Legalizing marijuana could benefit Illinois economy

It looks like California’s pot smokers won’t be rolling their joints in public anytime soon. Californians voted Tuesday to not legalize marijuana in their state. If the law had passed, it would have legalized the sale and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21 and would make carrying up to one ounce of marijuana legal.

The serious thought of marijuana legalization came to California as it faced a state-wide budget crisis. Supporters say that a commercialized marijuana industry could bring the state $1.4 billion in tax revenue.

What other state is facing a mounting budget crisis? Illinois.

Illinois should also take a serious look into the legalization of marijuana. Not only will its taxation bring in revenue for the state, but other benefits can arise from the legalization of the drug.

For instance, decriminalizing marijuana could produce similar effects to the lift on prohibition in the 1930s. During prohibition, America saw a huge rise in organized crime. Mobsters like Al Capone rose to power because the sale, manufacturing and distribution of alcohol in a country that prohibited all existence of alcohol. Americans at the time were willing to pay premium dollar to wet their whistles, and mobsters jumped at the opportunity.

Today, alcohol is legal and society is still functioning. According to taxpolicy.org, in 2008, the U.S. brought in a little over $5.7 billion in tax revenue from alcohol sales. There’s no doubt alcohol is helping to fuel our economy.

The legalization of marijuana would free up law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes and fighting a battle against harmful drugs. Mexico saw an alarming rise in cartel activity last year. Legalizing marijuana removes one item they can traffic in and out of Mexico. It would allow current outlaws who grow and transport marijuana to come into the light of day and help set up a commercialized industry in the cultivation and distribution of pot.

While there are contradicting accounts about the health effects of marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “a recent case-controlled study found no positive associations between marijuana use and lung, upper respiratory, or upper digestive tract cancers. Thus, the link between marijuana smoking and these cancers remains unsubstantiated at this time.”

Overdose potential is non-existent with marijuana. According to drugwarfacts.org, “Tetrahydrocannabinol [cannibis] is a very safe drug.” It would take nearly 5,000 times the normal dose to achieve a “high” to overdose. Further, they cite that “an exhaustive search of the literature finds no deaths induced by marijuana.”

Alcohol, on the other hand, has a high potential for overdose and has many deaths associated with it, not to mention the domestic assaults and other crimes stemming from alcohol intake.

With marijuana’s legalization, Americans would have to be responsible in its use. Since the drug is not any more harmful than alcohol, we think Americans can handle the responsibility. It’s time for a change.