Legalized drugs: Loss for the public and win for capital
First Voice

Editor's note: Democracy's Broken Promises is a five-part animation series that delves into the myths of American democracy. Through fictionalized narratives based on real events, this series explores the true extent of the power American voters have to transform their society. The fourth episode is about the drug problem in America.

"This is historic!"

I'm Lauren Davis, a formerly homeless woman. I'm really happy.

The nonprofit agency that gave me a home and a job got some good news. It will manage the first legal dispensary for recreational marijuana in Manhattan.

All of us helped by this agency are thrilled.

About half of marijuana licenses in New York will go to minority groups like our nonprofit. Things are going to turn around for us.

The demand for marijuana is strong among college students. They have lots of money and free time.

America was one of the first countries in the world to prohibit drugs. Now, it is the world's largest consumer of drugs.

Marijuana is still a UN-controlled substance. It may damage the developing brains of young people.

But despite this risk, New York Attorney General Letitia James backs its legalization. She says it is "a racial and criminal justice imperative" in America.

Our nonprofit is not the only group benefitting from marijuana sales.

Politicians need to prove they care for disadvantaged people to get our votes. Giving us marijuana licenses demonstrates "social fairness."

Governments make a fortune from marijuana taxes.

Marijuana firms and trade associations are also winners.

With the money from the marijuana users, they then lobby for more support from the government for their businesses. From 2018 to 2021, they spent $15.4 million on political lobbying.

Their efforts paid off.

Washington, D.C. and 21 states have legalized recreational marijuana. Some 43 percent of American young people were using marijuana in 2021.

In 1969, only 4 percent of Americans admitted they used marijuana. Today, there are more Americans using marijuana than smoking.

Legal marijuana sales in the U.S. rose 43 percent to $25 billion in 2021.

That accounts for most of the $31 billion in sales across the world.

Marijuana can be a gateway to harder drugs. I heard more than one million Americans died from drug overdoses since 2000.

But that doesn't matter now – as long as everyone gets a slice of these marijuana profits.

Lauren Davis is a composite character bases on real cases, representing the drug problems facing the United States.

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