Richard Wolff explains perfectly the real reason behind the legalization of gambling and marijuana, which has nothing to do with some kind of shift of the states towards progressive policies.
As Wolff says:
Starting a few decades ago, Americans who have been told to save their money, who have been told in church that gambling was sinful, we're told that now the world has changed and you should please gamble every day, as much as possible. We call that the lottery system.
On every corner, in every tobacco store, in every stationary store, in countless drug stores, people are trying to sell you scratch tickets, lottery tickets, mega millions this, mega box that. That was once thought sinful, wasteful, inappropriate. Now we're been told 'you can't win if you don't play'.
And over the last few years, another unthinkable has happened. The following states have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana: Colorado, Washington, California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. Six states have made it legal and it is a booming business.
We have lotteries and we have the legalization of marijuana, not because of cultural reasons, particularly, and not because of cultural changes particularly. We have that because our state governments are afraid to tax corporations and the rich because they will lose the money without which you cannot win electoral office in this country. And they've loaded up the mass of people with taxes because they didn't tax corporations and the rich. So, they dare not to raise taxes on them because then, they will lose the votes.
Caught between not wanting to lose votes and not wanting to lose the money they need to be politicians and to compete for the votes, they're desperate. That's why they borrow so much money and why Illinois, Puerto Rico have collapsed. Because they can't borrow anymore having borrowed too much already.
So, imagine how desperate they are. 'Can we find', they ask themselves, 'new ways of raising money that the mass of people will not be angry at us about, and that the corporations and the rich won't care because we're not taxing them'. Answer: yes. Part one of the answer, institute lotteries. Part two of the answer, legalize marijuana.
Those state governments can raise money from people who buy marijuana, but let's be clear: these are regressive taxes, both the lottery and the marijuana. The lottery for sure since all statistics show us that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to spend on a lottery ticket, and that's no surprise because the more desperate you are to engage the fantasy that you might become a millionaire tomorrow, if you buy the right lottery ticket.
With marijuana, it's a population that is so excited that it can finally do something legally that it has had to do illegally before, that they won't mind, at least for a while, being taxed.
These are taxes on people that make no effort to discriminate according to their ability to pay. Lotteries hit the poor more than the rich, and cost the poor a bigger share of their income than they cost the rich. And the tax on marijuana works pretty much the same way.
These are not progressive taxes. They make no effort like an income tax does, to tax you according to your ability to pay. They are escape hatches, ways for irresponsible Democrats and Republicans to get out of what they ought to be doing, which is taxing the wealthiest and the business community because they've been the ones to cut their taxes the most, everywhere over the last 30 to 40 years.