By Sex Panther
While the first two issues, religion and gun use—have to do with things that the US Constitution lays down as rights, these two issues have to do with things that they avoid legislating on purpose. That’s right, we’re talking about the 9th Amendment in the Bill of Rights. Just in case you’re not a history buff, let me refresh your memory:
9th: Protection of Rights Not Enumerated
In other words, if the law doesn’t say its illegal, then its not. The government is meant to be a basic framework to protect its citizens, but should limit itself from controlling all of their choices.
Lets transition into our topics: gay marriage and marijuana legislation.
Marriage vs. Civil Union
Gay marriage is a blend of our separation of church and state argument with the idea of limited government. Many religious folk that oppose gay marriage claim that marriage is a sacred pact recognized by God, not government. However, the confusing part is that we already have two sets of marriage for straight people: one by city hall and one by the church. Lets take the term of marriage out of government.
To do this, we need to take notice of why it is in government to begin with. The law gives tax breaks to families rather than individuals because we originally kept women at home and had one-income families. That’s not really the case any more, unless your one income is above $100,000, both parents are probably working. It also allows for the divorce court to divide up assets in the case that a marriage doesn’t work. So we need something, even if we don’t call it marriage. How about civil union?
So here we are. All citizens (gay and straight) that want to file jointly on a tax return and have the state and federal government recognize their rights needs to file for a civil union. All that want to have a marriage recognized by the church of their choice need to follow the rules of the church. Bam. No gay marriage.
If it were that easy, why did we mention the federal government? Well what happens if New Jersey recognizes your gay civil union but you move to Nebraska and they don’t? Can you no longer file jointly? To make it worse, what if you get divorced in Nebraska? Were you even a union? Because of how transitory our nation is now, we need a federal law on this. Our government has worked pretty hard (in regard to both gay marriage and legalizing marijuana) to stay out of each state’s way. In a world where people travel and move constantly, that won’t work. To keep separation of church and state, and allow for consistency between states, we really do need a federal law allowing gay civil unions.
On to the Green Stuff
In much the same way the government has been mum on gay marriage, they have refused to recognize state laws on marijuana, decriminalized, medical, or legal. They have gone out of their way to NOT enforce federal laws against weed either. With Colorado and Washington officially legalizing weed, it’s about time for the federal government to say something. Before getting to what I think they should say, lets look at some of the benefits of legalizing marijuana.
First, marijuana could be an economic stimulus if correctly legislated by federal government. It could increase farming, sales for those in rural areas, and business growth in more urban areas. It could bring in externality (sales) tax money in much the same way alcohol and cigarettes do now, and standardize the market for weed in terms of purity. When marijuana is bought as a street drug right now, its damn near impossible to know how it has been grown, by whom, and what they might have added. There’s a danger here that your weed has been sprayed with raid or laced with PCP. This takes a relatively natural and malignant recreational activity and amps up the danger for users. Imagine if all alcohol was made in someone’s bathtub, wasn’t required to report its proof, or even whether it was correctly filtered and what additives were used. It becomes much more dangerous.
In addition to safety and farm/business growth, legalizing marijuana could eliminate the number of people in jail for nonviolent crimes and get drug cartels out of the southwestern part of the United States. The term drug dealer is serious, but not all drug dealers are created the same. A small timer selling dime bags on the side isn’t the same as a serious heroin or coke dealer, a direct importer from Mexico or Columbia, a drug cartel or mob boss, or even a doctor or pharmacist pedaling prescription drugs.
In that vein, did you know that the FBI reported in 2010 that 52% of all drug arrests involved marijuana? Legalized weed puts the small timers out of business, and lets the American military combat the big timers importing more than just weed, or importing weed to support the black market or terrorism. That 52% probably drops pretty drastically, which is a good thing for everyone. Lets look at why.
Not only are 52% of our drug crimes weed related, 51% of American prisoners are in jail for drug related crimes. In addition, we as a country also have the highest percent of citizen incarceration in the world! About 0.74% of our country’s population is in jail, a stat that doesn’t seem like much until we compare it with other superpowers. Iran is the closest world power to us at #29; only 0.3% of their population is in jail. South Africa comes in at 0.3% too, Chile and Taiwan at 0.28%, Brazil at 0.26%, and even Mexico at 0.21%. The UK is at 0.15%, France and Canada at 0.1%, Germany at 0.08%, and Japan at 0.055%. Not only is our incarceration rate higher than all of those countries, our population is as well, so that’s more bodies in jail. Who’s paying for them? Your tax dollars.
The final piece of this puzzle is that because the United States takes marijuana use so seriously, extra police are deployed to combat it, meaning more tax money chasing something that American citizens are increasingly voting to legalize anyway.
In summation, legalizing weed increases agriculture and business, adds externality taxes to state coffers, cuts down on police force, border patrol, arrests, citizens in jail, and ultimately taxes coming out of your pocket.
So I think its pretty clear that legalized weed is a good idea, but why does the federal government need a stance on it? Why not just leave it to the states? In the same way that our transient society might have marriage issues when crossing state borders, what happens if weed is legally bought in one state and transported across state borders to a different state in which it’s illegal? It has now become the federal crime of drug trafficking. We can avoid that by our federal government passing blanket legalization.
I do believe that we could tighten legislation in other ways to protect citizens. First, we can set a hard age for marijuana purchase, probably 21 just like alcohol. Second, we can aggressively increase DUI punishments to keep weed and alcohol at home. Driving under the influence of anything is a bad (and very dangerous) idea.