Legal pakalolo could bring in $33M
Legalizing marijuana would generate up to $33 million a year in tax revenue and savings, according to a study by a University of Hawaii-West Oahu professor.
UH-West Oahu economist William Boyd analyzed enforcement and court costs of current laws and estimated that the state and counties spend $9 million to $10 million annually on marijuana cases.
Using cigarette and alcohol tax revenues, Boyd also calculated that the state could see between $4 million and $23 million in tax revenue if marijuana were legalized and taxed.
According to a study by a University of Hawaii-West Oahu professor, legalization of marijuana would generate up to $33 million a year in tax revenue and savings:
» $9 million to $10 million annually in reduced law enforcement and court costs
» $4 million to $23 million in additional revenue from taxing marijuana if it were legalized
Source: William Boyd, University of Hawaii at West Oahu
On the Net
» Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii: www.dpfhi.org
Yet the price of an ounce of marijuana on the streets has dropped, indicating that law enforcement has not reduced the availability and use of the drug, Boyd said.
Boyd said the chances of a marijuana user being arrested and convicted is about 0.4 percent, and current laws are not acting as a deterrent.
Even if a user is arrested, 65 percent of the cases are dismissed, not prosecuted or stricken, the study found.
Boyd estimates that reducing penalties for possessing marijuana to a civil fine, rather than criminal penalties or jail time, would save the state about $5 million a year.
"Decriminalization would save some money and probably would not increase the drug use," he said.
"Prohibition is an expensive and failed policy that drains taxpayer dollars away from important needs in Hawaii," said Pamela Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, which funded the $4,000 study.
"A policy of taxation and regulation would raise enough money to pay for all the adult education programs and the A+ children's program combined, or run all our public libraries," Lichty said in a written news release.
Lichty said the money generated from legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana could also be used for education, which she said is a more effective strategy to deter usage among children than law enforcement.
But she acknowledged that there is almost no chance that the Legislature will decriminalize or legalize marijuana this year. Marijuana bills in the Senate and the House did not get a hearing and are likely dead.
Lichty said she will use the study in next year's session to try to get a hearing for bills to decriminalize marijuana.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, who has been a leading anti-drug advocate, said yesterday through a spokesman that he has not read the report and had no comment. Calls to prosecutors and law enforcement were not returned.
The study was paid for with a grant from the Marijuana Policy Institute, Lichty said. The Washington, D.C.-based institute bills itself as a "marijuana policy reform organization."
Boyd said he calculated the cost of marijuana enforcement by calculating the number of cases among police, courts and prisons and dividing the percentage into the total budget for the agencies.