Tue, 13 Jul 2010 -- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2010 PG Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Cited: Proposition 19 http://www.taxcannabis.org/
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?261 (Cannabis - United States)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?253 (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)
LEGALIZED POT? LIKE GETTING BONGED IN THE HEAD
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.