Legalize It and Don't Bankruptisize It

California, for those of you not paying attention, has a massive budget deficit, something on the order of $20 billion, maybe more, maybe a little less. Either way this is an enormous shortfall and is rooted in the sub-prime lending, the subsequent bursting of the mortgage bubble and immediate deflation of income from all those puffed up home valuations. There's been a cascade effect through the rest of the economy with huge layoffs across almost all sectors including my own, education.

Despite the incredible and overwhelming burden of this debt, there seems to be no movement on the legalization of marijuana movement. I don't get it.

What would legalization do?

- Ease the burden on our way over-stuffed prisons. Some estimates put the population of marijuana related prison sentences at nearly 15% of our prisons. For smoking weed? How much does it cost to put one person in prison for a year?
- Taxation of the #1 cash crop in California. Taxing marijuana would reap huge, huge revenues. I don't know how much precisely but the numbers would be enormous.
- Refocusing efforts on more dangerous drugs like meth, crack and heroin. How much of the so-called "War on Drugs" is focused on dope smokers when they pose almost no real risk to society, certainly compared to meth-heads and crackheads. Legalizing marijuana would allow law enforcement to concentrate on dangerous societal cancers.

It makes no sense to consider bankruptcy before every other avenue has been fully explored. Legalizing marijuana would go a very long ways towards easing the financial burden on our economy, it would ease the burden on our prisons and it would allow law enforcement to focus on much more dangerous drugs.

Marijuana has numerous positive effects for people suffering from glaucoma, treatment for cancer and other illnesses. But, let's be real, smoking pot is a nice mellow way to unwind from a stressful day. It's safer than drinking, just ask any police officer who he'd rather pull over, a pothead or a drunk driver.

At this point, legalization not only makes sense, it may be California's best route out of the red-tinged darkness of the economic morass we are in.
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