According to the latest statistics, cannabis continues to be the nation's most valuable cash crop, even though it is still mindlessly regarded as illegal for recreational use by 48 states and the federal government. A recent "infographic" published by the Floating Sheep blog illustrates how the marijuana industry, both in its legal and underground form, is worth some $120 billion annually or more, a hefty sum that outpaces the entire value of U.S. corn and wheat crops combined.
Obviously, the vast majority of this $120 billion still constitutes black market transactions, which contribute virtually nothing to local economies besides perhaps an increased presence of street gangs and more revenues for local prison systems. As far as legitimate benefits are concerned, however, states that still cling to the outmoded ideals of prohibition are not only losing out on the benefits of marijuana but also stifling their citizens from prospering financially.
"Keeping marijuana illegal is possibly keeping billions of dollars out of the economies in the most rural parts of the United States, preventing these regions from banking on America's 'biggest' cash crop," writes Chris Miles for PolicyMic.com.
The Floating Sheep infographic basically uses varying shades of yellow and green in a "heat" map format to illustrate the price of street cannabis in locales all across the country. Based on these values, the blog came up with an estimate of what the entire national market for marijuana is worth, based on the limited data that is available for this mostly underground industry.
Some of the most inexpensive places in the country to purchase marijuana are on the West Coast, where it is generally more socially acceptable. But there are also major pockets in Eastern Kentucky, Western Tennessee, and elsewhere, not only where street cannabis is less expensive than other areas but also hot spots for growing cannabis, illegally of course.
Ending marijuana prohibition would produce billions in new revenues, not to mention cut billions in enforcement costs
If marijuana were legalized nationwide, these popular growing areas and many others like them, which at the current time are mostly poor, would have the opportunity to breathe new life into their local economies. Regions of the country that are currently regarded as economically anemic, in other words, would quickly become boom towns with new opportunities in farming, processing, distributing and selling cannabis and cannabis-related products.
Similarly, all the government expenditures and waste associated with enforcing marijuana prohibition drain local economies of much-needed resources that could be used elsewhere. On a national scale, the federal government has flushed down the toilet some $1 trillion dollars on enforcing marijuana prohibition since 1970, the direct result of anti-marijuana propaganda perpetuated by the Nixon administration.
"(Marijuana) legalization would reduce government expenditure by $5.3 billion at the state and local level and by $2.4 billion at the federal level," explains a Marijuana Policy Project report published back in 2005 that assesses the budgetary implications of marijuana prohibition. "In addition, marijuana legalization would generate tax revenue of $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like all other goods and $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco."
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