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One Non-Pot Smoker to the Rest: Why Marijuana being Illegal has a Negative Impact on Us All

Updated on August 28, 2015
Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin is a non-user who is fascinated by the ins and outs of the ongoing marijuana legalization process.

If you’ve managed to passively or actively ignore every legitimate study done on the effects of marijuana, have ignored that it has been found to be non-habit forming, safe, and in a few cases even medicinally viable, then this article is for you, because I’m not going to focus on those statistics here, if for no other reason than they are readily available everywhere.

In fact, if you’re my target audience, you’re like me and don’t even want to smoke pot, so what do those stats matter anyhow?

What is the Cost of Keeping Marijuana Illegal?
What is the Cost of Keeping Marijuana Illegal? | Source

Why I Chose not to be a Pot Smoker Back then:

As to why you might not want to “partake,” there are a variety of reasons. Personally, the fact that it is illegal kept me away from marijuana until my early 20s. I did go ahead and experiment twice in college. I didn’t care for it.

For many that don’t care for this weed, the reason noted is that it causes paranoia. With me that wasn't the case. I had a distaste for the stuff because the high was so insignificant in comparison to other substances like tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. At that time in my life I wanted to PARTAY, and here was pot, providing a weak, mellow high when I was wanting to get revved up to the max or down on the ground effed up.

What fun was a substance that could only get you so high regardless of how much you used to someone wanting to push the outer limits? On top of that, it was expensive and illegal. Back then the choice to not use pot wound up being an easy one for me.


Have you ever smoked pot?

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Why I Choose not to Smoke Pot Now

Opposed to the young me, nowadays my reasoning for not smoking pot is much more straight-laced than its not being able to provide an epic high. Gone from my life entirely is tobacco. I still “tie one on” on occasion with the definition of tying one on having changed from getting passed out drunk every weekend to drinking a six pack of beer and hanging out with friends a couple of times a year. I still drink caffeine a few times a week, but I try to consume as little as possible, and I sure don’t use pot.

So what’s changed? I’m older and have a body that I now realize is not immortal. But perhaps even a bigger reason, I have a baby to take care of now. There isn’t time to get passed out drunk, a parent jittery on caffeine all the time does not make good decisions for baby, and I figure I owe my little one at least 18 years of father time before I go and get riddled with cancer.

In addition, I live in a state where pot is still very much illegal. I don’t need to spend the most important years of my child’s life behind bars. Beyond the legality issue, would using marijuana make me a bad parent? I really don’t think so, at least not anymore than the parent who enjoys the occasional glass of wine or espresso.

Legal or Not, Marijuana is Big Business.
Legal or Not, Marijuana is Big Business. | Source

The Cost of Keeping Marijuana Illegal

But whether you are by the book and believe anything that feels good is a sin or are still brainwashed into thinking pot is a dangerous substance in league with heroin and cocaine or like so many, lack the ability for a thought process as involved as empathy, the whole “it doesn’t affect me because I don’t use it” mentality, then I have something to show you. It does affect you, very negatively.

According to, the U.S. federal government spends somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 billion a year on the war against drugs. In addition, local governments spend about $25 billion a year. This works out to well over a thousand dollars a year that every man, woman and child in the U.S. has to pay toward The War on Drugs.

But the financial burden doesn’t even begin to slow down there. The average cost to house a prisoner per year, according to the Office of the Federal Register, is just under $30,000. According to there are in excess of 300,000 inmates in the State and Federal Prison Systems primarily for drug related charges. In addition, people behind bars don’t just cost to house, they also are not part of the workforce, so there is an additional cost there.

And still there’s more! estimates that the U.S. black market pulls in somewhere around $41 billion a year in profits from marijuana, much of which goes outside of the U.S. and almost all of which goes untaxed.

And what about this War on Terror? Forbes magazine estimates the tally for The War on Terrorism to currently be in the neighborhood of $1.7 trillion. Though not directly, the illegality of marijuana does factor into this number. Drug trade often involves U.S. guns and money going across the border to support unknown entities. In addition, this drug trade complicates and thus increases the cost of monitoring the border. It’s hard to estimate how much of The War on Terror goes to marijuana, but the number is palpable.

What about money that could be made from the legal sale of marijuana? reports that if all 50 U.S. states legalized marijuana there would be over a $3 billion windfall in taxes alone. According to the same site, the economy would be infused with another $14 billion in profits. On top of this, the legalization of hemp would also be a tremendous boon to the economy because of its usefulness in industry.

People are Stubborn when it comes to Changing Ideals.
People are Stubborn when it comes to Changing Ideals. | Source

Closing Thoughts

There are still even more costs to keeping Marijuana illegal, but I think I’ve done enough to make my point. No, legalizing pot would not end The War on Drugs or the money it takes to run it, but it would put a huge dent in the price tag. One of the best lessons my parents taught me was the importance of choosing your battles. Meth amphetamine, cocaine, heroin, etc., this is bad stuff. Than there’s marijuana, arguably safer than a McDonald’s burger. It doesn’t make sense. It’s a tremendous waste to include Pot in the war when we could be focusing on the garbage that is really dangerous.

One thing I like to do when I consider a controversial topic is pretend I’m a space alien having come down to earth for the first time. My brain devoid of all the alliances, underlying belief systems, and other nonsense that so often clouds our judgment, a just the facts type of analysis. When I do, I always come to the same conclusion: Legalize it!


Do you feel marijuana should be illegal?

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I was brought up with the same propaganda as most everyone else, that marijuana was a scourge on society. And I feel bad for people who have devoted their whole lives to fighting marijuana under this assumption, whole careers spent upholding the law and incarcerating people for trafficking this substance all in the name of keeping us safe, and they truly believe it; heck I believed for the longest time. How hard, impossible even, it must be for these folks to be honest with themselves and admit the whole thing has been a sham.

But I digress. What do people really care about? Money! What’s the final bill for keeping marijuana illegal? Estimates vary, but when all factors are considered, the sum arrived at is always in the trillions.


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