Drug Legalization Could Boost U.S. Budgets by over $100 Billion Annually

By Rodriguez, Sal | Pasadena Star-News, July 24, 2018 | Go to article overview

Drug Legalization Could Boost U.S. Budgets by over $100 Billion Annually


Rodriguez, Sal, Pasadena Star-News


Editor’s note: Breaking views are thoughts from individual members of the editorial board on today’s headlines.

Legalizing drugs could boost federal, state and local budgets by as much as $106.7 billion a year, reports Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University.

“At both the federal and state levels, government budgets would benefit enormously from drug legalization policies,” Miron notes. “This report estimates that $47.9 billion is spent annually on drug prohibition enforcement, whereas $58.8 billion could potentially be raised in tax revenue.”

Overall, Miron estimates the projected savings and tax revenues from legalization would be greatest for heroin and cocaine. Ending the War on Drugs and legalizing heroin and cocaine, according to his calculations, would save $22.7 billion in expenditures and raise $41.2 billion in combined state and federal revenues. Combined, reduced expenditures and tax revenues for legal marijuana would come out to $22 billion.

While even many supporters of marijuana legalization are likely to align with drug prohibitionists when it comes to heroin and cocaine, it’s important to realize that many of the same reasons that justify marijuana legalization apply to the so-called “harder drugs” as well.

First, of course, is the matter of personal freedom. What someone puts in their own body is no business of government so long as they do not harm anyone else. “In a free society, the presumption must always be that individuals, not government, get to decide what is in their own best interest,” Miron argued in a commentary making the moral and economic case for legalizing cocaine and heroin.

Second, just as prohibition failed to stop people from using or selling marijuana, it has also failed to stop the use and sale of cocaine and heroin. The result has been an amplification of all the problems there would be with drugs if they were legal, plus a whole host of negative, unintended consequences.

As Milton Friedman wrote in a letter to Bill Bennett three decades ago, “Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. …

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