CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen, commenting on what he calls a trend toward releasing non-violent offenders, asks “what about legalizing marijuana possession and lowering the drinking age?” A California legislator this week proposed legalizing and taxing pot there. In Colorado, the police chief in Boulder (which houses a raucous University of Colorado) made a compelling case on “60 Minutes” for saving money by reducing the drinking age from 21. Better to have police officers tracking violent crime, the argument goes, than writing tickets for college kids who are going to drink no matter what.
Cohen says the late conservative Milton Friedman was among hundreds of important economists who argue that pot should be legalized and taxed – and that the income from such taxation could generate billions in new revenues and billions more in enforcement savings. If you live in California, what would you rather have? Pot smokers whose cases are tying up the legal system? Or better health care and roads thanks to a marijuana tax. Cohen says the economic case for legalizing marijuana, and for lower the drinking rate, is as compelling as it has ever been. It would not be the worst thing in the world to have a serious national debate on the topic, he says.