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Legalize Marijuana: California’s Cannabis Choice in 2010

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April 09, 2010 – Comments (22)

FreedomChatter.com

My home state of California is taking charge this November 2010 election with The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, which would legalize the contained growth and use of marijuana. Essentially the measure would bring marijuana to the level of alcohol and cigarettes: restrictions on use but certainly not making criminals out of people for putting something in their body or peacefully selling a product. I do not aim to encourage smoking marijuana or using drugs of any kind, but I aim to encourage what I see as an important step in the battle for common sense and liberty.

One of the popular misconceptions is that marijuana is a “gateway” drug. Kids get hooked on pot, get involved with the wrong crowd, and soon they are on an unavoidable spiral in the world of dangerous substances. I do not want to make light of drug use and smoking, but some common reasoning is necessary to understand why legalization is smart policy. Jack E. Henningfield, a PhD for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for sixteen years, researched many different substances and found that not only is marijuana less addictive than caffeine, but nicotine’s addictive levels are close to that of heroin and cocaine. As far as actual scientific research has shown, marijuana ranks among the safest and least addictive substances.

What is the primary group opposing the legalization of marijuana? Not surprisingly (and slightly humorously), it is the people who make the most profit from a criminalized product: the people who sell it on the black market.

“Pot growers are nervous because a measure that could make California the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use is set to appear on the ballot in November.” The Union; March 26, 2010

Passing a law criminalizing a certain product is not going to get rid of that product; basic economic common sense assures us of this simple fact. Let’s say the government suddenly criminalized oranges: they’re acidic, maybe a little too rich in nutrients, and people might overindulge themselves with the sweet fruit. Would people suddenly stop eating oranges? Maybe in a child’s fantasy they would, but in reality the incentive and decision to buy, sell, and eat oranges comes not from government but from individual people. From an economic standpoint, marijuana is no different from oranges, toasters, or houses.

Criminalizing a product certainly will push up the price of that item, hardly removing the incentive of people to enter that market. With marijuana, those who can successfully grow pot and avoid the authorities often make hundreds of dollars per ounce sold. Is it any surprise, then, that these growers are some of the primary protesters to free trade and legalization of marijuana? Just as large corporations favor subsidies and regulations hindering the competitive ability of smaller businesses, pot growers are reaping the benefits of a forcefully decreased supply (and therefore higher price) of marijuana.

The simple fact is that the high crime rates surrounding marijuana arise not due to effects from the plant but because of its artificially astronomical price thanks to government criminalization. I have witnessed this impact firsthand in my surrounding area in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California. Violence comes from criminalization, not from marijuana.

“Why don’t they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as well as prohibition did, in five years Americans would be the smartest race of people on Earth.” — Will Rogers

Prohibition in the 1920s is perhaps the greatest case against government criminalization of a product. As is well documented and known by now, Prohibition created a booming market for smugglers, bootleggers, and gangsters who took on the job of supplying alcohol to people who desired it. In the late 1920s, Al Capone was making $60 million per year in the alcohol business. Before Prohibition, alcohol was a nonviolent, peaceful, criminal-free market based on voluntary exchange. Prohibition depressed the supply and rocketed the price of alcohol to the point that suddenly it became a dangerous industry run largely by violent criminals.

Today, people can purchase alcohol whose quality they can be sure of (rather than the unsafe moonshine many people tried to compromise with during Prohibition), and alcohol is peacefully transported and consumed around the country. A free market without government criminalization is all you need for a nonviolent, peaceful industry. The lessons of Prohibition are desperately needed today with the government throwing away billions of dollars with the goal of suppressing the growth and exchange of a natural plant. All this policy does is mold criminals out of people who have committed the furthest thing from an aggressive crime.

