A serious look

It’s a little after 4-20. Obama should consider a serious look at pot.

I like President Obama. He seems like an intelligent and serious man.
He is looking at the messes facing this country and instead of ignoring them, he sees them as “opportunities.” Cool. He appears to be smart and energetic and actually trying to be real in his approach to solving the issues. However, while I raise my eyebrow at some of his efforts with the banks and the economy, what I really question is his flippant dismissal of the country’s drug issue.

Last month when Obama held an innovative on-line press conference with citizens he seemed somewhat surprised at the topic that garnered the most interest. According to Comcast.com, marijuana legalization was the question most people wanted him to address. ”I have to say that there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high, and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation,” he reportedly said, provoking laughter at the White House event. “And I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Obama said, tongue-in-cheek. “This was a fairly popular question. We want to make sure that it was answered.
“The answer is, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy,” he said before moving back to a more sober discussion of unemployment and healthcare reform.

Really? Try this for sober. According to a recent academic report, replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year. That finding is from a June 2005 report by Dr. Jeffrey Miron, visiting professor of economics at Harvard University.
Miron’s conclusion has been endorsed by more than 500 distinguished economists, including the late Milton Friedman. “There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana,” said economist Friedman, who was 92 years old at the time.
Mr. President, while the figures in the report may not be much in the context of these times—say perhaps just a day’s worth of AIG bonuses—it used to be real money.

And it’s not just about money. It is about a “war” on you.
 It’s about the attitude of putting people in prison. A lot of people. Too many people. In 2007, more than 782,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana-related crimes. Ninety percent of those arrests were for possession. Approximately 80,000 of them are serving sentences in jail or prison.
According to various websites, “The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world… some 701 per 100,000 of the national population.” The next most prison-happy country is Russia, with 606 of their citizens per 100,000 behind bars. That is not something to be proud of in America.
Since the enactment of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug users, the Federal Bureau of Prisons budget has increased by 1,954 percent. Its budget has jumped from $220 million in 1986 to $4.3 billion in 2001.

America’s drug war is insane.
A war on your own citizens is crazy.
Now think about it. Half-assed decriminalization encourages continued existence of criminal drug mafias. Did anyone hesitate to choose Mexico as a vacation destination last week during the school break? Discussing the legalization of marijuana should not be a taboo subject. There are real benefits to the debate… both moral and economic.

In July, Obama told Rolling Stone that he believed in “shifting the paradigm” to a public-health approach: “I would start with nonviolent, first-time drug offenders. The notion that we are imposing felonies on them or sending them to prison, where they are getting advanced degrees in criminality, instead of thinking about ways like drug courts that can get them back on track in their lives—it’s expensive, it’s counterproductive, and it doesn’t make sense.”
Obama has said he can handle more than one problem at a time. I believe him. He should seriously address this problem and consider taking pressure off the United State prison system while boosting economic numbers at the same time. And one way to do that is to seriously consider legalizing pot. I’m with a guy named Milton on this one. Seriously.

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