According to an article over at the Springfield News-Leader, the Missouri prison population has inexplicably reached an all-time high. On a related note, I’d like to take this opportunity to commend President Barack Obama for scaling back the police state milieu slightly with his recent announcement that federal authorities will no longer pursue users and suppliers of medical marijuana, provided that the individuals and businesses in question conform to state laws.
How are these related? Well, during 2005, 20 percent of the state prison population in the United States were nonviolent drug offenders. The policy issue here is: “How should our limited tax dollars be spent? In particular, how much should go to incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders?” Obama has recognized that deprioritizing the pursuit of certain nonviolent drug offenders will alleviate some of the fiscal burden caused by funding for enforcement and incarceration. Similarly, and especially given the sea change in federal policy, there is an opportunity here to relax some of the tax burden for Missouri citizens involved with putting nonviolent drug users away for a decade or two. Let me spell it out: Legalized medical marijuana in the state of Missouri would simultaneously help many people who are ailing and reduce the tax burden that comes from incarcerating users.
For what it’s worth, I also commend Obama’s move insofar as it is a nod to increased state sovereignty. A government by and for the people is easier to manage when fewer people need to agree on how to proceed, so sovereignty at lower levels is highly encouraged. For more on that, see my post about Charles Tiebout and the blessing of prioritizing local governance.