17 Comments

Will Alabama Lead the South on the Road to Marijuana Legalization?

By Jamie Haase May 6, 2013 Will Alabama Lead the South on the Road to Marijuana Legalization?
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Can Alabama become the first Southern state to legalize marijuana, or will another of the South's fertile states lead the way and reap the benefits of legal cannabis?

Efforts to legalize marijuana have been in overdrive since November, when a majority of residents in Colorado and Washington deemed that the plant’s consumption should be legally on par with alcohol. Now, several other states have followed suit in considering similar proposals, and Alabama is among them with House Bill 550.

The bill is modeled after Colorado’s regulatory model, and its introduction in Montgomery earlier this year signals that genuine debate over marijuana reform has finally arrived in the buckle of the Bible Belt. This is great news for Alabamians, since responsible marijuana policy will bring the state enhanced public safety, an alternative natural medicine and a potential fortune from both industry and tax revenues alike.

As a former special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who worked on the Mexican border, I know firsthand that regulating marijuana would make the United States a more secure place. Our border with Mexico is 2,000 miles long and impossible to fully safeguard.

Considering Mexico’s drug war is approaching its seventh year with no signs of slowing down, there’s no telling how many criminals have fled that country and sought refuge here in the United States. What is certain, though, is the fact that revenues from marijuana trafficking account for the majority of profits earned by Mexican cartels. These criminal organizations have been responsible for more than 60,000 deaths since 2006, many of them taking place right on our doorstep and involving gruesome torture, hangings and decapitations.

There’s no doubt that using the criminal justice system to try to reduce marijuana use is a drain on Alabama’s already limited law enforcement resources. A clear illustration of this was the raid on Feb. 19 that netted 74 arrests at the University of Alabama.

Rather than making Tuscaloosa a safer place to live by investigating robberies and murders, officers instead devoted two months to an investigation that only served to wreak havoc on the lives of otherwise innocent college students. These students, if convicted, may face jail time as well as barriers to financial aid, employment, housing and many other benefits for the rest of their lives. Are we any better off for it?

Alabama jails are overflowing and the state’s Department of Corrections is housing more than 190 percent of its intended capacity. Meanwhile, marijuana arrests contribute to the overcrowding as they make up more than 50 percent of the state’s drug arrests. This alone should show Alabamians that marijuana regulation is a smart economic decision when it comes to the fiscal future of the state.

As for the potential revenues that could be gained by regulating marijuana, Alabama spends nearly $50 million annually on marijuana enforcement, according to a study by the Cato Institute. They also estimate that legalization would yield $8.7 billion in taxes nationwide. The illegal market created by marijuana is a multi-billion dollar industry, so with a smart taxation scheme, Alabama would make tons of money off the plant’s regulation.

With a brand new poll from the Pew Research Center showing that 52 percent of Americans now want marijuana regulated like alcohol, it’s clear that the issue isn’t going away anytime soon — in Alabama or elsewhere. It’s inevitable that legalization will eventually make its way to the South.

The question is whether Alabama can be the first state down here to make that happen, or will another one of the South’s fertile states lead the way, making the safe, compassionate and fiscally sound decision to reform their marijuana laws?

  , , , , , , , , ,
  • grillmaster79

    If Alabama actually does this, I will take back every bad thing I’ve ever said about Alabama.

    • http://www.facebook.com/hugh.yonn.7 Hugh Yonn

      All card-carrying members of the DEA need to read: Shoulda Robbed a Bank
      Here is one of its reviews:

      5.0 out of 5 stars… If David Sedaris had written ‘Catcher in the Rye’..this would be it, June 30, 2012

      Amazon Verified Purchase

      This review is from: Shoulda Robbed a Bank (Kindle Edition)

