Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama, Legalization, The Economy, Change, Violence in Mexico, and Economics.

At a town-hall style meeting, Obama answered questions voted upon via internet.
But after 3.6 million votes were cast, one of the top questions turned out to be a query on whether legalizing marijuana might stimulate the economy by allowing the government to regulate and tax the drug.

Note, please, that the question was not; "Dude, like, dude, you should totally make bud legal, bro!" This was a legitimate question, made even more legitimate by California's consideration of doing the very same thing.

Obama's answer came as a surprise to me.
"I don't know what this says about the online audience," Obama said in the session in the East Room, drawing a laugh from his live audience, which included teachers, nurses and small-business people. "The answer is no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow the economy."

Of all the presidents in recent memory, I would expect Obama to be the one not to crack a joke at this question. Especially considering he was for legalization, before he was against it.
The debate tape from Jan. 21, 2004, at Northwestern University shows Obama proclaiming the war on drugs an "utter failure."

"We need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws,". he said to scattered applause. "But I'm not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana. What I do believe is that we need to rethink how we're operating in the drug war. Currently, we're not doing a good job."

This must be part of the change he was promising. I'm not sure what he means by saying we should "decriminalize our marijuana laws," even though he says he's "not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana." I'll just say he Kerry'd that line, and move on.

So Obama says, "I don't think that is a good strategy to grow the economy." Lets play for a moment in the fantasy world that the income from taxation of legal Marijuana, would be nonexistent. Lets assume marijuana sales bring in no additional income. What income does legalization free up?

How many people are incarcerated for minor drug offenses, and sucking money from state and federal coffers every day? How many man hours, and overtime hours are spent pursuing these same offenders? How much money is spent on investigations to stop large shipments of marijuana? How much federal money is paid out to families of accidental victims of the drug war? How much money is spent in court costs trying those same cases? How much money does the coast guard spend seeking, and destroying smugglers' boats? How much money can be saved by cutting the overhead and processing of almost every police agency in the country?

How much money (and lives) is that President Obama? How much money will that free up, which can be spent on economic problems elsewhere?

California estimates it can charge $50 per ounce of marijuana, and almost guarantee sales, because those prices still beat the black market. Do you have any idea what percentage tax $50 is on an ounce of a plant that grows in the dirt? It's practically criminal. But people will pay it. You will instantly have income from a billion (trillion?) dollar market, already in full swing.

There's also the added effect of striking a heavy blow against the drug cartels south of the boarder. Want them to stop fighting over territory? Take their buyers away. Stop a large chunk of their income. Give them less to fight over. I keep hearing you talk about the violence in Mexico, well now you have the chance to do something about it.

Hillary Clinton was wrong when she visited Mexico, and said America had an "insatiable" appetite for illegal drugs.

America has an insatiable appetite for drugs that have been declared illegal.

Politicians declared these substances illegal.
Politicians created the black market for these items.
Politicians are responsible, not the nature of humans to seek what they want.

All the force in the world will not eliminate market pressure.

The DEA commands billions of dollars, top-of-the-line guns, and even tanks. TANKS. Let that sink in! They're still being beaten. Soundly.

What does the DEA have to show for itself in THIRTY SIX YEARS in operation? Except a bottomless pit in which we dump money, people incarcerated and living off tax dollars, the blood of innocents caught in the crossfire, and an availability of illegal drugs that has never so much as stopped to catch its breath?

As long as someone wants something, and someone's willing to sell it to them for a reasonable price, that transaction will always take place.

You can either profit from that transaction, or waste money trying to stop it.

How's the latter been working out for us so far? I seem to recall a certain Senator calling it an "utter failure."

So what has changed since then, Mr. President?

Politics or reality?

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