Domestic Marijuana Production in the United States

Introduction

While there exist many drugs that have been earmarked as illicit, Cannabis Sativa (commonly known as Marijuana) takes the position of the most popular illegal drugs in many parts of the world. The World Health Organization (2010) records that “2.5% of the world’s population consume marijuana” making it by far the mostly popular illicit drug. Even more alarming is the fact that the consumption of marijuana in many countries is on the increase despite the risks of arrest to the users. Interestingly, the United States and most other developed countries obtain most of the marijuana consumed by their population through illegal imports. Surveys indicate that nearly 100million Americans admit to having used marijuana at some point in their lives demonstrating that marijuana yields a lot of profits for the mostly foreign growers.

This reality begs the question as to whether the US government should allow for domestic marijuana production so as to tap into the huge market for this highly favored recreational drug. As it currently stands, the government has prohibited domestic marijuana production. This has sparked debates as to whether the government should permit local production since the usage of marijuana has been on a steady increase despite government efforts. This paper shall argue that the US should allow for domestic marijuana production since a ban on the same results in lost revenue for the government and mostly profits drug cartels. To provide balanced view, the paper shall also review the demerits that may arise from allowing domestic production of the illicit drug marijuana.

A case for Domestic Marijuana Production

Endorsing of domestic marijuana production would invariably have to be preceded by a relaxation of the laws against the consumption of the drug with a possibility of an outright legalization of marijuana. This move would save the US government billions of dollars that are currently channeled towards enforcing the law against marijuana. As it currently stands, the US government uses significant resources in prosecuting and punishing marijuana consumers through its already overburdened legal system. A report by Miron (2005) reveals that in the US, an excess of $7.7 billion is used annually in the government’s enforcement of prohibitions efforts against drugs.

This money is used for various functions ranging from organizing or raids on suspected drug users hideouts, arresting and prosecuting suspected offenders, the maintenance of convicted offenders in the prison system of the country and rehabilitation services for drug users. As can be seen from all this, the mere effort of keeping marijuana illegal is hugely expensive and the entire burden is placed on the taxpayers whose money is used to fund all the above named operations. Allowing domestic marijuana production would legitimize marijuana use to some level which would mean that law enforces would no longer have reason to use resources in arresting and prosecuting the drug users. This would result in the federal government saving billions of money which can be channeled to other important sectors.

From the figures forwarded of the users of marijuana in the US, it can be out rightly seen that marijuana is a massive industry. A report by Gettman and Armentano (2003) reveals that while federal authorities have had some measure of success in hampering the domestic production of marijuana, they have to a large extent failed in reducing consumer demand for the product. As a matter of fact, the US government surveys place this drug as the primary cash crop in some of the States far out positioning traditional cash crops such as cotton and cotton in terms of value. This demonstrates that there is a huge potential for the government and by extension the people to profit from marijuana production in the US.

The current status quo where marijuana has been earmarked as an illicit drug therefore resulting in the making illegal of domestic production has led to a situation where the government is not able to benefit monetarily from the drug. This is because the government cannot impose taxes on a product whose production and usage it has prohibited. Gettman (2006) articulates that illicit marijuana cultivation provides “considerable unreported revenue for growers without corresponding tax obligations to compensate the public for the social and fiscal costs related to marijuana use”.

In the event that the government was to legalize domestic marijuana production, this situation would be changed since some of the profits from the trade in the product would go to the government through the tax apparatus. A study conducted by Miron (2005) in the USA revealed that “an estimated 6.2 billion would be gained if marijuana were taxed at the same rate as tobacco and alcohol products”. These findings illustrate the huge loss in potential gains that the US government makes by failing to allow legal home production of marijuana.

The lack of a legal domestic marijuana production industry has resulted in the emergence and thriving of an underground market through which the product is grown and sold. This black market which deals with the production, distribution and sale of the marijuana is almost explicitly run by criminal gangs from neighboring countries. For example, in Dutch following a campaign against the cultivation of marijuana, there was a boom in the commercial cultivation of the product in neighboring countries so as to supply Dutch (Bouchard, 2007). This is the same scenario in the US whereby Mexican drug cartels have engaged in commercial production of marijuana to supply the US market. This criminals and drug lords who run the marijuana production and distribution have become increasingly powerful and wealthy as a result of the product.

Houston (2010), an avid proponent for the legalization of marijuana production when describing the powerful Mexican drug cartels that continue to thrive reveals that “marijuana is the cash cow that makes these gangs the powerful, dangerous force they are”. If the government were to allow domestic marijuana production, it would logically follow that these drug cartels would face stiff competition that would eventually run them out of business. Such a move would greatly assist in the fight to get rid of the violent gangs that are currently the major beneficiaries or the illicit trade in marijuana. Furthermore, reports indicate that the current efforts by the government to eradicate domestic marijuana are misguided since the efforts have little impact on the black market trade in marijuana which continues to flourish (Gettman & Armentano, 2003).

One of the major merits of any legal industry is that there are apparatus in place to regulate production of the products. Through bodies such as the FDA, the government is able to assure the consumers that the products they are purchasing are indeed safe. The government is also able to monitor the production process to ensure safety for the end consumer. As it currently stands, the production of marijuana is unregulated and the growers and distributors of the product are at liberty to produce and sell products whose quality they dictate. In this unregulated environment, many producers are engaged in growing marijuana whose potency levels are great so as to attract more customers.

