5

Chasing marijuana users comes at too high a cost

A supporter of legalized marijuana holds up a small blunt at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colo. Commentator Todd Buchholz says decriminalizing marijuana could help ease a taxpayer burden.

I consider myself tough on crime, but every time I wait in a slow, snaking line at the airport, I wonder why we're wasting so many public dollars chasing down marijuana users?

Now I've never touched the stuff, but at a time of exploding budget deficits, keeping pot illegal costs taxpayers a ridiculous amount of money. Nearly half of all U.S. drug arrests are for marijuana. Don't we have better ways of deploying our police than sending them after people toking on some dried out vegetable? By chasing after users and sellers, we actually incite more crime. If you lock up a seller and create a shortage of pot, the price goes up, right? Well, when the price goes up, that inspires more growers and dealers to enter the trade because the profits are even higher. This is not Adam Smith on drugs.  This is Adam Smith stone-cold sober.

Here's another way to look at it. Coffee is addictive, right? But you don't see murderous trafficking in it. If we banned coffee, you'd find 100 million Americans trying to corner Howard Schultz in an alley outside a boarded up Starbucks: "Hey, score me a mochachino. Leave the gun, take the latte."

A Harvard study showed that the U.S. would save nearly $8 billion by decriminalizing marijuana. Then there's every bureaucrat's favorite word: revenue. States could raise up to $6 billion by taxing the stuff. A friend assured me that three-quarters of those receipts would come from the extra sale of Doritos alone.

Now, I'm not suggesting that smoking marijuana is a good thing. It's not. It damages your lungs, toys with your chromosomes and might make you dopier. But let's face it, nearly 10 million people watch "Jersey Shore." There are plenty of ways to keep dopey people busy, without providing them with overnight lodging on your dime at your local jail.

About the author

Todd G. Buchholz is an American economist and author. He is a former senior economic adviser at the White House, a managing director of the $15 billion Tiger hedge fund, and an award-winning economics teacher.
Log in to post5 Comments

ucanbillme,
You are grossly misinformed on cannabis and its effects. There are countless consumers of cannabis that lead very productive lives in professional settings. There are countless patents that consume and are tremendous parents to their children.

If you are a poor evaluator of talent/skill, then that is on you. It sounds as though you hire the wrong people. Cannabis use has been shown to have no long-term effects on cognitive abilities. The myth that cannabis makes one a stoned loser is, well, a myth.

If you have a poor employee, fire them. Consuming cannabis does not make one a bad employee though. Judge the worker based on his work product, not what he does in his free time. You need to become better at your hiring practices. Your inability to accurately judge a worker is no justification to violate my basic liberties.

I would recommend doing some research into cannabis. What you find will surprise you and open your eyes. Cannabis prohibition, or actually all drug prohibition, makes zero economic sense. That is exactly why men like Milton Friedman opposed prohibition. Aside from the natural rights argument of who owns the body, Friedman realized that prohibition is really nothing more than a war against free market principles.

I see you are misinformed here. Cannabis has nothing to do with those peoples behavior, but rather the fact that they are that way on their own. Heard of Carl Sagan, one of the most intelligent astronomers of, well, ever? He smoked weed pretty much daily. Ive smoked cannabis for 3 years, had the same job for 4, and never missed work on account of "being a wasteoid". Theres also the fact that cannabis helps protect and build brain cells, and your body already uses its own cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBC, etc, the active ingredients in cannabais, are cannabinoids) to communicate between cells. As far as the "lazy" aspect of cannabis, well, that depends on the strain. There currently exists a strain called 'Green Crack', and rightfully so. This is NOT the cannabis to smoke before bedtime, but if you need something in the morning, this will get you going. Its sad less than 100 years of bad propaganda has destroyed at least 2000 years of human cannabis use.

Wow, I'm suprised an economics teacher would make a comment based on such narrow data.

I work in the landscaping industry which has an enormous amount of "wasteoids" in it. They're stupid, and lazy. I've given up hiring anyone I even think is remotely a user of pot - they are the most unreliable adults in the country. And basically this is why we should keep pot (and other drugs) illeagal, and with severe penalties for its use.

For example: A client needs her yard mowed on Friday because her daughter is having a birthday party on Saturday. The Pot Head doesn't show up and I have to cancel my appointments so that I can help out the other person on the mowing crew finish the lawns. Not only do I forego the possible revenue due to the meetings, but a couple of prospects might have taken off early, or gone home for lunch to meet me, and now they've wasted their time and money, etc...

This of course has happened in many incarnations, and not just in my industry. And I realize that it is very difficult to determine these costs to business and the public, but to draw a conclusion about such a pervasive problem from one fact is irresponsible. By the way, coffee tends to make people more productive - drink some.

Wow, I'm suprised an economics teacher would make a comment based on such narrow data.

I work in the landscaping industry which has an enormous amount of "wasteoids" in it. They're stupid, and lazy. I've given up hiring anyone I even think is remotely a user of pot - they are the most unreliable adults in the country. And basically this is why we should keep pot (and other drugs) illeagal, and with severe penalties for its use.

For example: A client needs her yard mowed on Friday because her daughter is having a birthday party on Saturday. The Pot Head doesn't show up and I have to cancel my appointments so that I can help out the other person on the mowing crew finish the lawns. Not only do I forego the possible revenue due to the meetings, but a couple of prospects might have taken off early, or gone home for lunch to meet me, and now they've wasted their time and money, etc...

This of course has happened in many incarnations, and not just in my industry. And I realize that it is very difficult to determine these costs to business and the public, but to draw a conclusion about such a pervasive problem from one fact is irresponsible. By the way, coffee tends to make people more productive - drink some.

What a funny story -- at first I thought Mr. Buchholz was blaming airport security lines on laws against marijuana use. Then I realized that's the location where he does his thinking, or perhaps just write his satire. That must explain why he thinks legalizing marijuana will eliminate crimes associated with marijuana. He must not know about the tremendous criminal problem we have with the illegal sale and use of legal prescription drugs. CNN money did a story on 5/24/12, which stated that the criminal justice system spends $8.2 billion addressing the problem. Perhaps he should think a little longer.

With Generous Support From...