In a day and age where the economy dominates the political landscape, alternative solutions are taking more of a center-stage than ever before. Could Marijuana be the economic-stimulus that this country so desperately needs? The debate rages, lines are being drawn, sides chosen. Does one need to pick a side? Not yet, but one should definitely be aware of the effects this decision will have. The Netherlands In a city of a 120,000 people in the southern part of the Netherlands, Maastricht has become the first city to implement a new law that bars foreigners from “coffee-shops. These are establishments that legally sell marijuana and other “soft drugs. ” For decades coffee-shops have been as much of a tourist fixture in the Netherlands as Rembrandt, windmills, or that kid with his finger in the dike. The new law requires Dutch residents to present a permit, nicknamed a “weed pass” before being able to even enter the establishment.

They are not able to enter under any circumstances with out this permit. Not for coffee, not to use the bathroom or even get out of the rain for a moment. Maastricht has 14 coffee-shops within its city limits and fewer than 100 people have signed up for this weed pass. Bender) The majority of the 100 are people who work in the coffee-shops, but that is just a faction of the work force. There were 440 people who held full-time employment in these shops, and as of May 1, 2012, the day the law went into affect, 360 people lost their jobs. (Bender) Needless to say there is a multiplier effect of coffee-shop tourism. Coffee-shop tourist book hotels, they eat, they drink, and they shop for clothes.

All of this has an impact of $118 million per year in Maastricht alone. Nationwide coffee-shops collectively pay $569 million in annual taxes. Bender) A recent study is predicting a loss of 1,500 jobs in Maastricht under the new law. With this new law to go into nationwide effect January 1, 2013, Amsterdam will be hit the hardest. With a population more than six times that of Maastricht and 138 coffee-shops in the city center alone, its not hard to see that marijuana is a huge part of their economy. Roughly a third of the four million foreign tourist who visit Amsterdam each year, smoke marijuana. (Bender) The prediction for the local economy is severe to catastrophic, only time will tell. California

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Could marijuana be the answer for California who has the biggest state budget deficit (more than $26 billion)? (McNichol) Democratic state assemblyman Tom Ammiano thinks so. Marijuana is, after all, California’s biggest cash crop, responsible for $14 billion a year in sales, dwarfing the state’s second largest agricultural commodity, which is milk and cream. At $7. 3 billion according to the most recent USDA statistics, marijuana almost doubles it. (Stateman) That is why Ammiano introduced legislation that would legalize marijuana and allow the state to regulate and tax its sale.

The state’s tax collectors estimate the bill would bring in about $1. 3 billion a year in much needed revenue. (Stateman) Currently, $200 million in medical-marijuana sales are subject to sales tax. If the proposed legislation passes, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act would give California control of pot in a manner similar to that of alcohol, prohibiting its purchase by citizens under 21. (Stateman) A Field Poll conducted in California this spring showed that 56% of the state’s registered voters support legalizing and taxing marijuana as a way of offsetting some of the budget deficit.

In fact, Oakland will be the first city in the country to establish a new tax rate for medical-marijuana businesses. 80% of residents voted in support of a tax hike from $1. 20 per $1,000 in receipts to $18 per $1,000. (McNichol) Retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, a longtime proponent of legalization, estimates that legalizing pot and thus ceasing to arrest, prosecute and imprison nonviolent offenders could save the state $1 billion a year. “We couldn’t make this drug any more available if we tried,” he ays. “Not only do we have those problems, along with glamorizing it by making it illegal, but we also have the crime and corruption that go along with it. ” He adds, “Unfortunately, every society in the history of mankind has had some form of mind-altering, sometimes addictive substances to use, to misuse, abuse or get addicted to. Get used to it. They’re here to stay. So let’s try to reduce those harms, and right now we couldn’t do it worse if we tried. ” (Stateman) United States

So what does all this information mean on a national level? Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, has recently published a paper that suggests that if the Federal Government were to legalize marijuana they would save more than $7. 7 billion per year not having to enforce the prohibition of the plant. (English) Miron is backed by 300 economists, including three Nobel laureates, all of which have signed a petition urging the United States Government to pay attention to his findings. The U. S. s, by far, the most “criminal” country in the world, with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners. The U. S. spends $68 billion per year on corrections, and one-third of those being corrected are serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. It also spends about $150 billion on policing and courts, and 47. 5% of all drug arrests are marijuana-related. (Klein) That is an awful lot of money, most of it non-federal, that could be spent on better schools or infrastructure — or simply returned to the public.

Economist Stephen Easton wrote in Businessweek that the financial benefits of pot legalization may be the very thing to help pull the United States out of the economic depression we are in. He states, “based on a larger analysis of costs of growing, marketing and the consumption rates of current users we may be looking at $45 to $100 billion a year in revenue. ” (English) So if we go off the low end and say $50 billion a year, in twenty years the United States could bring in $1 trillion dollars.

That is 1/16 of our national debt. Can marijuana save our economy? Nobody knows for sure but the statistics show it could help. With thousands of new jobs, billions of dollars in revenue and billions saved from not prosecuting the current offenders, this is definitely a option worth consideration. Looking at the numbers one has to ask how come we haven’t legalized marijuana, well as with any issue of this size and importance, there is a moral side that stands in the way. One that we debate over and over again.

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