Forget the immorality of imprisoning drug addicts. Blow off the damage done to family members by having Moms, Dads, siblings and children incarcerated for marijuana offenses.

The argument that will eventually convert the most people to a sensible drug policy is the economic one. How does it hit you in your pocketbook? (Sorry, we are selfish beings. There are better arguments for decriminalization – I’m just predicting this is the one that will work.)

From NPR’s All Things Considered today:

California’s potential $16 billion budget shortfall has led state officials to an unusual source for tax revenue — medical marijuana storefronts. In a state where it’s legal to buy prescription pot, those shops generate millions of dollars each year. But there’s just one problem — buying and selling marijuana is still a federal crime.

Richard Lee, owner of a coffee shop and marijuana dispensary in Oakland, says he’s proud of the more than $200,000 a year he pays in sales tax. His store sells marijuana buds in one-eighth ounce bags.

Let’s see. $16 billion dollar deficit this year alone. According to the story, “Medical marijuana advocates estimate that the aggregate annual sales tax revenue that’s paid by the approximately 400 dispensaries in California is $100 million.”

One hundred million isn’t chump change.  As for the other side of the equation.

How much could Californians save, by not incarcerating folks for non medical marijuana possession?

Sorry, my calculator only goes to ten digits.

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