Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Examining the 2012 Campaigns to Legalize Cannabis: Washington

The following blog post was written by Patrick Wood, a student at SUNY-Geneseo in New York. Patrick was an intern for the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation during the summer of 2012, and we thank him for his excellent work on this and other projects throughout the summer. This is the final of a three part series written by Patrick. Check out an analysis of the Colorado Initiative here, and an analysis of Oregon's here. 

The official campaigns of the initiatives to legalize cannabis in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington all make big claims about what the initiatives will do for their states if they are passed. How do these claims stand up to the facts?

This post examines Washington’s Initiative 502 as the final of a three part series regarding these cannabis 
legalization initiatives.

Washington’s I-502 campaign website says:

  • [The initiative will] Create a tightly regulated system that takes money away from criminal organizations and generates tax revenue for our state and local governments.
  • We are united in the belief that Washington should stop wasting law enforcement resources on adults who use marijuana

Supporting I-502 would save law enforcement resources:

“The savings in state and local government expenditure that would result from marijuana legalization consists of three main components: the reduction in police resources from elimination of marijuana arrests; the reduction in prosecutorial and judicial resources from elimination of marijuana prosecutions; and the reduction in correctional resources from elimination of marijuana incarcerations.” - Daniel Egan and Jeffrey A. Miron in The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition in Mitch Earleywine’s Pot Politics

Washington expenditures attributable to marijuana prohibition total about $98,944,000. Of this approximately $41,169,000 is police expenditures - Miron & Waldock in The budgetary impact of drug prohibition

Link: http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/DrugProhibitionWP.pdf

Supporting that legalizing marijuana would generate tax revenue:

An article in the Seattle Times by Jonathan Martin predicts huge Washington tax revenue from I-502, $560 million a year. Martin notes that is more than twice what the Initiative 502 campaign itself had originally predicted: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2017810760_marijuana22m.html

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