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Tom Coale: Cut Waste, Increase Revenue, Legalize Marijuana

Tom Coale Center Maryland February 18, 2015

Regardless of what cuts Governor Hogan and the legislature agree to this year, inertia and lack of political courage are likely to protect one obvious instance of waste: the remnants of Maryland’s war on weed.  This is despite the fact that marijuana is a drug that most Americans, and most Marylanders, believe should be legal.  While enforcing prohibition, black markets have flourished, lives have been ruined, and Maryland has fostered a “criminal class” of unemployable workers who often cycle back into the drug trade due to a lack of alternatives.  Our unenthusiastic war on drugs works as a dull tool to fight crime, in the most ambiguous understanding of the word, and costs Marylanders more than they may be willing to pay considering the minimal benefits received.

We are putting far too many people in jail, and spending far too much money, for criminal laws that do far too little for public safety.  We’re warehousing the poor and uneducated in the name of “criminal justice” when neither word applies to the underlying acts. Nearly half a million Americans are in prison across the country for drug crimes.  The United States spends approximately $15 billion a year on drug law enforcement with localities estimated to pay an additional $25 billion. If any one of us was asked why we imprison the average drug offender, our only answer would be the rather empty “because it’s against the law.”  But why is that so?

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