3.19.2009

California's "Pot" of Gold

UPDATE: The reefer debate rages on ... not least in the comment section below my post. Check it out, and add your thoughts.

In a shocking bit of news, California was recently ranked the “worst state” by Chief Executive magazine’s annual “Best and Worst States” survey. (Let’s hear it for my home state!) The survey, based on reports from CEOs in each state, is meant to help small business owners pinpoint the best and worst places in which to do business. It seems that California is better than any other state at “alienating” businesses.

That is, unless your business is selling pot.

In a still more—and by “more” I mean “not at all”—shocking bit of news, TIME magazine reported last week that the Golden State’s legislators are considering a bill that would legalize the buying and selling of marijuana.

Why? Why else? It’s the economy, stupid.

By legalizing the weed trade, the state would be able to regulate (read: tax) all sales of the crop. State tax collectors project this would mean over $1 billion a year in revenue. Besides the obvious mercenary justifications, there are sound political reasons for the move.

With the economy tanking, now more than ever public officials need to prove to their core constituency of responsible citizens that they are making wise, well-informed decisions. What better way to do that than give folks cannabis carte blanche? Offering people real solutions to pressing economic problems when escapism can do the trick, well, that would just be downright decent. And, God knows no politician would ever want to be accused of that.

Now, I’m not saying that the plan wouldn’t work, economically-speaking, but at what cost? Do we really want Disneyland to have to change their slogan from the “happiest” to the “Highest Place on Earth”? When it comes down to it, the bottom line isn’t always about money but morality—even in a recession.

Having a less than stellar record that may or may not have involved dating a pothead in high school, I won’t sermonize on the immoral underpinnings of marijuana usage. (That could, after all, be construed as the pot calling the kettle black. No pun intended, really). But I will say that California’s government is considering granting itself leeway that it would never grant an ordinary citizen.

Think about it. Let’s say I’m out of work, desperate for money. I decide that going from des-titute to pros-titute would be the answer to all my economic ills. So, I mosey on over to a street corner. When a cop comes by to transport me to the Big House, I simply tell him that times are tough. I’ve changed the law to make selling myself not only not illegal but a laudable economic enterprise. He applauds my laissez-faire spirit and continues on to the donut shop. Ridiculous, unthinkable, far-fetched right? Yes, unless you’re the cash-strapped state of California.

As much as I disagree with the state assemblyman Tom Ammiano – the ass (I mean, Democrat, of course) – that proposed the legislation, I have to admit that it would be political genius in action were the bill to pass:

Get the populace to toke it up so that they forget about the economic recession and the lunatic “public servants” that helped bring it on and instead contemplate such pot-inspired ideas as how to stuff a second Twinkie inside the first.

Smart thinking, Ammiano. But his genius doesn’t stop at the Golden State. He is looking on to bigger and better things, i.e. the other 49 states. “How California goes, the country goes,” he says.

Great. So maybe next year on 4/20, we’ll all be able to light one up to celebrate my mother’s birthday and pay homage to the once-great state of California.

[As posted on Taki's Magazine. It seems I got that second chance with Mr. Spencer, after all.]

8 comments:

  1. My libertarian leanings say "Go For It" (legislating "stupid" can only go so far), but don't worry, overarching federalism will never let it happen.

    Kalifornia is too hooked on D.C. dollars to ever deviate from proscribed practices. Legalize pot, and their billions in federal highway dollars. It's just grandstanding for the stoner vote.

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  2. Puff puff give. Puff puff give. You're messin' up the rotation. Yes I am paraphrasing Smokey. Who am I? Ennuipundit, for the defense ma'am. Yes the defense of the legalization of marijuana as well as other drugs.

    As you well know, Ms. Logan, I represent a radical wing of the Christian faith, that notes the gift of free will as God's greatest blessing. I am he who takes the apostle Paul at his word when he tells us that everything is permissible, while simultaneously acknowledging he is right, not everything is beneficial. So with that I will move beyond the shibboleth of morality in an individual's choice to use drugs to address the issue of economic benefit and the morality of personal freedom and individual liberty.