      I have never smoked pot in my life…nor do I ever care to.
      I read about this book in numerous Huffington Post comments. Thought I would
      read it because I know nothing about marijuana or the people involved with it. I
      am ecstatic that I did. Funny, Funny, Funny!!!
      The chapters are like short
      stories. Stories about unloading boats with helicopters, close encounters with
      law enforcement, traveling through the jungles of South America. The chapter
      about the author’s first time smoking marijuana made me feel like I was with
      him…coughing.
      All of the characters were just a group of loveable, nice
      guys and girls. Not what I had been raised to believe…hysterical maniacs high
      on pot bent on death and mayhem. They were nothing like that.
      If you have
      ever read any of David Sedaris’ books, and like them…you will love Shoulda
      Robbed a Bank.
      And the crazy things happening reminded me of Holden Caufield
      in ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and the way he staggered through life.
      The way the
      words are put together are like nothing I have ever heard. I am sure I will use
      many of the sayings found in this book just to dazzle my friends. A terrific
      read. I love this book.

      • Paul DeCelle

        I read it myself a week or two back and enjoyed the story. The e-book version is only $2.99; it’s worth that and more.

  • http://churchofsmoke.org/ Jose

    A card carrying KKK member has a better chance of becoming governor of Alabama than marijuana being legalized.,

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Malcolm-Kyle/100001700224506 Malcolm Kyle

    The U.S. comprises 5 percent of the world’s population yet uses 60 percent of the world’s drugs. The failed attempt to prohibit these (unpatentable) drugs has been waged for 70 years and has cost us trillions of dollars.

    Prohibition has negatively impacted on the lives of all of us. It has stagnated the normal economy while allowing criminal enterprises to control an untaxed and thriving underground market that’s estimated to be worth (annually) well over three trillion dollars ( $300,000,000,000). By it’s emphasis on the eradication of marijuana, we have also denied ourselves the miracle of hemp, which can offer us the most workable and logical solutions to a number of our society’s problems—be they medicinal, industrial or agricultural.

    According to the CATO Institute, ending prohibition would save an annual $41 billion of expenditure while generating an estimated $46 billion in tax revenues.

    During alcohol prohibition (1919-1933), all profits went to enrich street-punks, organized-criminals, and corrupt-politicians. Young men, while battling over turf, died every day on inner-city streets. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have been far more wisely spent. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally, the economy collapsed. Does that sound familiar?

    To support prohibition is such a strange mind-set. In fact, It’s outrageous insanity. Literally not one prohibitionist argument survives scrutiny—not a single one!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Malcolm-Kyle/100001700224506 Malcolm Kyle

    The U.S. comprises 5 percent of the world’s population yet uses 60 percent of the world’s drugs. The failed attempt to prohibit these (unpatentable) drugs has been waged for 70 years and has cost us trillions of dollars.

    Prohibition has negatively impacted on the lives of all of us. It has stagnated the normal economy while allowing criminal enterprises to control an untaxed and thriving underground market that’s estimated to be worth (annually) well over three trillion dollars ( $300,000,000,000). By it’s emphasis on the eradication of marijuana, we have also denied ourselves the miracle of hemp, which can offer us the most workable and logical solutions to a number of our society’s problems—be they medicinal, industrial or agricultural.

    According to the CATO Institute, ending prohibition would save an annual $41 billion of expenditure while generating an estimated $46 billion in tax revenues.

    http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/DrugProhibitionWP.pdf

    During alcohol prohibition (1919-1933), all profits went to enrich street-punks, organized-criminals, and corrupt-politicians. Young men, while battling over turf, died every day on inner-city streets. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have been far more wisely spent. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally, the economy collapsed. Does that sound familiar?

    To support prohibition is such a strange mind-set. In fact, It’s outrageous insanity. Literally not one prohibitionist argument survives scrutiny—not a single one!

  • Pingback: Will Alabama Lead the South on the Road to Marijuana Legalization? – The Daily Chronic | Medical Marijuana News

  • pcb

    Amazing ignorance in Washington. We the people will vote them out! They can balance a checkbook and have no common sense, its time they go work some real jobs.

