In Portugal, by contrast, youth rates fell from 2002 to 2006, after all drugs were legalized there in 2001. Similarly, a 2011 Brown University-led study of middle and high school students in Rhode Island found no increases in adolescent use after the state legalized medical marijuana in 2006.
As for adult use, the numbers are mixed. A 2011 University of California at Berkeley study, for example, showed a slight increase in adult use with de facto legalization in the Netherlands (though the rate was still lower than in the United States). Yet that study and one in 2009 found Dutch rates to be slightly lower than the European average. When the United States’ 40-year-long war on marijuana ends, the country is not going to turn into a Cheech and Chong movie. It is, however, going to see the transfer of as much as 50 percent of cartel profits to the taxable economy.
2. Law enforcement officials oppose legalization.
It is true that many law enforcement lobby groups don’t want to end America’s most expensive war (which has cost $1 trillion and counting), but that’s because they’re the reason it’s so expensive. In 2010, two-thirds of federal spending on the drug war, $10 billion, went toward law enforcement and interdiction.
But law enforcement rank and file know the truth about the drug war’s profligate and ineffective spending, says former Los Angeles deputy police chief Stephen Downing, one of 5,000 public safety professionals who make up the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “Most law enforcers find it difficult not to recognize the many harms caused by our current drug laws,” he wrote to me in an e-mail. Those harms include, according to a new ACLU report, marijuana-possession arrests that are skewed heavily toward minorities.
Since marijuana prohibition drives the drug war, these huge costs would end when federal cannabis law changes. Sheriff Tom Allman in Mendocino County, Calif., helped permit, inspect and protect local cannabis farmers in 2010 and 2011. When I asked him why, he said: “This county has problems: domestic violence, meth, poverty. Marijuana isn’t even in the top 10. I want it off the front pages so I can deal with the real issues.”
3. Getting high would be the top revenue generator for the cannabis plant.
I called both of my U.S. senators’ offices to support inserting a provision into this year’s farm bill to legalize hemp for domestic cultivation. Based on my research on industrial cannabis, commonly called hemp, I’m staggered by the potential of this plant, which is not the variety you smoke.