Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Legalize It!

Parental Advisory: This post may be even less appropriate for our younger viewers than the usual content. Then again, if your kids are reading this you should already have talked to them about all this stuff.

Home with the strep today. Don't want to infect anyone else. Keerist that sucked. I haven't taken an antibiotic in a good few decades. Word to the wise - take them with food. The vomit that you produce after not really eating for four days is, mmm, special. Better just choke something down even though you don't want to.

So I was watching this show called Holmes on Homes. Our man Holmes is a Canuck who rights all the wrongs with various homes. Usually it's shoddy contracting that's to blame, and he does a pretty perfect job playing the meticulous Canadian with the perfect incredulity at all of the stuff that he sees. Except that today's episode proved that he's kind of an ope because he didn't know about asbestos. Really? I'm like 4 for 4 on rehab projects that had the Vitamin A, and this guy purports to have about 50 times the experience that I do. He also wears overalls all the time.

Anyhow, in today's episode he's helping this lady rehab her rental house where the previous tenants used it as a grow house. They were growing pot there. Dope. Herb. Sour diesel. Sess. Weed. Kush. LOTS of it. Like 500 plants I think they said.

For the sake of simplicity I'm talking about weed here. I don't know anything about anything else and I don't even know anything about weed.

The cost of the war on drugs is well documented. Monetary cost, not political or moral cost or whatever. Those are to be argued ad infinitum. For the record, I think it's a totally senseless effort no matter what the morality or anything. It's throwing good money after bad in a totally doomed effort. That's beside the point. The monetary costs of fighting the war on drugs is documented and formidable. The costs of fighting the war on weed have got to be at least $5 billion a year. With a B.

There is also an income cost on all of this stuff. So much revenue in taxes could be gained. Here's my swag: there's like maybe 10 million people spending $500 a year each on it. There's probably a stat on this that I could have found in 4 seconds but this way's more fun. So anyway that's a $5 billion annual industry (though that can't be right it's got to be many multiples of that since we're spending so much to fight it ). Chuck a 15% tax on it (people would pay it) and you get $750,000,000 in tax revenue. Add this to the costs saved fighting the war and we're at a running total of nearly $6 billion to the good. Jesus.

None of these people involved with producing this stuff are filling out their W-2s and proudly stating "I'm sellin' WEED!" right there on the line. It takes a lot of people to grow and market all this stuff. They make money (although if you read Freakonomics, you know it's probably not that much), and that income could be taxed instead of laundered.

Now to the part that my man the Holmes makes me think about. These people running these grow houses are genius at being criminals. They can't pay for any electric or water or anything like that since it would tip Johnny Law off to what they're doing. No house uses 500kWh of electric a day, but these guys might. That's like 20 times what the average house uses. They have ridiculous metal halide lights and move insane amounts of air - both to provide fresh oxygen to the plants and to get rid of the suspicious stench. They also use insane amounts of water - again, like 20 times what the average house uses. But they're so good that they steal the stuff straight from the utility lines. I saw the electric scheme these guys had put together in this house and it was nice, tight work. So each house, who knows how many of them there are, is stealing the equivalent of 20 houses worth of water and electric. That's a pretty big cost when you aggregate it.

So you save the cost of fighting the war on weed, add the crapload of money in tax revenue, and then add the cost of lost revenues to utilities and taxes paid on those revenues, and you're talking about at least half of a lot of money. Then you add in the judicial and administrative costs of criminalizing what a metric shitload of otherwise productive people more or less harmlessly (yes I just made a judgment call there) do in their spare time to relax or whatever.

The Times had an article in the Sunday Magazine a few weeks ago about guys who peddle bags on the streets of NY (actually they were delivery guys) and it is crystal clear that a LOT of people in NY light it up. The judicial system is plugged with cases prosecuting small nuisance cases. Maybe when they ding the offender for a boatload of court costs this turns into a profit center, who knows, so I'm not going to even try to quantify what the monetary costs are, but clearly the courts could be put to better use.

I you're reading this there's a not bad chance you're a cyclist so I will just remind you that the weed is indeed a banned drug, and Bert will tell you between gulps of ice cream that as a cyclist you can only put high grade fuel into your engine anyway (just kidding, but I will admit to a regular chuckle - okay maybe constant chuckle - about ice cream's nutritional superiority to coffee - whatever), so none of this should be relevant to any of you on a first person consumer basis, but as a taxpayer and citizen, doesn't it make more sense to just legalize it?


Sigberto said...

Ha, good shout out, and touche' buddy.

Having never smoked, I'll admit to being a feen for ice cream, absolutely. Although I definitely don't eat ice cream as much as folks drink coffee (or as much as some people smoke), but I'm glad they don't tax that stuff 15%.

For the record, I actually read your entire blog post today, I didn't just skip to the last paragraph. I had the time, I'm sick too.

Bluenoser said...

Being a Canadian I was polite enough to read the whole thing. And As a Canadian cyclist I'm for consuming as much coffee ice cream as I can get my hands on.

Plus we are making money hand over fist sending you all the water and electricity that we can muster for all those grow opps not to mention the small cut we all get on the Canadian subsidies we supplied to Holmes on Homes after he goes Stateside.


Chuck Wagon said...

B - HI-larious and very polite. Bravo. The grow house I think was in Trawna. Apparently your weed, like your beer, is generally better than ours.

TerribleTerry said...

The problem with the tax figures they always throw out is that when it's legalized...it'll sell for much less than it currently does. Most of the expense is because of the dangers,etc.

I do agree that it's a silly battle and a waste of resources.

Chuck Wagon said...

Hey Terry -
I agree. The medical dispensaries in California charge roughly equivalent to street prices (I think actually in some cases they were higher if I read right - but they also have these incredibly exotic kinds for sale), but that's not a very "markety" market - limited entrants, etc. Probably an open market with competitive pressures would push prices down. On the other hand, you could always regulate it like cigarettes - which I've never used and the pricing minimums seems byzantine at best - but the revenues from cigarette taxes are big.