  • Bhonze

    Hey Alabama, Get’er Done!!! I live in MS and we have an Initiative process but no one will come out to support Legalized Marijuana. This would be Awsome, I would come spend my Money in AL. Y’all would becaome the tourist capitol of the SOUTH!

  • Pingback: Don’t use synthetic cannabis. | Legalise Marijuana

  • Pingback: Will Alabama Lead the South on the Road to Marijuana Legalization? - Legalize It™ Apparel

  • Pingback: Marijuana Legalization Bills: Colorado Lawmakers Pass Historic Legal Weed … – Huffington Post | ganjatimes.com

  • cohara1103

    oh come on…….its still 1960 down there and it always will be no southern state will legalize cannabis in the next century never mind anytime soon they just destroyed the lives of 74 college kids and for what? a drug they would most likely quit a year or so after school now alabama has 74 new wards of the state for life
    great job excellent use of resources cannabis doesnt destroy your life but the government will if they catch you

  • the man

    Yes the movement to legalize marijuana is ls alive and growing. A felony conviction for drugs will get a young person this, a reduction of over 1 million dollars in earning potential because of the felony disability. They will lose access to student loans, student housing, agricultural loans any and all government programs or assistance is removed. So it begs to ask this question, if we are arresting and convicting people for an action that does not have a victim where is the crime? How can we disenfranchise and criminalize people when there alleged crime does not have a victim it is contrary to the fundamentl definition of common law. And even worse what is the outcome for these individuals down the road ? Recidivism, low wages, little personal growth and ultimatley do they become a burden on society because they were unable to reach their full potential, especially at a time in our history where success is more difficult to achieve. I tell my kids this about marijuana, I do not want you to use it not because of its perceived or real harms but because the most harmful result could be an arrest something the law does’nt elaborate on when they come to yourschool which shows how ignorant law enforcment really is because they do not want to appear like the bad guys to little kids. I want them to be the bad guy tell kids how detrimental an arrest is and how scary and depressing incarceration is, tell them that locking a human being up in a cage like a monkey at the zoo is just as devastating as the drugs themselves forever altering their personality and life

  • HicksRppl2

    Alabamas not as backwoods as you may think. Since Alabama doesn’t participate in the Lottery, or have Pro ball teams to generate money for the state, I think it would be great for them to break the southern barrier on medical marijuana.

  • William Hull

    Back in May when this article came out Rep. Patricia Todd, (D-Birmingham) began forming a commission of Alabama Legislators, law enforcement officials, representatives of the medical community and other state agencies to study current medical research and medical marijuana policies throughout the nation reportedly to craft legislation legalizing the medical use of marijuana in Alabama.

    At that time two members of the Alabama Legislature had been named as members of the commission, the original sponsor of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients’ Rights Act, Rep. K.L. Brown, (R-Jacksonville) and Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, Rep. Alan Farley, (R-McCalla).

    Rep. Farley spoke at the hearing on HB550 in the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security on April 23rd 2013 about how many of his retired law enforcement friends had changed their views regarding marijuana, specifically the medical use.

    Rep. Farley spent 36 years as a law enforcement officer and previously held the office of Assistant Sheriff of Jefferson County.

  • ryan

    well i am from Alabama so i hope they make it legal for medical and recreational use if all the states made it legal that would get us out of a world of shit that we are in if they regulated it and taxed the fuck out of it they would make billions of dollars every fucking day and hemp used to be the main cash crop in 1940 and it helps people deal with cancer what the fuck is wrong with the government they don’t care about anyone but there greedy little fucking pig self’s i mean shit look at the death rate for weed ……. oh wait what did you say none oh yea and look at the death rate for alcohol 75,000 death a year holy shit and that’s legal well i don’t see the fucking logic there do yall i am not putting down alcohol i love to drink i am just stating the facts i hope the government wakes the fuck up dont yall