Okay, so it will never happen. But now that the economic crisis has left California on the brink of bankruptcy, the arguments in this new diary by Daily Kossack Setrak really ought to be taken seriously.
In short, Setrak argues that legalizing cannabis — the biggest cash crop in California and 11 other states, according to this Rasmussen Reports op-ed — would pump billions of dollars into the state’s economy and in so doing would cripple the big-time drug lords who reap enormous profits in the black market. (Speaking of drug lords, the brutal drug cartels in Juarez, Mexico — just across the border from El Paso — profit handsomely from smuggling drugs including marijuana into the U.S., often in exchange for weapons to perpetuate the bloodshed.)
Of course, there is also the argument that smoking pot is healthier than drinking booze, and although I think more research may need to be done before this is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, there’s certainly no shortage of compelling evidence. And other vices, like gambling and tobacco, have long been legalized and taxed, providing clear benefits to state governments. Granted, they are benefits that come at the expense of many others.
Setrak adds a bit to the argument:
Forget about the fact that regulating marijuana will make it much more difficult for children to smoke. There is a reason why you don’t have “boot-leggers” inside of schools, while there are plenty of friends with weed. Forget about the fact that marijuana is not anymore addictive than computer use and less harmful than alcohol. Forget about the medicinal and textile uses of marijuana. Forget about how much more efficient it is for harvest than trees in regards to paper production. And forget about all of those other uses for it.
I find it hard to believe that legalizing cannabis would make it harder for children to get ahold of. It’s already quite easy to get your hands on in California, particularly around where medical marijuana clubs operate, and expanding its availability couldn’t hurt the search. Were legalization to happen, the primary public health concern (or at least study) should be the drug’s effects on developing minds (in addition to the much less common risks, like the potential bouts of psychosis for those genetically maladjusted to the drug’s psychoactivity).
In adults who use the drug occasionally or don’t mind living an unproductive life or are highly functional under the influence, the risks are lesser and probably mostly limited to isolated cases. And all in all, pot’s detriment to the public’s well-being is minimal, and the resources pumped into law enforcement are ineffective and, as such, a huge waste of money.
But cannabis as a drug aside, there’s no rational reason to continue the ban on growing industrial hemp, which is used in textiles and paper as well as biodegradable plastics, the production of biofuels and even food. Despite numerous attempts to legalize the domestic production of hemp, the government has resisted on the basis that the plant contains trace (i.e. negligible) amounts of THC.
For the time being, the legalization of cannabis — at least in its drug form — is unrealistic. But some states are renewing talk about decriminalization of the drug, and California may end up reevaluating its practice of jailing non-violent pot smokers.
Obama himself has voiced his opposition to federal Drug Enforcement Agency raids on California’s medical marijuana dispensaries. A number of busts have already occurred after January 20, without the approval of the new president, but if Obama’s drug czar-designate and current Seattle Chief of Police Gil Kerlikowske is confirmed, there is reason to believe that these money-wasting raids will cease. Drug reform organizations including NORML are also optimistic that broader changes in the war on drugs will take place under Kerlikowske.