“Legalize it and tax it” is an argument that many well-meaning Americans have advocated. In other words, people will use illegal substances anyway, so why not let government get its share of the revenues?
The flaw in that argument is that legalizing vice encourages law-abiding Americans to indulge and over-indulge in the newly-legalized vices. The result is more people who need help for their addictions. So government taxes the vice, but only to turn around and spend in government-funded services for those in need. The new revenue never matches the increased need for the new spend.
Both gambling and marijuana have expanded legalization, which has increased revenue to government. Taxpayers who neither gamble nor inhale like this form of taxation — because it is not coming directly from their pocket. But we all pay when government takes more money — because bigger government power affects all of us.
Government is encouraging addicts to spend more; yet government is not helping the addicted when it taxes them. The addicted stand in a long line in hope of finding government help to overcome their addiction. Many times, the addicts instead find a government that is codependent in their addiction by providing clean needles. Government does not end addiction because the revenue stream is so lucrative.
In the last Super Bowl, 10 percent of Americans bet on the game. Betting on a screen that pushes excitement is highly addictive. The bets are not just on the final score, but on thousands of set-ups, such as the coin toss or a wardrobe malfunction at halftime. The legalized gambling industry had their best year ever in revenues in 2021. The success of online sports betting will ensure that 2022 reaps even more money. Remember, the house always wins and with legalized gambling, there are two houses: the casino and the government.
Also, did we learn nothing from the opioid epidemic? So many Americans ruined their lives by easy access to addictive drugs. So what do lawmakers do in response? Legalize marijuana. The taxman is the only one who benefits from legal pot. Maybe you won’t die from marijuana, but you surely will not thrive; extended use of pot increases psychosis, anxiety, and violence.
Government is reaping the revenues from sports betting and marijuana. It is not just the addicts and their families who lose; our society and culture lose when our government actively encourages people to over-indulge in vices that destroy lives.