by Niccolò Morelli – United States of America, December 1933. A country torn apart by the crisis of ’29 following the collapse of the Wall Street stock exchange, which gave way to the so-called “Great Depression”, in which the economic and financial meltdown brought hundreds of thousands of Americans to their knees, with the failure of many companies, the dizzying rise in unemployment (over 25% of the active population) and a severe contraction in income. Among the many innovations introduced by Roosevelt in the New Deal to face that unprecedented crisis, one stood out signed by Senator John Blaine. With the Blaine Act of December 5, 1933, the constitutional procedure that would have led to the removal of the Eighteenth Amendment was set in motion, the law that in 1920 had started the so-called Prohibition: an era that lasted 13 years in the United States when alcoholic drinks are completely prohibited. From then on, millions of Americans were able to buy liberalized and regularly taxed alcohol, causing government revenues to soar: about a million jobs related to the alcohol industry were also created and as if thousands of gangs weren’t enough Black market alcohol criminals saw a million dollar turnover go up in smoke overnight.
Italy. June 2020. A country that was still paying the aftermath of the crises of 2008 and 2012 and of years of wicked policies that have drastically impoverished the population, finds itself having to develop effective reforms in a short time in order not to succumb to the wounds (social and economic) triggered by Coronavirus. Closure of many companies and businesses, dizzying rise in unemployment, severe contraction in income.
A new “Great Depression”.
What if, just as happened for the crisis of ’29, as well as an important package of structural reforms, the taboo on the prohibition of cannabis was ended once and for all by legalizing its recreational as well as therapeutic use? This would set in motion a real new production sector which, according to Professor Marco Rossi of the La Sapienza University of Rome, would generate more than 350.00 jobs within a few years.
Setting aside presumed ideological convictions and certainties, we try to read the data of the numerous studies carried out on the topic of legalization.
The University of Messina, which has conducted one of the most authoritative studies on this issue, estimated what the economic benefits would be in terms of tax revenue as a result of a hypothetical legalization. By applying taxation equal to that for cigarettes, which has a rate equal to 75%, and assuming an average market price of around 10 euros, Professor Ferdinando Ofria and his team have shown that the benefit for the state would be more than the 6 billion euros, a number obtained simply from the estimate of cannabis use multiplied by the average market price. To this should also be added the decrease in prison magistrate costs, estimated at around € 500 million, and the costs of public order and security operations, calculated on € 200 million. In general, a percentage increase in GDP is expected of between 1.20% and 2.34%, with evident positive effects on the public debt and on the parameters of economic and financial stability of the country. As if that were not enough, the legalization would result indirect benefits given by the fight against crime and that is a better quality of the product on the market and consequently on the health of consumers.
Citizens’ health is one of the cardinal points on which a certain part of politics does not seem to want to give in to the idea of legalization: “The state will not become a drug dealer who endangers people’s health” says someone uninformed.
But is cannabis really as harmful as they paint it?
Thanks to a study conducted by David Nutt of the University of Bristol, the ranking of the 20 most dangerous drugs in the world was drawn up keeping in mind three factors: physical damage, addiction and social damage.
As can be seen from the table, the result confirmed the dangerousness of some drugs, such as heroin, but in other cases it ascertained the extreme danger of substances considered wrongly “light”, such as alcohol or tobacco, both clearly above cannabis. But that is not all.
Another report slightly earlier than the one just mentioned, which also appeared in the prestigious magazine Lancet, provided an even more surprising picture of the dangerousness of the substances. According to this study, alcohol is the most harmful drug of all: it is even more harmful than heroin and crack when it takes into account the damage to the health of those who use it and also for the rest of society.
Researchers fromIndependent Scientific Committee on Drugs, who conducted the research, argue that if drugs were classified by the damage they produce, alcohol, freely sold practically everywhere unlike cannabis, would have to fall into category A with heroin and crack, therefore very dangerous.
The data reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the2018 edition of the “Global status report on alcohol and health” should make us think: worldwide, in 2016, more than 3 million people died from harmful use of alcohol (5.3% of all deaths). The harmful use of alcoholic beverages is a causal factor in over 200 diseases, including cancer, and from accidents and accidents.
It is not much better if we look at the data due to the other substance legally sold in Italy, tobacco. As the Ministry of Health says on its website, Smoking in Italy is the main cause of death: from 70,000 to 83,000 deaths a year and over 25% of these are between 35 and 65 years of age. The state, therefore, is already a “drug dealer” of substances harmful to the health of citizens, with all due respect to those who condemn the joint with a mojito in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Legalizing would also mean taking away from the mafia a market ranging from 8 to 10 billion euros, money that serves them to corrupt politics and public administration, undermining the credibility of our institutions.
Clearly nobody claims that cannabis has no side effects, like all substances considered psychotropic by the Ministry of Health (including the very legal alcohol and tobacco) there are obviously risk factors mainly related to the abuse of this plant, but there is no evidence that cannabis use leads to death. None.
One thing is certain, the decriminalization or the real legalization of light drugs does not represent an incentive to consume but rather, it means regulating, removing from illegality; the data provided by the countries that have already experimented with these measures prove it. Legalize does decrease consumption significantly in the long run.
The very numerous and unequivocal data regarding the legalization and related activities that would derive from it (also and above all in terms of jobs) they must be challenged to start a serious and profitable debate between the political parties.
The continuation of a prohibition “regardless” is likely to be an assist to criminal organizations and an incredible own goal for our finances and the future of our society.
Niccolò Morelli, born in 1993, was born in Empoli but lives in the Tuscan hills of Vinci, the town which gave birth to Leonardo’s genius. In 2018 he graduated in Political Science at the University of Florence and two years later he obtained a Master’s degree in Labor Sciences, half of which he attended at the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, with a thesis entitled “Digitization and robotization: towards a future without work?”.