Decorte (2010) documents that commercially oriented growers or marijuana are not interested in the quality of the product but rather in the production of strong weed varieties that generates higher financial profits. This high potency level marijuana has even more adverse affects on the health of the consumer than the low potency marijuana. If the government were to allow for a well regulated domestic marijuana industry, the government would have the means by which to ensure that the content of the drug is acceptable by use of the same mechanism that the alcohol content in drinks is regulated therefore safeguarding the consumer’s health.

A Case against Domestic Production

Domestic production of marijuana has been on the increase in the course of the past decade. Decorte (2010) proposes that this condition has been as a result of the increased risks of detection and arrest amongst the traditional importers. Domestic production of the drug has therefore emerged as an adaptive strategy to enable the people involved in the illegal drug trade to satisfy the demand for the product. Gettman and Armentano (2003) state that marijuana cultivation remains “responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal trade in almost every state in the US”. All this is despite the fact that the cultivation is prohibited. It is therefore unnecessary for the government and policy makers to encourage domestic production of marijuana since as it currently stands, the cultivation is thriving.

Regardless of whether marijuana is produced domestically or abroad, the drug has negative effects on the human body. Volkow (2009) states that “the use of marijuana can produce adverse physical, mental, emotional, and behavior changes, impair short-term memory, verbal skills, and judgment and can harm the lungs”. These assertions are corroborated by Whitten (2010) who reports that “men who use marijuana may increase their risk for developing testicular cancer”.

Domestic production of marijuana would result in a bigger supply of the product therefore increasing the levels of consumption about the users. Considering the above named adverse effects that marijuana can have, it would be grossly irresponsible for the government to allow domestic marijuana production which would result in the increase in the availability of marijuana which is documented to have huge adverse effects on the users. A more appropriate action would be an increase in the crackdown against distributors and sellers of marijuana.

Allowing domestic production would increase access to the drug by the youths as well as lead to a rise in the levels of violence. Decorte (2010) reveals that “the rise of domestic cannabis cultivation is associated with heightened levels of criminal organization”. This is because domestic production results in higher involvement in criminal organizations by offenders as well as higher levels of violence as gangs set out to establish strongholds. Opponents of domestic marijuana production therefore argue that efforts by the government to eradicate local production are the best to ensure that at risk groups are not exposed to the drugs and the formation of criminal organizations is deterred. While it is true that domestic production may result in an increase in marijuana availability in the country, the market will be well regulated by the government. In an unregulated market as is the present case, at risk groups such as children and teenagers have a profit motive to sell marijuana to each other therefore increasing the usage of the drug (Gettman, 2006).

Advocates for the current prohibitive policy on domestic production of marijuana argue that legalization would result in greater use of marijuana. According to this advocates, the prohibition of a domestic marijuana production industry in the country has resulted in the increase in the price of the commodity therefore deterring many would be consumers of the drug. Allowing domestic production would therefore result in the monumental increase in the number of users since domestic production would reduce the price of marijuana. In addition to this, opponents of domestic marijuana production state that removing prohibitions would result in some form of legalization of the drug.

As it currently stands, most people are afraid of the legal action that can be undertaken against them by the government as a result of marijuana possession or use. Houston (2010) disputes this claims by demonstrating that in the Netherlands (a country which is famous for its legitimizing of marijuana through laws which make it legal for adults to purchase and consume regulated amounts of marijuana), the rate of marijuana use is significantly lower than in the United States and other countries where the drug is banned. Gettman (2006) further on claims that access to marijuana to users will go even higher when there lacks a credible control over production. This control can only be put in place if domestic production is allowed since the government will be able to monitor the industry.

Conclusion

Marijuana consumption has become a pervasive part of the US drug taking culture with the drug taking up the position of favorite recreational drug. This has been in spite of aggressive measures by the government to suppress the domestic production of the crop. This paper set out to argue that the US should remove prohibitions on domestic marijuana production. To buttress this proposition, this paper has highlighted the various merits that can arise from a well regulated domestic marijuana production industry. It has been seen that the government can accrue billions of dollars that are currently being enjoyed by the illegal farmers and importers who supply the US market. By facing the reality that marijuana use is widespread; the government can adopt laws that permit home production of the drug.

This paper has articulated that domestic production of marijuana may result in benefits not only for the drug consumer but also for the government and therefore the nation as a whole. The product can then be used to make a positive contribution to the economy of the US. Domestic production would also render the foreign drug cartels that hold a monopoly on the trade redundant. This would deprive the drug lords of their livelihood therefore making the streets safer. However, the paper has taken care to point out that there are some risks that may arise as a result of domestic production most notably of which is the adverse health effect of marijuana. All in all, it can be stated that a well regulated domestic marijuana production industry in the US is the most beneficial for both the consumers of the drug and the government.

References

Bouchard, M. (2007). “A capture–recapture model to estimate the size of criminal populations and the risks of detection in a marijuana cultivation industry”. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 23, 221–241.

Decorte, T. (2010). “The case for small-scale domestic cannabis cultivation”. International Journal of Drug Policy, Web.

Gettman, J. (2006). “Marijuana Production in the United States”. The Bulletin of Cannabis Reform.

Gettman, J. & Armentano, P. (2003). NORML Report on U.S. Domestic Marijuana Production. Web.

Houston, A. (2010). The case for a domestic marijuana industry. Web.

Miron, J (2005). The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition. Web.

Volkow, N. (2009). Marijuana Abuse. Web.

Whitten, L. (2010). “Marijuana Linked with Testicular Cancer”. NIDA Research Findings Vol. 23, No. 3.

World Health Organization (2010). Management of substance abuse: Cannabis. Web.