One of the most puzzling statements I’ve heard amidst the discussion of the new California measure is from Grass Valley, CA police Capt. Rex Marks, who said, “Marijuana will be the subject of theft,” and, “Statistically, we can expect an increase in criminal activity.” How in the world will legalizing marijuana make it any more subject to theft than it already is? Will it be more “subject to theft” than cigarettes or alcohol? The idea that letting a product freely trade in the marketplace will lead to more crime is precisely the opposite of what will indeed happen: people will voluntarily buy, sell, and use marijuana without threat of government force, the price of marijuana will fall, and it will be taken out of the hands of organized crime. California spends well over $150 million per year enforcing laws put in place to deal with the consequences of intervention in the marijuana market. Continuing the flawed and failed policy of criminalization, restriction of free trade, and suppression of innocent individuals is what will guarantee a criminal black market, increased cases of theft and murder, a complete waste of police resources, and a continuation of the unwinnable “war on drugs.”

A common concern among parents is that legalization will lead to increased drug use among teenagers and therefore we will see an increase in crime and drug abuse. We can draw another comparison with Prohibition, when in 1926 Judge H. C. Spicer declared in an Akron, Ohio juvenile court that, “During the past two years there have been more intoxicated children brought into court than ever before.” What some began to recognize is Prohibition initiated a period when teenagers and women were more likely to drink than they had been prior to Prohibition. Matthew Woll testified to the U.S. Senate in April 1926, “Millions of homes, in the majority of which liquor was never seen, have been turned into breweries and distilleries. The youth of the land is being reared in the atmosphere of disregard for law and lack of confidence in government.” Has the criminalization of Cannabis been any different? Perhaps it has not touched as many individual families as Prohibition did, but the same factors are at work.

Even if we decided to ignore the facts of Prohibition and assume that people are correct that pot would flood the market and invade the young adult culture (as if it hasn’t made a major impact already), we must analyze the principles at stake. Is it really the job of government to do the job of parents? I can understand parents worried about their kids’ exposure to drugs and alcohol, but a more invasive and expansive government will not accomplish the paternal goal of compassion. Trying to make government socially compassionate is like trying to make a pillow softer by stuffing it with barbed wire. In the end, the only people who can parent the kids are the parents. Not the police, not some government bureaucrats creating laws in a fancy building, not a Governor or President, only the parents.

“Private morals and personal conduct can not be controlled, much less advanced, by fiat of law. Appeal for a higher morality and improved conduct must be directed to the mind and conscience of the people, not to the fear of government.” — Matthew Woll; April 1926

The legalization of marijuana would be a step forward for California and the country. Passing of the measure would not result in hippies taking over California and throwing pot at every person they see, it simply gets the train moving for a society built on the wonders of free trade and recognizes the follies of government criminalization and intervention. Legalization of marijuana would bring decreased crime, increased trade, and would maximize what is a struggling institution in the U.S. today: individual liberty. The basic principle and greatest challenge of liberty is to allow people to do what they please with their liberty, whether it be brilliant or boneheaded, so long as they don’t impact the liberty of another individual. The choice is clear: legalize or stick a dagger in the heart of liberty. Those who desire a less intrusive and more respectable government must support the new California proposal.

22 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On April 09, 2010 at 1:06 PM, JakilaTheHun (99.93) wrote:

Good article.

I'd consider myself a pragmatic, open-minded person who analyzes all sides of an argument, but marijuana prohibition is one of those policies I can see absolutely no reasonable arguments favoring.  There are many reasons for that:

(1) It increases underage usage; drug dealers don't ID kids; shopkeepers generally do, and if they don't, you can fine them

(2) It puts more money in the hands of criminals and out of the hands of legitimate business people. It also means more money gets exported to other nations [this is less true with marijuana than with other hard drugs]

(3) It increases our tax load, because we have to build more prisons in order to house both non-violent and violent drug offenders.  It also increases organized crime, just like alcohol prohibition.

(4) It also decreases governmental revenues, so it's a bit of a financial double-whammy.  If marijuana is taxed and regulated like cigarettes, it will help create a state revenue source, which can then be used for drug rehabilitation and education services.  

There's a lot more drawbacks, but those are the major ones.  I honestly cannot think of a single rationale in favor of prohibition.  The only reason I can think of as to why people favor marijuana prohibition is because American politics has become so dumbed down, that it people believe that banning something means you "oppose it" while legalizing it means you "support it."  That shouldn't be the case.  If you really care about America's drug problem, it would be much easier to get it under control if marijuana were legalized.  Once it's a legitimate business endeavor, it can be more closely monitored and regulated --- no underage buying, no unsafe products, etc.  

