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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Does anyone still think legal, taxed and regulated cannabis is not inevitable?

Tue, 13 Jul 2010 -- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2010 PG Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United States)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


In November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote on a ballot initiative legalizing all marijuana use, whether medicinal or not.

According to the latest poll of likely California voters, Proposition 19 will pass. This will put the Obama administration in an awkward position.

The federal government is already suing Arizona for its recently enacted immigration law. What will the Obama Justice Department do when a state goes rogue by establishing its own rules when it comes to licensing and taxing the sale of weed?

California law will be in opposition to federal law as well as in violation of a 1961 international treaty that prohibits the legalization of cannabis. The U.S. is a signatory to that treaty.

In a surprising move, Alice Huffman, the president of the California State Conference of the NAACP, threw the prestige of her organization behind Proposition 19.

Citing a new study by the Drug Policy Alliance, Ms. Huffman insisted last week that the legalization of marijuana is, among other things, a civil rights issue because blacks are more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites, even though blacks use it at far lower rates.

In California, blacks make up 22 percent of those busted for marijuana possession despite being less than 7 percent of the population. National NAACP Chairman Julian Bond applauded Ms. Huffman's stance, as did the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the California Black Chamber of Commerce.

Shortly after Ms. Huffman endorsed Prop 19, a group of black religious leaders called for the civil rights leader's head. "Why should the state NAACP advocate for blacks to stay high?" asked Bishop Ron Allen of the International Faith-Based Coalition. "It's going to cause crime to go up. There will be more drug babies."

Closer to home, a bill to legalize medical marijuana use continues to languish in both chambers of the state Legislature despite polling that puts voter support for it at 81 percent.

The Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates oppose medical use of marijuana, no matter how restrictive Pennsylvania's laws would be compared to California's.

(It's interesting that the leading politicians of our state favor liberalized gun laws, expanded gambling and the expansion of controversial hydraulic fracturing techniques to extract natural gas from below ground in ways that could adversely affect the state's water supply.)

There's also concern that the revenue stream created by legalizing marijuana in California and other places is overstated. The Rand Corp.'s Drug Policy Research Center said that the state's premium weed could drop from a high of $450 an ounce to $38. California would have to slap on a consumption tax to double or triple the price to get a workable funding stream.

The criminal black market for marijuana would collapse, but it could be replaced around the edges by law-abiding folks growing and selling their own weed. Why is that such an unacceptable outcome?

A state highly skilled at slapping on taxes like Pennsylvania could use the legalization of marijuana as an opportunity to provide a "gateway service" to the Liquor Control Board as it transitions out of the liquor control business.

Overnight, the LCB could become the Legalized Cannabis Board. The LCB could bring the benefit of generations of condescension by bored clerks to a sector of the economy that desperately needs it. Dealing with the culture of the LCB would be such a bummer for most potheads that demand for marijuana would drop precipitously. It is an elegant way to deal with both sides of the demand curve.

There would be those who would rather grow their own weed and avoid paying any taxes than buy it from state middlemen. As someone who doesn't personally indulge, the thought of neighbors growing a patch of Mary Jane in their back yard for private use doesn't exactly terrify me.

For most of our history, Americans grew and consumed marijuana in various forms. Aren't we politically mature enough to go back to the days of deciding what merits watering in our own back yards? If dealing with hemp was good enough for George Washington and the Founding Fathers ...

Only ideologues are unable to admit what is obvious to everyone else: The Drug War has been an unmitigated disaster. It has resulted in the fattening of profits for drug lords, the destabilization of nations, the corruption of law enforcement, the reallocation of dwindling national resources down rat holes, the expansion of the prison-industrial complex, expensive wars overseas and national hypocrisy.

You don't need to smoke a bong to see that.


Bill Fleming said...

Perhaps not really a good comparison with the Arizona law. The Arizona law is unconstitutional and is being defended only because people think the Federal Government isn't doing its Constitutional duty, at least to the satisfaction of certain of the several states.

The Marijuana issue is more likely subject to the Commerce clause having to do with traffic substances from state to state.

But it's an interesting thesis, nonetheless. I hope it gets good discussion here.

Bob Newland said...

It doesn't have much in common with the Arizona law. What it does compare to is the cavalcade of states during the late 1920s and early '30s which either repealed state alcohol prohibition law or simply stopped enforcing them, and which refused to enforce the federal law.

DDC said...

The Arizona law isn't a great example because it actually mostly mirrors federal law. The Arizona law is actually most likely Constitutional. It is foolish (only in that it mirrors our federal immigration morass), but it still doesn't run afoul of the Constitution. It's too bad that the Democrats didn't use their political capital to get a decent immigration policy through instead of... well, that discussion is for a different post.

You are correct, Bill, that the only way that the California law could be found unconstitutional is through a perversion of the Commerce Clause. Funny how a Clause that was intended to keep States from forming trade barriers between themselves is constantly used by the Federal Government to stifle trade and control it's citizens.

It seems a bit ironic that our last three Presidents used illegal substances that, had they been caught with it, would have made it nearly impossible to get a good job. Yet they were elected to the highest office in the US and see fit to continue the policies that could have ruined their lives had they been caught. Maybe ironic isn't the right word, maybe I should have said "hypocritical".

Bob, great post.

DDC said...

I'll just get Mr. Ellis' rebuttal out of the way:

How will having more intoxicated people make our community better?

(or some variation)

Bob Newland said...


FF said...


Bob Ellis said...

What would be an even bigger disaster will be the additional crime, stoned young people and stoned people of all ages.

And yes, I'm still trying to figure out having more stoned people, stoned more of the time will make our society better. Still can't manage to see that one (and I'm guessing you can't either).

repete said...

Mr Ellis, How do you account for the FACT that marijuana usage goes down (crime too) in places where the laws have been relaxed?
Also, why are you afraid to debate the issue? You make a quick statement and run away. How many people do you think you can enlighten that way?
You're really pro-pot aren't you! Either that or you're simply your own worse enemy.

Bill Fleming said...

Bob Ellis is stoned. Bigtime. Ergo, he knows from whence he speaks. We should all pray that his bad trip will soon be behind him. Trust me, nobody wants to have to come down from the stuff he's pushin'. Deprogramming is a beyotch.

Ken G said...

Ellis's problem is the same many of our politicians have. Their opinions have nothing to do with facts, just fear and nonsense. He spews the same baloney the drug warriors have taught our children for the last 30 or 40 years. Teenagers try pot, realize their brain didn't fry, so they assume we lied about the harder drugs as well. The enormous profits from illicit drug sales couldn't be more of an enticement to today's youth, growing up in an economy in shambles where decent jobs are so hard to come by.

Ellis and company are largely responsible for the rise of the American gangbanger along with the bloodshed these groups are responsible for. We now have multi-generations of these families which all they've ever known is gangs, drug dealing and violence. They are responsible for not only American gangbangers, but the Mexican drug cartels and the Taliban to name a few. What a mess they've left us to clean up, it will probably be another decade before we even get started doing just that. Pathetic. History books will not be kind to these folks.

taco said...

Yes, lifting the prohibition of medical marijuana will certainly lead to more crime. After all, look at the lifting of the prohibition of alcohol, we've had all of these dangerous mobsters running rum ever since.

Bob also doesn't seem to understand that having medical marijuana will not make pot any easier to get, except for those with serious medical conditions. Kids can get pot easier than booze right now.