President Obama is hosting a jobs forum at the White House today — a gathering of business leaders and policy makers who will discuss the creation of new jobs in America. I wish I was there.
If I was in that room, I would stand up, raise my hand, and suggest that we tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol or tobacco. Obama might laugh at me, like he did when we asked him this very question back in March. But I would say it again anyway, because it’s exactly what the president needs to hear. Here is what I would say, if given the opportunity today:
1. Marijuana is a multibillion dollar a year industry, one that contributes little if anything to the American economy. Why? Because our laws put the industry into the hands of criminals rather than legitimate businesses.
2. The exception to the above is the medical marijuana industry. In the states that have allowed regulated marketplaces, these businesses are booming despite the bad economy. For example, business expos in Michigan are touting the success of medical marijuana growing operations and their potential for creating jobs in the state hit hardest by the recession.
3. Finally, it worked with booze. Just last year, Congress praised the 21st Amendment for lifting the ban on alcohol sales. A quote from H. CON. RES. 415: “2,500 breweries, distilleries, wineries, and import companies, 2,700 wholesale distributor facilities, over 530,000 retail outlets, and numerous agricultural, packaging, and transportation businesses support the employment of millions of Americans.”
The potential for job creation and economic growth in legal marijuana sales is massive. With a simple policy change we could create a new industry, rivaling the size of Philip Morris or MillerCoors domestically, but with a product that’s safer in every measurable way.
The jobs, the money, and the markets are already in place. Without marijuana prohibition, we could take a multibillion-dollar drain on the economy and turn it into a multibillion-dollar profit.