 

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#2) On April 09, 2010 at 1:33 PM, Starfirenv (< 20) wrote:

Well done. Agreed and Rec'd. I suspect the primary opposition would include the alcohol and law inforcement lobbies and possibly the ABA who all stand to lose large. If as you state Cali can save the (stated) $150m spent on enforcement, then add jail and jailers, courts and prosecution, and incarceration- then add all taxes generated from said regulation, you see the "meat". Gotta love Will Rogers. Regards.

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#3) On April 09, 2010 at 1:40 PM, BurntTiger (21.28) wrote:

if it is legalized would a company sell it?  Would Altria be able to sell it?    What would be a good play on pot legaliztation?

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#4) On April 09, 2010 at 1:42 PM, dbucknam420 (< 20) wrote:

dont forget the drug companies i mean why would they want the most medicinial plant known to man to be available to us?they stand to lose astrinomical amounts of money.the only thing wrong with this ballot is that its not on the national level.

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#5) On April 09, 2010 at 2:08 PM, PeteysTired (< 20) wrote:

I would be in favor of legalizing pot, but would you also take it further and legalize crack, meth......

Just curious.

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#6) On April 09, 2010 at 2:40 PM, ocsurf (< 20) wrote:

"I would be in favor of legalizing pot, but would you also take it further and legalize crack, meth...."

No way. Crack, Meth, Cocaine, etc. kills people. Marijuana does not.

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#7) On April 09, 2010 at 3:04 PM, motleyanimal (57.48) wrote:

It should be interesting to see who lines up against it. As they say, follow the money.

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#8) On April 09, 2010 at 3:35 PM, Rehydrogenated (32.16) wrote:

I think if you legalize crack, meth, heroine, and other exceptionally destructive drugs you would not see an increase in the number of people using those drugs. I think at a certain point the people that abuse and become addicted to those drugs have an underlying pschological issue they are trying to cope with and failing. My idea is make these drugs legal (and cheap), but you can only buy them from the government, and if you do purchase them you must attend mandatory classes and therapy. There would be a huge social stigma against using those drugs, but the individual wouldn't write themself off as a criminal and a failure, the way people I know who abuse those types of drugs do now.

As for coke...being around people on coke is like being in heavy traffic with a bunch of assholes driving around on coke. I think having a visectomy/tube tie should be mandatory for anyone who purchases coke.

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#9) On April 09, 2010 at 3:35 PM, Rehydrogenated (32.16) wrote:

I think if you legalize crack, meth, heroine, and other exceptionally destructive drugs you would not see an increase in the number of people using those drugs. I think at a certain point the people that abuse and become addicted to those drugs have an underlying pschological issue they are trying to cope with and failing. My idea is make these drugs legal (and cheap), but you can only buy them from the government, and if you do purchase them you must attend mandatory classes and therapy. There would be a huge social stigma against using those drugs, but the individual wouldn't write themself off as a criminal and a failure, the way people I know who abuse those types of drugs do now.

As for coke...being around people on coke is like being in heavy traffic with a bunch of assholes driving around on coke. I think having a visectomy/tube tie should be mandatory for anyone who purchases coke.

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#10) On April 09, 2010 at 3:37 PM, Buzzby49 (< 20) wrote:

Excellent article.  One point I'd contend with is this:

"What is the primary group opposing the legalization of marijuana? Not surprisingly (and slightly humorously), it is the people who make the most profit from a criminalized product: the people who sell it on the black market."

While I'm sure that growers and dealers don't like the idea, growers and dealers don't have deep-pocketed lobbyists making devil's bargains with our elected representatives.  The pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable legal industry in the country.  It wants to keep it that way.  The same goes for Big Alcohol.  Follow the money.

