The Legislative Research Council has produced the fiscal impact statements required for Consistent South Dakota’s ballot initiatives to outlaw the transfer of tobacco and alcoholic beverages. The LRC says it analyzed stats on alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use and current conviction rates and sentences for marijuana use. Such comparisons make sense, since the penalties prescribed by the alcohol and tobacco measures mirror those prescribed by current law for messing with marijuana. The LRC also considered “geographic availability…, legal means to obtain…, enforceability, and the nature of the crime itself” for tobacco and alcohol.
LRC’s conclusion: in the worst case, the alcohol ban convicts 685 people a year and puts 417 of them in the pokey. The tobacco ban convicts 263 and incarcerates 161. Annual prison costs would rise $4,753,805 for alcohol traffickers and $1,840,181 for tobacco traffickers. (The LRC also provides the ten-year cost, for those of you unable to add zeroes and move commas.)
The CDC estimates that excessive drinking costs the United States $223.5 billion a year in workplace productivity, health care, criminal justice, and automotive wrecks. If South Dakota carried just its populationally proportional share of those costs (and it likely carries more, because we drink more, but it’s Saturday, so let’s keep the math simple), excessive drinking would cost South Dakota $598 million per year.
Smoking-related illnesses cost the country $170 billion in direct medical care and $156 billion in lost productivity. A populationally proportionate share for South Dakota would be $872 million in health and productivity costs.
Therefore, anyone who wants to beat back Consistent South Dakota’s proposals on cost-benefits grounds can look to the LRC’s fiscal impact statements for 0.8% of the argument against the alcohol ban and 0.2% of the argument against the tobacco ban.