    To that end, I will present a dual economic argument. First, the de-criminalization of marijuana and other drugs represents the opening of new marketplaces and would be a net economic gain as products move from the black market into our mildly regulated marketplace. Yes, that means taxation, but it also means new jobs that are as legal as beer and wine distributors and retailers. Further, it also means the regulation of the drugs in the sense that quality and safety can be addressed. One of the harms of illegal drugs is that the materials used to manufacture them are often dangerous themselves. To reduce that threat is a net gain outside of the realm of economic or liberty considerations.

    Secondly, the flip side of that same coin is that the people currently involved in supply the demand for currently illegal drugs would be out of business. And given that Iran (and their proxy Hezbollah) is beginning to involve itself in the South American drug trade, marginalizing the profitability of the current system is a national security issue. Any law that decreases crime, opens new economic markets to enterprising citizens, weakens organized crime and our extra-national enemies, and allows for greater individual choice is one I support, which is why I support the effort to de-criminalize drugs.

    Do I support the use (and often abuse) of the currently illegal drugs? Not at all. I have seen among my parents, relatives, friends and casual acquaintances the scourge that drugs represent. But I can no more choose for them than I can choose for anyone not to use. It remains a personal choice over which the law holds little sway. I would rather have drug use in the open, as the silence that accompanies a person's decision to use does as much to enable as explicit approval. Folks are more apt to speak out about a friend's excessive drinking or smoking or over-eating than are to confront them about drug abuse because to do so is to reveal their secret behavior.

    Now let me return to a previous discussion you began, regarding thou shall nots, in particular the idea of shame. And one thing our current economic crisis has shown me is that despite myriad laws on the books, these laws are incapable of generating shame in those who violate those laws. Shame, it seems, is generated by the acceptance of a personal moral code. The beauty of Christianity is that by conferring permissibility on all behaviors, because we have had our transgressions redeemed by the grace of God, our morality, something we can never accomplish on our own, becomes truly an act of God transforming us, one day at a time, one choice at a time. Therein lies true shame, for our missteps grieve us, as, if I may cite you as an example, your flirtation with the scandalous grieved you.

    The value of law is that it codifies acceptable societal behavior. In that sense, the personal liberty suppressing aspects of our legal code over reach. By telling citizens what they can or cannot do as it pertains to their personal choices, in particular personal choices that impact them and them alone, our government suggests that it knows what's best for us. And if we say, drugs are harmful, so they should remain criminalized, then are not driving, french fries, tobacco, beer, wine, gin, guns, intolerant political views, thoughts and activism, all of which can be harmful, subject to criminalization? How much of our decision making process must be subordinated to a centralized government in the name of societal norms?

    Let's get anecdotal for a minute. In the 1920s, the US government criminalized alcohol, and organized crime stepped into the breech to supply a product that the public demanded. The ineffectiveness of the policy contributed to its repeal. Interdiction fails to stem the tide of contraband into our nation, as it did then. The success of a drug policy is not in granting additional powers to government, but in a free exchange of ideas so that a potential drug user can make an informed choice. And there's the rub!

    Banning drugs is an easy means that fails to achieve a discernible end. If the goal is the health and welfare of individuals, employing a government one size fits all solution never ever works. And in this case it puts people behind bars, all for doing the same thing that each of the last three Presidents have done, use a substance that is wrong primarily because the government says it is.

    I realize this is a contrarian perspective, but it happens to be right. And as always, thank you for starting the conversation.

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  3. Anonymous19.3.09

    Legalize. The above post is right on. (Greetings, fellow Christian, by the way.)

    Just like with alcohol, we should legislate stiff consequences for illegal things done while on pot, but the presence and use of pot will not become a great plague anymore than alcohol use has. Those who want to use will do so responsibly or face the music.

    Holland, for example, has not marched off like lemmings into the sea since legalizing.

    If we want to stop pot use altogether, we practically have to prohibit cigarettes and alcohol--the real gateway drugs/habits that so often precede the weed. And at that point, why not ditch caffeine too?

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  4. Prohibit everything. The above post is right.

    "The use of pot will not become great plague anymore than alcohol use has." Maybe we should run that by the families of the millions whose lives have been destroyed by alcoholism, drunk driving, rape, domestic violence as a result of innebriation, etc.

