The Grateful Dead must be rolling in their joints. As described in the NYT:
On Wednesday, the California secretary of state certified a November vote on a ballot measure that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, a plan that advocates say could raise $1.4 billion and save precious law enforcement and prison resources.
Indeed, unlike previous efforts at legalization — including a failed 1972 measure in California — the 2010 campaign will not dwell on assertions of marijuana’s harmlessness or its social acceptance, but rather on cold cash.
“We need the tax money,” said Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University, a trade school for marijuana growers, in Oakland, who backed the ballot measure’s successful petition drive. “Second, we need the tax savings on police and law enforcement, and have that law enforcement directed towards real crime.”
It’s been a while since the last time CA voted on legalizing pot but as we all know, the state was a leader in legalizing medical marijuana. It does seem like an opportune time for this choice to be presented to the public…munchies are cheaper than ever.
Seriously, though, today’s society generally accepts that there must have been good reasons for marijuana originally being made illegal in the first place, there is nothing historically that backs this up.
The history of marijuana criminalization is a mix of wrongheaded theories, fear and racism towards Mexicans.
From The History of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 By David F. Musto, M.D., From the Child Study Center, School of Medicine, and the Department of History, Graduate School, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 1972:
The anti-marihuana law of 1937 was largely the federal government’s response to political pressure from enforcement agencies and other alarmed groups who feared the use and spread of marihuana by “Mexicans.” Recent evidence also suggests that the Federal Bureau of Narcotics resisted the enforcement burden of the antimarihuana law until mounting pressure on the Treasury Department led to a departmental decision, probably in 1935, to appease this fear, mostly in the Southwest and West, by federal legislation. Previously unpublished documents clarify the role of medical research in the campaign for a federal anti-marihuana law and in the Treasury Department’s preparation for congressional hearings.
Dr. Hamilton Wright, a State Department official who from 1908 to 1914 coordinated the domestic and international aspects of the federal antinarcotic campaign, wanted cannabis to be included in drug abuse legislation chiefly because of his belief in a hydraulic model of drug appetites. He reasoned, along with numerous other experts, that if one dangerous drug was effectively prohibited, the addict’s depraved desires would switch to another substance more easily available.
When the great Depression settled over America, the Mexicans, who had been welcomed by at least a fraction of the communities in which they lived, became an unwelcome surplus in regions devastated by unemployment. Considered a dangerous minority which should be induced to return to Mexico by whatever means seemed appropriate, they dwelt in isolated living groups.
Although employers welcomed them in the 1920s, Mexicans were also feared as a locus of crime and deviant social behavior. By the mid-1920s horrible crimes were attributed to marihuana and its Mexican purveyors.
For a great documentary about the history of marijuana, If you haven’t seen Grass, roll a fatty, fire up the lava lamp, order a pizza, sit back and enjoy:
Now, many may support this measure for self-gratifying reasons, there are some hugely important reasons for the ball to start rolling on legalizing marijuana in America.
1. The Economy
Billions of Federal, State and local dollars are spent enforcing laws against growing, selling and possessing marijuana. Add to that the billions spent trying cases and incarcerating people for all of these non-violent crimes.
Instead, there are billions to be gained in tax revenue annually if it is legalized and taxed as alcohol is. Combining the billions saved with the billions generated, it could be a huge help in balancing the budget in CA and elsewhere.
If it’s legalized, growing marijuana could also be a timely income stream for those unemployed.
Cost alone is not the reason to legalize a substance. Is it addictive? Does it cause violent behavior? Does it have medicinal uses? Is it exceptionally harmful to one’s body? How does Jack Daniels stack up on all of these questions?
Prisons are overcrowded and make a huge dent in state and federal budgets. Billions need to be spent on building more prisons to reduce overcrowding. The Prison Industrial Complex has been insatiable and a huge beneficiary of the futile Drug War. In California, more is spent on prisons than universities.
Add to that the inequity of people being imprisoned for the substantial possession, use, sale, purchase or growing of marijuana…alongside rapists and murderers.
Marijuana is a plant that naturally grows on planet Earth. How sensible is it to make laws that outlaw nature? Relatively harmless nature, at that.
I certainly understand laws against the manipulation, processing or distilling of natural substances into deadlier forms, such as processing poppies to create something destructive like heroin. Yes, there are plants that are poisonous too but we seem to be able to deal with many of them being in our gardens (Azalea, Belladonna, Foxglove, Larkspur, Lily of the Valley, Nightshade, Oleander, Periwinkle, Rhododendron, Lantana, etc.)
Gangs in America, gang wars and criminal operations are financed by dealing marijuana. There is a crisis with drug lords and crime in Mexico threatening to undermine that nation’s stability and increasingly spilling over our borders. The majority of the revenue that finances the operations, bribery and crime networks of these Mexican drug lords is generated by marijuana.
Legalizing marijuana would slash the price, kill the black market and thus cripple gangs in the U.S. and drug lords in Mexico and South America overnight.
Of course, there will be powerful forces out to stop this proposition in CA, religious, right wing Republicans, pharmaceuticals and politicians who are more fearful of how supporting this bill could be used against them in elections.
Still, the time may have come for the people to resist the forces who have painted us into this corner. CA has taken the first step with medical marijuana and the horrors of potheads roaming the streets like Night of the Living Dead Heads, as predicted by some, never occurred.
All I can say is that if it does pass, I want to be at the official party celebrating that! Actually, those in neighboring states may get a contact high that night.