As as summary of the points below, there is not a single reliable fact in this section that in anyway destroys the ‘myth’ that legalizing and taxing marijuana will help local economies by reducing crime and increasing tax revenue. The argument slips between evidence relating to the costs and benefits of legalizing marijuana and and the costs and benefits of legalizing other illegal drugs. Taken to the extreme, the DEA’s arguments could be seen as an endorsement for the criminalization of alcohol and tobacco. There’s some legalese at the end which may or may not be fact, but I don’t understand it. I’m still struggling to find any “scrupulously researched facts to help me educate my friends and family”. I feel cheated. And they spelt reducing wrong.

  • Marijuana is a dangerous, mind-altering drug. That’s the conclusion the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came to after reviewing all of the available information. The same can be said of alcohol and tobacco—both legal drugs (and currently outside of the FDA’s jurisdiction). How could anyone argue that adding a third substance to that mix is going to be beneficial?

Are we not ready to agree yet that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, unless you include the fact that people choose to smoke tobacco with their marijuana sometimes? I’m not even going to go down the schizophrenia rabbit-hole. Many things are dangerous, and I like to alter my mind sometimes. Can’t we let people make up their own minds as to the risks they want to take? By all means provide public health information and please regulate supply. I can argue, I have argued, and I will continue to argue, that it is beneficial to add a third substance to that mix, because of all the avoidable harms that are associated with criminalization.

  • Alcohol and tobacco have proven harmful, addictive, and difficult to regulate. Alcohol is the third leading cause of death in the United States—each year over 100,000 Americans die of alcohol-related causes. The Surgeon General estimates that problems resulting from alcohol use and abuse cost society almost $200 billion every year, and that these costs are far higher than any revenue generated by alcohol taxes[1].

And? Alcohol is more harmful than marijuana. Tax alcohol more heavily. Regulate the industry more tightly. Spend more on prevention education. Restrict alcohol advertising. You’d have more money to do this if you stopped wasting money on criminalizing marijuana.

  • Tobacco, the other substance that often is suggested as a model for ‘legal’ marijuana, offers a picture of a similarly bleak future. The Center for Disease Control estimates that the total economic costs associated with cigarette smoking is approximately $7.18 per pack of cigarettes sold in the United States. The revenue generated to cover these costs? The federal excise tax is $1.01 per pack of cigarettes.[2] The median state cigarette excise tax rate, as of January 1, 2007, is 80 cents[3]. This hardly sounds like an “economic windfall” that cures our budget woes.

This is an invalid use of the statistics. Even if we assume that the federal tax should cover the costs to the federal government or that state taxes should cover the cost to the state governments, this argument misrepresents the statistics. The total economic costs of smoking are not borne only by the federal government, they are also borne by the businesses that lose days of economic activity from sick workers, or the insurance companies that pay for the health of these workers. Admittedly, a lot of those costs fall to CMS  through Medicare, and Medicaid, but just because the American healthcare system is broken, and insurance companies have no incentive to promote the long-term health of their members, doesn’t mean that marijuana should be illegal. It just means that tobacco use is poorly regulated, and public health programs are under-funded.

  • If we were to regulate marijuana, we would have to concede that it’s acceptable for society to profit from a person’s addiction. There were approximately 38,000 overdose deaths for illicit drugs and non-medical use of prescription drugs during 2006, according to the Center for Disease Control.[4] How much are those lives worth?

This argument is just plain ridiculous. The tobacco industry profits from addiction. The alcohol industry profits from addiction.  Marijuana is not physically addictive, and the evidence for psychological addiction is pretty weak. And people haven’t died from marijuana overdoses. Once again, I’m struggling to see how this report helps me “cut through the fog of misinformation.”

  • The cost of treatment and rehabilitation from addiction and usage associated illnesses far outweighs the cost of any revenue possibly be generated; a government estimate of the cost of drug use just for one year (2002) was more than $180 billion. Regulation hasn’t kept prescription drugs, alcohol, or tobacco from being abused. The excise taxes that are collected from these activities only cover a portion of the costs of their misuse.