    As for the argument that we'd be better off having the goverment legalize the drug so it could be regulated. Good plan - let's give the government one more thing to regulate since it's done such a number 1 job at everything else its stuck its fingers in.

    And, if we are going to bring Prohibition and organized crime into the mix, let's get our facts straight. There already was a long and storied tradition of organized crime before Prohibition ever came into affect. During prohibition, alcohol use DID decline and considerably. Consumption decreased over 50 percent from 1920 to 1933. It was nearly half a century before alcohol use reached pre-prohibition levels again.

    In conjunction, despite the fact that there was a more concentrated center of violent crime among the organized gangs and mob bosses, violent crime overall also went down during prohibition.

    Let's not let the indoctrination of Hollywood and the "drive by media" tell us about the supposed affects of prohibition, which is then supposed to alter our stance on more modern day issues like marijuana usage. (Clearly and sadly, it's working.)

    So, back to my original point. Let's prohibit everything. I'm no more for legalizing a nation of alcoholics than a nation of potheads. As an aside, to the anyonmous poster about the Netherlands--have you beeeen there? Well, I haven't either but I dated a man for four years who was a Dutch citizen, and I suggest you think twice before suggesting that it would do no harm to follow in their footsteps.

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  5. I wonder how many drug addicts started with pot anyway?

    On a side note, the Silver State was #6 on the list of business friendly states. Go Nevada!

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  6. Anonymous19.3.09

    All of the yik-yak about legalization aside, and the morality(or lack of it), it's gonna happen. It will happen like the legalization of rank immorality happens to many socialist, really socialist, countries - to wreck moral outrage and resistance. It will happen with prostitution, child *pron*, multiple marriages, and much worse forms of perversion, while there will be an outlawing of true Christianity, and confiscation of Christians' children by the state. Multitudes will soon be imprisoned for their, count on it.

    J David

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  7. Anonymous19.3.09

    In fact, in order to keep children, or potential children from gov't tracking, marriages will have to be done WITHOUT gov't "permission"(since when did God need gov't marriage licenses to join a man and woman in "Holy matrimony" anyway?)by preachers willing to join couples in GOD'S sight, but out of sight of the gov't.
    J David

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  8. Signorina Logan,
    One thing the government does regulate fairly well is standards for ingredients in foods and drugs. The FDA is a relatively benign government intrusion and I would have no quarrel with recreational drug makers submitting blends to receive approval. Again it is more of a public safety concern opposed to a taxation/industry regulation aspect, which I am largely opposed to. Now if it is a question of the efficacy of a program determining its continuation or expansion, surely the utter failure of interdiction puts it into a position where it needs to sing for its soup.

    Next prohibition and la cosa nostra. You are quite correct, my ancestors from the Mediterranean region of Europe had well established a beachhead in American cities prior to the Volstead Act. However, their strength grew in no small measure from a segment (I cannot say how much, but I will not stipulate it was small) of the revenues that the previously legal alcohol producing industries garnered. If you say they got a quarter of the take brewers, vintners and distillers got prior to prohibition, you are still talking significant infusions of cash in the furtherance of a continuing criminal organization.

    Now, since you opened the door, I have to walk through, do you feel that decriminalizing illegal drugs would cause an increase in violent crime? I think it would create an increase in property crime, as gangs would attempt to maintain viability through burglary and auto theft, but I think urban violent crime would decrease. I am fine acknowledging my lack of information prevents me from determining any causation or correlation between decrease in violent crime and prohibition. But it seems counter intuitive that decriminalization would create more violent crime at least to me.

    At the heart of my support of decriminalization is the ridiculous way that police officers routinely violate citizens civil rights to score easy possession charges, which effectively wreak havoc on people's lives. Our nation was established partially on the premise that the less government involves itself with our lives, the better. Police officers examining my backseat when I have been pulled over for talking on my cellular phone to see if they might discover something that gives them the go ahead to search for contraband is the antithesis of American ideals.

    I can understand why you say prohibit it all. What is the everything that warrants prohibition? Alcohol? Cigarettes? Bacon and butter? Coffee? Motor Vehicles? All have been linked to many deaths through the years. At what point to we say that we have made people safe enough for their own good?

    Thanks for the strong comeback.

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