Friday, February 6, 2015

COLUMN: Kansas has millions of reasons to legalize marijuana


KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has been criticized all across the country for the team's final call in Super Bowl 49.

With the ball on the one-yard-line, the Seahawks chose to play "cute" and pass the ball, rather than giving it to Marshawn Lynch, the best short-yardage running back in the National Football League. That pass led to an interception, which clinched the game for the New England Patriots.

The lesson is sometimes, we over think decisions that should be simple and we don't take advantage of opportunities that are on the table.

In light of this week's announcement regarding budget cuts to education, I'm reminded of the opportunity Kansas has when it comes to legalizing marijuana.

Now, we can get into a philosophical debate all day about the role of government.

As a libertarian-leaning unaffiliated voter, it is my opinion that government has no business telling you what you should or should not put in your mouth.

Marijuana is not my thing, but I do not care if you do it, as long as your habit does not cross my path or a family member's path. What you do in your home is not my business and in my opinion, it's none of the business of the government.

I detail this in my new eBook, "The Party of Weed," an extended essay on why the Republican Party should support the legalization of marijuana. 

However, a philosophical debate about government is not needed to support marijuana.

There are logical reasons why Republicans, Democrats and independents all across Kansas should support marijuana legalization.

1. Kansas could save millions annually by releasing non-violent marijuana users from prison. 

In November 2013, Kansas Watch Dog published an interesting article about prison space in Kansas. At that time, Kansas spent over $43 million on non-violent drug offenders, 60 percent of which were marijuana users. Doing simple math, Kansas spent $25.8 million in 2013 on keeping non-violent pot smokers in prison. Legalizing marijuana would save the state about $26 million annually - and that's before we generate potential revenue from taxes.

2. One study says Kansas could make over $14.6 million annually on sales tax revenue.

Using a methodology that compares state population and the market for marijuana, the Website Nerd Wallet has calculated the State of Kansas could generate $14,608,476 a year on marijuana sales. This is only including state residents and not the potential thousands of Missourians who might come in to purchase marijuana. It also does not include potential new residents who move into the state.

Doing the math, that is over $40 million worth of revenue the state could either save or generate if it legalized marijuana. That total alone will not solve the Kansas budget problem. But would it not be a good start? And once the tax revenue situation improves one way or another, that $40 million would be a huge benefit.

The good people from the State of Colorado will see higher education funding AND a tax cut thanks to the decision they made to legalize marijuana.

A few more reasons why marijuana should be legalized:

3. There are at least 23 benefits to use medical marijuana when it comes to health. 

Medical marijuana has not become an official cure for any disease, but it has helped alleviate symptoms from more than one disease. Among the diseases medical marijuana has helped patients deal with: Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, HIV and AIDS, PTSD and various forms of cancer. Marijuana has been linked to curbing obesity rates as well.

4. Alcohol and tobacco are already legal and over-taxed. 

The biggest problem with Brownback's suggestion to increase taxes on both of these vices (they are vices, not sins) is that many Wyandotte County and Johnson County drinkers and smokers will make the short trip over to Kansas City, Mo., to avoid those high taxes. KCK and Johnson County businesses will hurt big time and Kansas City, Mo., businesses will gain from it.

Also, there is great concern about the "public danger" of marijuana. Overusing and abusing alcohol and tobacco leads to thousands upon thousands of early deaths each year. Studies have also confirmed that alcohol and tobacco are more addicting than marijuana.

If alcohol and tobacco are legal, why is marijuana illegal? It's one of the greatest double standards in American politics, in my opinion.

5. Marijuana legalization would create jobs WITHOUT tax abatement programs and more government giveaways. 

In Colorado, the marijuana industry has helped at least 16 separate industries grow in job totals. Legalizing marijuana would create job opportunities for many Kansans, particularly those who are college-aged.

Marijuana shops are relatively cheap to launch, meaning you do not need millions of dollars worth of tax abatement programs to start. You would create more private sector jobs with the legalization of marijuana. The State of Colorado has created over 10,000 jobs so far as a result of lifting the prohibition of marijuana. Even if you account for how small of a state Kansas is, you'd be probably still create a few thousand jobs. That's not a bad thing.


I certainly understand marijuana is not for everyone. It's not for me. But as long as marijuana users do not interfere in your life, what's the big deal? If a marijuana user drives while impaired, let the legal system deal with it. If he or she smokes marijuana inside their homes? Stay out of it.

Prohibition has failed throughout history, whether it was alcohol or drugs.

Legalizing marijuana would be a potential job creator in Kansas. It would save the state millions in prison costs and could return more millions in tax revenue.

Let's at least try it.


Nick Sloan is the publisher of The Kansas City Kansan. He can be reached at You can purchase his new eBook on marijuana here.