I struggle to believe that even half of the people who receive treatment for marijuana would do so if it wasn’t a way of demonstrating ‘penance’ for their ‘crimes’.  I can’t tell if these uncited figures for the costs of drug use include the costs of enforcement, or the costs of other drugs apart from marijuana. Regulation hasn’t kept other alcohol, prescription drugs, or tobacco from being abused, but I would argue that it has reduced the level of violent crime associated with the sale of those drugs, made it easier to provide non-judgmental treatment and support for those whose use is problematic, made it easier to provide harm reduction information to promote more moderate use, and made it easier to crackdown on those selling irresponsibly.

  • Studies demonstrate that when people perceive the use of drugs as harmless, drug use increases— if marijuana or other drugs were legalized, it is certain that the perceived harm would decrease, making the incidence of use rise, regardless of age-related regulations.

Which studies? I can name a number of studies that demonstrate pretty much any point I care to make about anything. Shouldn’t the perception of harm be equivalent to some kind of scientifically evaluated risk of harm? Should we care if more adults smoke marijuana? Is prohibition the best way to stop kids from smoking marijuana?

  • Suggesting that the only costs, caused by the illegality of drugs are law enforcement costs ignores lives and livelihoods lost due to addiction and overdose. Lowering or eliminating the legal restrictions for drugs will result in increased availability, and greater use, with higher healthcare costs and increased criminal activity. We have seen these costs go up when other nations have gone down this path, and we should not make the same mistakes.

Show me one person whose life has been lost to marijuana addiction and overdose, and after I’ve pinched myself and checked I’m not dreaming, I will show you a 100 people whose lives have been damaged by a drug conviction for selling or using marijuana use.  No one is suggesting eliminating restrictions, they’re just suggesting that we regulate the industry rather than criminalizing it. And please, where is the evidence for higher healthcare costs and increased criminal activity as a result of marijuana legalization? Even the Netherlands never legalized marijuana, they just decriminalized its use. I’m still waiting for some “scrupulously researched facts”, DEA. Still waiting.

  • For example, when The Netherlands liberalized their drug laws allowing the public sale of marijuana, they saw marijuana use among 18-25 years olds double, and the heroin addiction levels triple. They have since reversed this trend, and have begun implementing tighter drug controls. Indeed, today over 70 percent of Dutch municipalities have local zero-tolerance laws.[5] Similarly, when the United Kingdom relaxed their drug laws to allow physicians to prescribe heroin to certain classes of addicts, they saw an entirely new class of youthful users emerge. According to social scientist James Q. Wilson, the British Government’s experiment with controlled heroin distribution resulted in a minimum of a 30-fold increase in the number of addicts in 10 years. (See page 60 for more details on European legalization experiments.)

I’ve seen page 60, and it is drivel. I’ll come to that at a later date. As I said before, the Netherlands hasn’t legalized use, it’s decriminalized it. As for the cited article, the link is broken and I can’t find the original document on the INTRAVAL website. I found an article from 2002, which stated that 73% of local municipalities have a zero-tolerance policy. It strikes me as pretty cool that a local area should have control over who smokes what and where. If a town doesn’t want a coffee shop, it should be able to vote to regulate against that. If a town doesn’t want people smoking marijuana or tobacco, or drinking alcohol in their streets, they should be able to regulate against that. But they shouldn’t be able to regulate against me smoking in my home, or someone else’s home, or in the coffee shop down the road in a municipality that does allow it.

As for the ‘fact’ that heroin addiction levels tripled- well-until I see the evidence for this, this is not a fact. Tripled from what, to what, and when? And what’s the UK prescription experiment got to do with this, apart from as another example of a misrepresented and misconstrued application of invalid evidence for an argument? And regardless of whether either of these assertions is true, what has heroin use in the 90s got to do with cannabis legalization in the US today? Is this some kind of link to the Gateway Drug theory? Please- that’s scraping the barrel, even by the DEA’s standards.

  • While the notion that each individual can make their own choices without affecting anyone is a nice theory, it is impractical in today’s interconnected world. The health and social costs generated by addiction are borne not just by the drug user, but by everyone. The purpose of an effective drug policy should be to lessen the harm that illegal drugs do to our society. Lowering or eliminating the current legal and social restrictions that limit the availability and social acceptance of drug use would have the opposite result, both domestically and internationally.

