January 3, 2014, 8:50 AM


Never mind its medicinal uses or just plain old getting high: legalizing marijuana is a smart fiscal move, a former aide in President Ronald Reagan’s White House says.

Writing in the Fiscal Times, Bruce Bartlett says he’s doubtful the drug will be legal at the federal level “any time soon.” But after sales and use of marijuana became legal in Colorado and Washington on Jan. 1, Bartlett believes “eventually [legalization] will happen” nationwide.

In his piece, Bartlett says perhaps the dominant factor driving the legalization of marijuana “is the desperate search for new revenue by cash-strapped state governments.” He says taxing the drug could be a significant source of new revenue, as well as a way of slashing spending on prisons and law enforcement. California, he notes, estimates it could save “hundreds of millions of dollars” from both those factors.

Bartlett also raises what could be a great question for the next high-profile gathering of economists. He writes that he has long suspected that “virtually every economist” favors legalizing marijuana and probably most hard drugs. But he doesn’t have the data to prove it.

– Robert Schroeder

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