As Gov. Tom Wolf presses for full legalization of marijuana, it’s worth remembering why Prohibition, which banned alcohol production, sales and consumption for 13 years beginning in January 1920, was such a dismal failure.
Although pop culture focuses bootleggers booze and speakeasy society, Prohibition did vastly reduce alcohol consumption. The reason that Congress ended Prohibition in 1933 was to revive the distillery, brewing and wine industries to help generate jobs and government revenue.
Today, alcoholic beverage industries directly employ 4 million people and generate more than $70 billion a year in local, state and federal taxes.
Just as there was during Prohibition to reintroduce legal alcoholic beverages, there are multiple arguments now to decriminalize marijuana.
Legalization would save billions of dollars a year in enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration costs, and spare thousands of people from acquiring a record for using a substance less dangerous than alcohol. Part of that would entail the disproportionate of Black and Latino people for pot-related crimes. It would diminish the cash flow for violent drug cartels.
Thursday, Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman made the case that ultimately will make pot legal in Pennsylvania.
“Now more than ever, especially right in the middle of a pandemic, we have a desperate need for the economic boost,” Wolf said. He noted that Pennsylvania is much larger than Washington, which collected $319 million in pot taxes in 2018, and Colorado, which collected $266 million.
“Legalizing marijuana would create thousands of jobs,” Fetterman said. “I would challenge anyone ... to name one other policy decision that could have so much immediate impact and so much unambiguous benefits both in terms to our treasury, to our employment statewide. To our social justice concerns.”
Some legislators still express moral objections to legal pot, much as many legislators expressed moral objections to casino gambling before the Legislature legalized it in 2004. In 2019, gambling produced $1.3 billion in state tax revenue.
Legalized pot is not problem-free. But the numbers make it inevitable. The Legislature should start addressing matters such as impaired driving detection and addiction treatment before taking a hit of that intoxicating tax revenue.
— The Citizens’ Voice, Wilkes-Barre