming problem and the applications and implications are too enormous to ignore. I haven’t even touched on all the potential benefits of legalizing cannabis in this. I just wanted to concentrate on the big fish swimming in the pond.

Don’t reject my words out of hand, consider them carefully. And another thing for those of you who plan on rocking the vote when you get the chance to speak your piece. Do those of us who are sober and still advocating legalization a favor and wait to spark that doobie or fire up that bowl until after you’ve had a chance to put your two cents in and cast your vote. We don’t need a bunch of people blazed up at the voting booth trying to decide if they can draw a straight line or hit the right button long enough to vote in favor of legalization. We also don’t need anyone so blazed up that they can’t quite figure out how to fill in the right bubble and if you’re giggling over the word “bubble” right now, you might be one of those people. That won’t help our case any, now will it?

The War on Drugs is not cost effective and is an unqualified failure when it comes to marijuana. Legislators have to get in line with this idea and many of them already have. It’s just a matter of time before marijuana is legal again. I’m waiting on the edge of my seat. Are you?

And now, a helpful link for those who see my point of view and would seek to cast their lot with those of us who endorse marijuana legalization. Go here and give a shout to your lawmakers. You can't go wrong giving your opinion.

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