Thursday, February 26, 2009

Legalizing Pot For The Wrong Reasons

With California (of course) taking the lead, decriminalizing marijuana use on a state-by-state basis and even nationally suddenly doesn't seem quite so far fetched. The reason (of course) is not undercutting the rank hypocrisy that permeates government and social policy about a comparatively harmless drug but because there is money to be made from it just as there is with two far more harmful vices -- alcohol and gambling.

That support for decriminalization has grown steadily in recent years in the face of relentless anti-marijuana propaganda from the White House, DEA, and DARE program can be attributed to an increasing number of younger Americans who know someone who smokes pot -- if they haven't done so themselves -- and the awareness that it is far from being the evil gateway drug its opponents portray it as.

I have long supported a "grow your own" decriminalization policy under which it would be legal to grow, possess and use pot, as well as give it away, but legal sanctions on selling or buying it in large quantities would be maintained in the form of fines but not jail sentences.

Where California is headed is a policy driven by its desperate need to raise revenue, as much as $13 billion a year by one pro-decriminalization estimate and perhaps even more when you consider the prosecution and incarceration costs involving pot users and sellers.

Under one bill introduced in the California assembly, this revenue windfall woulld be accomplished by charging growers and wholesales a $5,000 franchise fee and $2,500 annual renewal fee, as well as a $50 per ounce fee for retailers.

Lurking beyond any successful state initiative is that under federal law marijuana remains classified as a dangerous drug, but it is not difficult to image that an Obama Justice Department might look the other way when it comes to decriminalizing personal use by state law since Attorney General already has said that federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries will be halted.

That certainly was not the case during the Bush administration, which infamously fought back against efforts to decriminalize even medical marijuana through public referenda in 13 states, California of course being the first.

As it is, marijuana is the largest cash crop in America and the gray market that gobbles it up by the ton is so immense that legalization efforts, no matter the motivation, may not have the positive financial impact for California and other ailing states as is imagined.

In any event, we may have a chance to find that out, as well as whether the dubious claim that decriminalization will turn millions of innocents into potheads goes up in smoke.

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In case you missed it, I make the case here for hemp seed-based products as terrific nutritional supplements while warning that they could get you in trouble if you were to be drug tested. This is because even industrial hemp is classified as a dangerous drug. And here for a personal story that drives home the ridiculousness of opposing medical marijuana use.

Top photograph by Getty Images

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