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EDITORIAL: Biased 'study' says pot helps economy

By: Gazette editorial board
January 18, 2018 Updated: January 18, 2018 at 10:19 am
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Marijuana plants that were growing at White Diamond Botanicals onTuesday, March 14, 2017. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

The Washington Post reports on a new "study" that shows nationwide legalization of pot would create economic growth, to the tune of $132 billion in federal tax money and a million new jobs in a decade.

New Frontier Data compiled the findings, and the Post failed to disclose the company's self-professed partnerships with several major marijuana investment firms. Marijuana financiers controlled and commissioned the study and the Post described their research arm as "a data analytics firm focused on the cannabis industry." As if it is merely observes.

The study's self-serving conclusions appeal to a long-held myth that says destructive behavior is good for our wallets. Often taken to an extreme far beyond cigarettes and drugs, the tortured logic views mass human casualties as economic gain.

"The Lack of Major Wars May be Hurting Economic Growth," shouted a 2014 headline in the New York Times. The article blamed "the persistence and expectation of peace" for sluggish economies worldwide.

"Like It or Not, Spending on War Is Good for the Economy," said a 2015 headline in Real Money.

If true, we should invent reasons to fight. While at it, we could use more car crashes. They keep hospitals busy. They initiate vehicle sales, and the transactions fund governments. They put money in the hands of car dealers and sales personnel, which circulates to others in the market.

If all money exchanges cause economic gain, we should encourage more nicotine addiction. A pack of cigarettes circulates capital and generates taxes, as Big Tobacco points out.

Sensing mass confusion regarding benefits of transactions, French economist Frederic Bastiat wrote "The Glazier's Parable" in his 1850 essay Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas (That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Not Seen). Bastiat told of a shopkeeper's son carelessly breaking a window.

Onlookers determine the damage will circulate capital, and therefore help the common good. "What would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?"

Bastiat counters, "It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented."

All transactions are not equal. We need glaziers, but less broken glass benefits the economy.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reveals lost opportunity costs by highlighting the $22,920 each pack-a-day smoker spends on cigarettes in a decade. One may view this as a positive infusion of cash into the market, failing to account for health consequences and productivity lost to hourly cigarette breaks.

True economic growth raises standards of living, and builds people up. It causes net gain, nourishing health, extending life, or shortening burdensome tasks. No person of sound mind conflates cigarettes, alcohol, pornography and other vice transactions with economic progress. Vice will always be with us, in the liability column.

Make no exception for recreational pot, which strains public health and safety resources, and consumes time and energy that could otherwise fund more constructive endeavors.

"Marijuana use impairs short-term memory, distorts perception, and impairs judgment," explains Dec. 23 article in Psychology Today. "Used in adolescence, the drug impacts developing brains in areas like problem solving, memory, and critical thinking, and daily use can alter brain structures related to working memory and cognitive development, even lowering IQ — an effect that can last into adulthood even after quitting."

Colorado educators, cops, drug counselors and parents report elevated use among teens that correlates with legalization. Hans Breiter, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, calls marijuana "the ideal compound to screw up everything for a kid.

The Denver Post documents how legalization parallels a startling increase in driving fatalities involving drivers under the influence of marijuana.

Mounting evidence links legalization to higher public safety costs, health risks, lost opportunities and other liabilities not seen on the surface. These costs will easily outweigh any perceived value associated with pot transactions that produce little, if anything, to advance society.

Even ardent defenders of legalization should keep the dialogue real, and reject big marijuana's tale about another vice causing economic growth.

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