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Legalize and Tax Marijuana
by Jake Highton
Oct 23, 2010 | 1457 views | 2 2 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
California is a bellwether state. It enacts legislation and other states follow suit. Nevada sometimes rides those political winds.

California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, the first state to do so. Fourteen states, including Nevada, did likewise.

Now Californians confront Proposition 19, a measure to legalize marijuana, on their Nov. 2 ballot.

Here’s a voice from the wilderness of Nevada urging passage. Passage would be a first step to end the foolish, ill-conceived and wasteful effort to rout drugs from society.

The so-called drug war is as futile as was Prohibition, the worst social engineering in the history of America.

Pot, which is illegal, kills no one. Smoking and alcohol, which are legal, take a huge death toll.

As Joycelyn Elders, former surgeon general, says:

“I think we use far more dangerous drugs that are legal—cigarettes and alcohol. I feel that they cause much more devastating effects physically. We need to lift the prohibition on marijuana.”

Amen. Elders speaks more common sense than any politician or public official. She was fired as surgeon general in 1994 by President Clinton for telling the truth about masturbation: that it is normal. It is also widespread and ought to be talked about truthfully in sex education classes.

Norm Stamper, former chief of Seattle police, says: “The drug war has arguably been the single most dysfunctional social policy since slavery.”

Let’s not compare either Prohibition or the drug war to the horror of slavery. But the drug war can rightly be compared with the ignoble experiment of Prohibition, which began in 1920 and ended with a sigh of relief in 1933.

If the nation ever overcomes its deep strain and stain of puritanism it will realize that marijuana is a cash cow for revenue-starved states.

Pot is California’s largest cash crop. It is worth about $20 billion a year but totally untaxed. It makes no sense for state coffers not to be filled with that rich source.

Oakland, Calif., knows better. The city has tripled the sales tax on medicinal dispensaries of pot. It has doubled the cost, now $60,000, for annual permit fees to grow pot for medical needs.

Oakland’s budget deficit? About $40 million. Pot fees and taxes will go a long way to meet people needs, keep government offices and libraries open and avoid laying off teachers and government workers.

In fact, nationwide legalization of cannabis would end the bogus war on drugs: saving money, time and staff from pursuing and prosecuting nonviolent offenders. Law enforcement officials could spend their time and money chasing real criminals.

For the past decade California has spent $2 billion enforcing pot prohibition. It has arrested 575,000 for the misdemeanor of pot possession.

Moreover, the senseless jailing of felony pot offenders adds to the already crowded state and federal jails. Those beds could be occupied by hardened criminals and avoid their discharge because of lack of funds.

Above all, stopping people from smoking marijuana is as senseless as trying to stop people from patronizing prostitutes. Human nature always defies the law.

Nationwide, the demand for pot outstrips the ability of law enforcement agents to eliminate it. The massive importation, growth and distribution of marijuana can never be halted.

Recreational smoking of pot is harmless. It is not criminal. But politicians want to be perceived as tough on crime. The posturing of pols has done much harm and no good.

 Meanwhile, Andrew Weil, in a recent online Truthout article, notes  how medical research on uses of cannabis is having a renaissance.

“In recent years studies have shown potential for treating nausea, vomiting, insomnia, migraines, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, alcohol abuse, arthritis, asthma, bipolar disorder, depression, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s, sickle-cell, sleep apnea (severe snoring), Alzheimer’s and anorexia.”

Legalization would end the high price of pot. It would put out of business mobsters who get rich off illicit marijuana.

California has a new law that is encouraging: the penalty for people caught with marijuana is no longer a misdemeanor but an infraction. In other words, a speeding ticket!

Nevada has overcome puritanical instincts by legalizing gambling and making prostitution legal in the cow counties. Now its politicians need the courage to vote out the asinine anti-pot law.

The Feds have vowed to prosecute pot possession aggressively even if Californians approve Proposition 19. The Feds will be the last to realize their folly.

Smoking pot is none of the government’s business. Prosecution for it and pot possession are profound curtailment of individual liberties.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. Contact him at
Comments-icon Post a Comment
October 30, 2010
to anonymous--

i would like to know when folks like you are ever going to figure out that all drugs are bad for our society. that would include alcohol and nicotine.

alcohol is far more abused that pot. the same actually goes for tobacco. it too is abused and carries a high health toll. One of the reasons that research on marijuana was stopped or slowed down for years was that no one could find anything that made it out to be bad.

The worst part about pot is that it has a long half-life. Alcohol is out of the system in a short period of time. It takes pot longer, but that also means that smaller doses less frequently can have the same medicinal (and psychoactive) affect.

And the benefits of growing hemp (not pot) outweigh those of growing cotton. but hemp (which is not psychoactive) is prohibited.

time for you to do some research.
October 25, 2010
Sure Jake, go to a lackluster,welfare induced state like California where 75% of the population expects government handouts or subsidies, and pot is a great idea. When are morons like yourself ever going to figure out that drugs are BAD for our society? What the hell are you thinking Jake? Another tax revenue? Medical reasons? You are choking on your bong Jake if you think that the ailments you describe above canr be addressed by current medical technology. You are a professor at UNR Jake? MY God, no wonder Nevadans do not want to pay taxes for our current university system. People like you are a real laghingstock Jake and I pity those students who have to listen to your socialist drivel.
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