When hundreds of millions of people are governed by certain laws that run contrary to logic and compassion, then everyone suffers from the irrational fears of an older generation of voters. According to the Center for Disease Control, around 88,000 Americans die each year from alcohol related deaths. MADD states that 1.2 million Americans were arrested of drunk driving in 2011 and 10, 322 Americans died from drunk driving in 2012. Yet, alcohol is celebrated and only 23 states have legalized marijuana's medical use. Times are changing as evident by Colorado and Washington, however, and now 55 percent of Americans and 69 percent of millennials favor marijuana legalization. Only Americans over 65 overwhelmingly oppose legalization, even though we spend $40.6 billion every year on marijuana.
As for human beings who wish to marry whom they love, the majority of Americans are shedding decades of legislation founded upon superstition and ignorance. According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of young Republicans favor same-sex marriage, as compared to only 27 percent of Republicans age 50 or over. A 2014 Gallop Poll finds that 55 percent of Americans are in favor of same sex marriage and 78 percent of voters 18-29 also favor its legalization.
Therefore, with more people evolving towards the legalization of same-sex marriage and marijuana, there exists an important link between the two issues. The United States will benefit from the legalization of same-sex marriages and marriages within the LGBT communities, as well as the federal legalization of marijuana in a variety of ways. This welcomed sea change in American politics and society will lead to economic growth, better political standing among nations, and a healthier political environment within the greatest nation on Earth.
First, Tea Party advocates should do something unthinkable and join together with liberals on the issue of marijuana legalization; the tax dollars generated could substantially shrink our over $17 trillion national debt and help state budgets. Colorado is set to reap over $100 million in tax revenue and Washington is estimated to gain around $586 million within the next five years. Factor in these preliminary figures alongside future income tax numbers, the prospect of every state with its own marijuana industry, and the possibility of a future worldwide industry and you get tremendous economic potential. A CNBC article titled, How Big Is The Marijuana Market? explains how profitable the industry could be for states and the federal government:
Economists, reformists, law enforcement authorities and the pro-marijuana lobby, however, have come up with a variety of estimates. Put them all together and you get a range of $10 billion to over $120 billion a year...
Based on this data, most demand-based studies put the market at $10-$40 billion. If a sensitivity analysis is applied to consumption and price variables (that is, testing different combinations of price and use), the market can reach as high as $100 billion...
Tobacco and alcohol sales generate over $17 billion in federal tax revenue. States tax tobacco and alcohol and benefit as well... Assuming comparable taxes to tobacco of 40-50 percent (excise and sales tax), a $40 billion marijuana market would yield $16-20 billion in taxes.
Instead of stubbornly adhering to existing laws that prevent a national marijuana industry, states should think of tax revenue and the logic behind existing laws.
For example, possessing any amount of marijuana after the first offense is a felony in Oklahoma. A person in The Sooner State could get between two and ten years prison time for more than one offense. Prisons should house hardened criminals and rapists, not people who smoke a plant that never caused 10,322 vehicular deaths in one year. Luckily, the citizens of Oklahoma (a conservative Bible Belt state) have amassed 155,216 signatures to reform existing laws. When citizens in a conservative red state realize that years behind bars for marijuana is not only immoral but also a waste of potential tax revenue, the country is heading in the right direction. Also, it's ludicrous to jail a citizen in one state while another American freely enjoys marijuana in another state.
Regarding same-sex marriage, like the immorality of jailing people for marijuana offenses, there exists a dilemma of conscience among those who would deny other human beings the ability to marry. The moral component is summarized brilliantly by Andrew Sullivan in a Newsweek article titled, Why Gay Marriage Is Good For America:
Hannah Arendt wrote in 1959 that "the right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right... Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs."
... And in the years of struggle, as more and more heterosexuals joined us, we all began finally to see that this was not really about being gay. It was about being human.
Just like being gay is no longer necessarily about being an outsider. It is about being an American.
Like Sullivan eloquently states, the sooner all Americans have the freedom described by Hannah Arendt as "an elementary human right," the sooner our country will live up fully to its ideals.
There's also an important international relations element to legalizing gay marriage. Similar to the Cold War, when the USSR would cite segregated American cities as an example of hypocrisy, the same predicament exists with same-sex marriage. As stated by Ian Ayres and William Eskridge in a Washington Post article titled,"U.S. hypocrisy over Russia's anti-gay laws," we embolden Vladimir Putin by denying the LGBT communities the right to marry:
Eight U.S. states, and several cities and counties, have some version of what we call "no promo homo" provisions. Before the United States condemns the Russian statute's infringement of free speech and academic freedom, it should recognize that our own republican forms of government have repeatedly given rise to analogous restrictions...
Putin has assured the International Olympic Committee that the law is merely symbolic. But in the United States, officially sanctioned anti-gay prejudice has contributed to classroom bullying and to the high level of suicides among gay teens...
Putin's inability to justify this law puts a spotlight on the inability of Utah, Texas, Arizona and other states to justify their gay-stigmatizing statutes. They should be repealed or challenged in court.
As things stand, one could imagine Putin responding to U.S. criticism by saying: "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye."
Considering the current chaos in the Ukraine and Russia's increasing global influence, it will speak volumes to show the world that we're different from Putin's view of "morality."
Finally, as a married heterosexual male who hasn't smoked pot in years, I can still empathize with the human rights issues faced by my fellow Americans. The link between marijuana and gay marriage legalization will represent a break from archaic ideology that holds America back economically and politically. Pontificating against Russian aggression is harder to do when we legitimize his demonization of the LGBT communities in Russia. A potential economic boom in a national marijuana industry should be a way to promote job growth and reduce debt; not something people like the Heritage Foundation should prevent millions from experiencing. When this generation allows Americans the basic right to marry and earn money from a plant that isn't responsible for "2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) annually," then future legislation will be based more on reason than superstition or prejudice. Also, the words of Hannah Arendt (the same woman who penned the phrase "Banality of Evil") should be addressed to give people like Putin and Yoweri Museveni a greater understanding of American values. This country will benefit immensely when it realizes the economic and political benefits of legalizing gay marriage and marijuana.