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#11) On April 09, 2010 at 3:52 PM, davewk2002 (< 20) wrote:

Taking the advice of the arrest and prosecution industry on this issue is like asking a logger about saving trees.  Remember, these are people that lie to citizens every day to arrest them. They have no obligation to speak the truth to the public and in this issue they frequently do not. They have a true conflict of interest in this matter and it pays to research each statement that is made. There is a lot of money at stake and many people who now benefit do not want to see things change.  

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#12) On April 09, 2010 at 4:24 PM, Starfirenv (< 20) wrote:

I can't believe I omitted Big Pharma in #2. Far and away leading the pack. If you look at all the legit apps for medicinal- ouch, and then the doctor visits for scrips- large loss is an understate.
Gotta add the AMA to the 'list'.

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#13) On April 09, 2010 at 4:56 PM, WillSurfForFood (72.23) wrote:

Great article and I completely agree with what you have said, I plan to vote for legalization. I don't plan on using pot even if legal but I would like to have the option. I think legalizing it will also help decrease the violence happening in Mexico. Clearly the "War on Drugs" which was declared maybe 20 years ago and is geared toward fighting the supply has been a total failure.

It is still shocking to think there is a chance this might pass, but then again I never thought I would see the Berlin Wall torn down or a black president elected so stranger things have happened. Perhaps this budget crisis is the catalyst needed for change like this.

 

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#14) On April 09, 2010 at 9:06 PM, dolcevespa (< 20) wrote:

I am a pot smoker and I am all for legalizing...just not with this initiative.  It still puts young people in prison..it's much more restricitive then the restrictions on alcohol...you can only grow a small amount and if you smoke it in your home in front of your children you can go to jail.  If you can drink wine in front of them you should be able to smoke pot in front of them too.

 No thanks, I'll grow my own and won't pay any taxes for it.  It's already bad enough that medical marijuana patients are paying a "sin" tax on it.  

 I don't know..I think the fact that cannabusinemen in Oakland were willing to pay 1.3 million bucks to get the required signatures on the ballot, says it all.  They will be getting rich.  The state will still be mismanaging our tax dollars and if you're counting on the cities and counties to regulate it...good luck with that.

Don't forget it's still illegal under Federal law. All we need on top of it is Meg Whitman as governor.  Let's see how fast she gets the feds in here.   Yikes!

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#15) On April 10, 2010 at 7:48 AM, n329rp (< 20) wrote:

I'm a resident of Georgia and I'm watching this measure very closely. We have the tax stamp and the legal framework in place to make it a legal/taxable product, just not the political backbone to bring it to a vote. It will be interesting to see what mouthpieces flood the airwaves out there ahead of the vote in the fall.  I find it strange that Big Pharma, the religious right, and the Mexican Drug Cartels are bedfellows fighting legalization.

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#16) On April 12, 2010 at 3:33 PM, lemoneater (67.81) wrote:

I find this a difficult topic to discuss for personal reasons, but here it goes:

It is interesting that many distopias parading as utopias have "free drugs for all" as part of what they offer. See Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World. If I wanted to control a country, I would make certain that drugs were as common as dandelions in the spring. 

#5 and #9 bring up the matter of legalizing other harder drugs. If marijuana were legalized, making harder drugs legal would only be a matter of time. Although I do not agree with Rehydrogenated's solution to make some hard drugs legal and under governmental supervison, I think that would be the next logical step after marijuana becomes the "new tobacco." By supporting the legalization of marijuana, I think the libertarian movement is jeopardizing their own existence. The way trends are going more governmental infrastructure would be set up to supervise addicts.   

@#15 If you use a label for me, I would be religious right, I have a moral problem with others poisoning themselves even for their own amusement (I can see why Rehydrogenated would want to do damage control, but I think the governmental safety net would encourage more addiction, not less.) In spite of good intentions it would be terrible if legalization would result in more efficient and universal poisoning to occur at taxpayer expense. It is one thing to help people kick destructive habits, it is another to pay for their habit to be maintained and flourish. 

I do agree that in many cases drug abuse is more a symptom of a deeper problem--little bits of death to help someone forget rejection or escape other disturbing realities. It isn't an easy problem to solve, but let's not be short sighted in our solutions.