Huh? Oh, we’re continuing with the idea that marijuana use is addictive. Oh. Ok. And we’re saying that we can’t legalize marijuana because of the harm that would do to society, not just domestically, but internationally.  Right. Yes. I see. No, wait a minute. I have absolutely no idea where  either logic or truth are in that statement.

  • Some have hypothesized that there has already been a loss of state tax revenue because of actions taken against marijuana traffickers who purport to be operating in furtherance of state marijuana legalization laws. In fact, this is a question that some jurisdictions in California have raised directly with the Department of Justice. In summary, the Department of Justice replied that income derived from the sale of marijuana, whether in California or not, represents proceeds of illegal drug trafficking, and as such is forfeitable under federal law.

What I understand from this statement, is that it is a myth that legalizing and taxing marijuana will help local economies, because federal law prohibits it. Fair enough. Let’s change the federal law.

  • The State of California is neither an innocent owner nor a lien holder in regards to collecting illegal drug proceeds.[6] All right, title, and interest in property subject to forfeiture under the Controlled Substance Act – including all money and other proceeds of illegal drug sales – shall vest in the United States upon commission of the illegal act giving rise to the forfeiture.[7] Under the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution, a state may not impose a sales tax, or any other tax, on the property of the United States.[8]

I’ve never been very good at speaking legalese, but I understand this to read that States can’t make any money from legalizing marijuana, because the Controlled Substance Act empowers the federal government to seize all the marijuana in the US, and all the income derived from all the sales of all the marijuana in the US. Arses. Federal Government 1, States Rights 0.  Bet the tea-partiers will love that one.

  • Nonetheless, if a government entity wishes to assert a legal claim to any seized funds, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA) provides a mechanism for it to do so, which begins by submitting a claim in a timely manner and in the appropriate legal proceeding. In evaluating whether to maintain a legal claim please consider that general creditors lack standing to contest the federal forfeiture of property.[9]Thus, if a state or local government asserts that it is a general creditor based upon unreported and/or unpaid sales taxes, it might look to those entities whose property was seized, rather than the federal government, for relief.

Nope. Sorry readers, I just don’t understand this paragraph. Feel free to help me out in the comments section below.

  • If instead the state or local governments claim some specific interest in the seized funds – funds which were derived from the distribution of a controlled substance – then such an interest would have to be evaluated according to principles of federal forfeiture law.[10] To date, no state or local entity has made such claims.

I think the DEA’s tactic here might have been to bamboozle me with legalese in order to distract my brain from the beating it just succumbed to from the poorly argued points that came before. Fear not, readers, my will is still strong, despite the fact that my eyes are bleeding. Next, myth #3 “Drug Laws Infringe on States Rights.”


[1] http://www.marininstitute.org/site/resources/fact-sheets/33-fact-sheet-alcohol-costs.html

[2] As of April 1, 2009

[3] http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/

[4] Heron, et al, “Deaths: Final Data for 2006,” U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 57, Number 14, April 2009, DHHS Pub No (PAS) 2009-1120 (Tables 21 and 22), see: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_14.pdf

[5] INTRAVAL Bureau for Research and Consistency, “Coffeeshops in the Netherlands 2004,” Dutch

Ministry of Justice, June 2005, http://www.intraval.nl/en/b/b45_html.  NB:This link is broken, and I can’t find this document. I did find this though:  http://www.intraval.nl/pdf/mcn2003_engsum_a42.pdf

[6] See: 21 U.S.C. § 881.

[7] 21 U.S.C. § 811(h).

[8] See: McCullough v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819); see also U.S. v. Cal. State Bd. of Equalization, 650

F.2d 1127 (9th Cir. 1981), 456 U.S. 901 (1982), aff’d, 456 U.S. 985 (1982), reh’g denied.

[9] See, e g.: U.S. v. $20,193.39 U.S. Currency, 16 F.3d 344, 346 (9th Cir. 1994).

[10] See, e.g.: 18 U.S.C. § 983(d)(3) and 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(6)(B).

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