By Steve Fox
Gil Kerlikowske, the man tasked with “protecting” our nation from the “dangers” of marijuana, appears to be supremely uneducated about the substance. In a recent speech [pdf] to – hold on to your chair for the surprise – the California Police Chiefs Association, Kerlikowske defended the continuation of marijuana prohibition forever into the future by talking about the social costs of an entirely different substance – alcohol.
The tax revenue collected from alcohol pales in comparison to the costs associated with it. Federal excise taxes collected on alcohol in 2007 totaled around $9 billion; states collected around $5.5 billion. Taken together, this is less than 10 percent of the over $185 billion in alcohol-related costs from health care, lost productivity, and criminal justice.
Backed with this evidence, Kerlikowske concludes,
[I]t is clear that the social costs of legalizing marijuana would outweigh any possible tax that could be levied.
No, Mr. Kerlikowske, it is not clear. You can’t just cite the costs of alcohol abuse and use them to conclude that marijuana would produce similar costs. What might have helped is if your speech included at least one statistic about the costs of marijuana use. And, no, the costs of “illegal drugs” grouped together (and including enforcement costs, no less) do not count.
But we are nothing if not helpful. We suggest the Drug Czar start educating himself with this Canadian study, which concludes that the health costs to society per alcohol user are more than eight times higher than the costs per marijuana user. After that he can peruse another study, “Alcohol and Violent Crime” (available here), which notes that alcohol-related crime costs more than $16 billion annually in the U.S. He might then try to compare that to the cost of violent crimes attributed to the use of marijuana (as opposed to violent crimes caused by the illegal marijuana market). Good luck finding that.
Not all drugs are created equal, Mr. Kerlikowske. We would expect you, of all people, to know the difference. It’s time for you to get “above the influence” of marijuana propaganda.