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#17) On April 12, 2010 at 4:25 PM, mostofall (59.67) wrote:

 if it is legalized would a company sell it?  Would Altria be able to sell it?    What would be a good play on pot legaliztation?

MJNA and IMAI....My crazy pot smokin buddies have urged me to look into these stocks..The whole thing is just plain scary.

Besides, anyone who realizes what the (tax free)return on an investment in Marijuana can be, has already started using their Wall St. Journals for mulch.

 

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#18) On April 12, 2010 at 4:44 PM, ryanalexanderson (< 20) wrote:

Never smoked pot. Definitely think it should be legalized. There is zero logic behind the suggestion that "it's just a matter of time" before harder drugs are legalized. Absolutely ridiculous. Who would lobby for it? As has been pointed out, alcohol is more damaging to society than pot, but it's been grandfathered in, thanks to its history. And I don't think anyone is suggesting that the government "pay for [people's] habits" - we're not talking about pot subsidies. 

But I am surprised that nobody has mentioned the other adjunct benefit of pot legalization - hemp! Glorious hemp, which you can use for so much - everything from paper to food, to whatever. An excellent new (or, should I say, old) industry and great benefit to society that has been marginalized along with its recreational cousin. There's an area for investment if I ever saw one!

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#19) On April 12, 2010 at 8:08 PM, buildgreen (< 20) wrote:

Grass Valley, CA police Capt. Rex Marks, who said, “Marijuana will be the subject of theft,” and, “Statistically, we can expect an increase in criminal activity.”

 

I live in grass valley and I know Rex Marks as well as a lot of the law enforcement. This comment is actually very prudent.. mary J will be subject to theft because people will be growing in massive scale (as they already do but in a hidden way here) a plant that has value and will be routinly stolen in harvest season. Those thefts will be reported to the police and there work load will be impacted. 

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#20) On April 12, 2010 at 8:24 PM, Starfirenv (< 20) wrote:

#16-  "It is interesting that many distopias parading as utopias have "free drugs for all" as part of what they offer."
  Umm, outside of the fictional works cited, could you name a few of the "many".  I travel alot and can't name even one.
 -" If marijuana were legalized, making harder drugs legal would only be a matter of time."
 
And this is certain? Or your unsupported supposition?
 - "after marijuana becomes the "new" tobacco"
This willll be about the same time as apples become the "new " oranges.
-By supporting the legalization of marijuana, I think the
libertarian movement is jeopardizing their own existence
.
 So, it's the Libertarians? Are you sure.
- I would be religious right, I have a moral problem with others.."
 
Let me finnish that- Others who don't share my beliefs or think as I do".
- more efficient and universal poisoning to occur at taxpayer expense.
 I think the whole point is to generate Tax Revs. Regards.

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#21) On April 13, 2010 at 4:09 PM, lemoneater (67.81) wrote:

@ #20 While I know of many governments that have elements I consider distopic, I purposely used the term distopia to refer to a fictional world of the future not an actual government in existence now. Many philosophers use fiction to communicate truths. Sometimes a novel will do more to change the world than a rant. I would rather read a distopia than experience one.

I based my supposition about harder drugs becoming legal from what is happening in certain parts of Europe where there are legalized addicts.

If legalization of marijuana occurs, I can see a point in time where it could be as accepted as tobacco currently is hence "new tobacco."

Many of my friends are libertarians, but I see an irony in a movement that supports the liberty of the individual but promotes something that can leads to bondage and dependence on others.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the religious right, but morality aside, I would oppose drug use because of the destruction it has done to my own family.

I have no doubt that marijuana would generate tax revenues, but what will be the future consequences of legalizing marijuana? Will it make us even more of a Nanny State with fewer freedoms?

 

 

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#22) On April 16, 2010 at 10:29 AM, ILMrRainIL (< 20) wrote:

THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST ARTICALS THAT I HAVE EVER READ ON THIS ISSUE MAD PROPS AND GREAT JOB THAT IS A PERFRCT ARTICAL WHO COULD SAY NO AFTER READING THIS.

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