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Legalize It Tuesday October 15, 2013

Legalize It

I was in a Vancouver pub recently, and 2 guys at the patio table next to me lit up a joint. Right in the open, with 2 police officers less than 10 feet away. The cops came over, smiling and shaking their heads. One of them told the two tokers, "C'mon guys. At least go into that alley or something." They all enjoyed a chuckle, and the dudes ducked into the alley. Which raises the question - if even cops don't care, why is pot still illegal?

It's obvious that increasingly, North America is embracing the legalization movement, if ostensibly just for medicinal use. Since 1996, 20 US States and Washington DC have legalized cannabis for medicinal use. In Canada, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau - son of late Prime Minister Pierre - announced that he supports the full legalization of marijuana.

There's no mystery why. Countless studies have shown that pot is effective in treating conditions from depression, psoriasis, and sleep apnea, to post-traumatic stress disorder. There are literally dozens of medicinal uses, something many voters have realized.

But my main argument for legalizing pot is simple: Money.

The so-called "War On Drugs" has been an abysmal failure. Millions of dollars have been spent trying to keep marijuana off the streets. In 2009, nearly 860,000 people were prosecuted for marijuana-related crimes, usually simple possession. Legalization not only frees up those police and court costs, but keeps people out of the overcrowded and expensive prison system. The savings would be astronomical.

There are also revenues to be had. Two of the most lucrative tax revenue streams are on alcohol and tobacco, two much more dangerous legal drugs. Comparably taxing legal marijuana, plus the import tariffs that would be imposed, would put hundreds of millions of dollars into government coffers - and I don't need to remind you how badly that money is needed.

And then there's the savings to the consumer. We've already discussed that cannabis has proven to be helpful in treating dozens of physical ailments. prescription drugs - which, by the way, kill far more people each year than pot - are expensive, to individuals, insurance companies, and to government Medicare programs. There is a massive amount of money that could be saved by many ailing people if they had the option of commercially available marijuana. Come to think of it, in all these scenarios, the only people losing money would be big pharma - which makes you wonder how much influence they have in this issue, doesn't it?