Magazine article Addiction Professional

Legal Marijuana Will Generate Heavy Costs

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Legal Marijuana Will Generate Heavy Costs

Article excerpt

States already underfund efforts to combat the downsides of alcohol and tobacco

A lcohol and tobacco products are legal for those old enough to buy them. JL A Alcohol and tobacco products generate wealth, business opportunities and employment. Alcohol and tobacco produce significant tax revenues for states and the federal government. Legal marijuana ultimately would do the same. So, the argument often goes, why not legalize marijuana and enjoy the economic benefits it will produce, despite the health, safety and social costs legal marijuana will create?

But what will legal marijuana cost the community, based on reported burdens from tobacco and excessive drinking? These are some of the tobacco and alcohol costs that already affect the community. These problems can be projected to increase with the legalization of recreational marijuana:

* Increased healthcare costs.

* Increased law enforcement, court and corrections costs as increased marijuana use leads to increased intervention, treatment and recovery expenses.

* Lost productivity as reported in alcohol and tobacco studies.

* Increased social and human services expenses.

* Mortality-500,000 annual deaths, with millions in the pipeline (some increase from greater marijuana use can be expected, but the degree is unknown because we do not have much data on marijuana-related mortality in countries where recreational marijuana is available).

Increased costs to the community can be expected from legal marijuana, but precise projections are difficult without the research to determine the extent of it.

Data from Wisconsin

Wisconsin and other states have concluded that the financial benefits from legal tobacco and alcohol are more desirable than the health, public safety and social downsides they create. This claim can be supported by the following facts that Wisconsin (as one example) is living with and not challenging with any public discussion. Nor are these numbers a political issue being discussed in our legislature as pan of the marijuana legalization debate. These figures are from University of Wisconsin reports on the burden of tobacco and excessive alcohol use, released in 2010 and 2014, respectively:

* 15,000 deaths a decade from alcohol, with 60,000 grieving family members.

* 77,000 deaths a decade from tobacco, with more than 308,000 grieving family members.

* A $6.8 billion annual burden from excessive drinking in Wisconsin.

* A $4.5 billion annual burden from tobacco in Wisconsin.

* $58 million a year in tax revenues from alcohol sales.

* $640 million a year in tax revenues from tobacco sales (more than 10 times higher than the amount in sales taxes from alcohol, when only 20 percent of Wisconsin residents smoke compared with 66 percent who drink alcohol-really?).

* The Wisconsin government's General Revenue Funds investment in alcohol and other drug abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services-$3.5 million a year.

* The Wisconsin government's General Revenue Funds investment in tobacco prevention and control program services-$5.3 million a year.

Just as Wisconsin's alcohol industry and the Wisconsin Tavern League lobby to keep alcohol taxes low, the tobacco-growing and -producing states work to ensure that tobacco taxes in those states remain lower than the national average.

What kind of a deal is this for the people of Wisconsin and other states? Yes, we want the freedom to use legal products if we are old enough and can pay for them. …

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