California Politics go to Pot

Californians are trendy and so are their politics. And the political obsession of 2010 is a spindly weed that makes you high when you smoke it. Potheads have managed to get a proposition on the ballot that would legalize all uses of marijuana. So far, marijuana has been legal for medicinal uses only. But the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 would allow sale and use for any reason you desire.

Supporters of legalizing marijuana say their proposition would solve a host of social and economic problems.

Supposedly, it would remedy our state budget disaster by generating a huge amount of sales tax revenue. It would free up cops and DA’s to arrest and jail dangerous criminals because they wouldn’t waste their time prosecuting people who sell pot. So… legalizing marijuana would make us richer and safer, not to mention happy and blissful.

The march toward legalizing marijuana in California began 14 years ago with the passage of prop 215, which allowed for medical use. Unfortunately prop 215 has been nothing but trouble. It put state law in direct conflict with federal law, which does not allow any sale or use of marijuana. The proposition was also badly written. It’s short and vague, and it’s required years of legislative work to try to clarify it for practical use.

Look… if cannabis has medicinal value, and some studies show that it has, we already have an established and tested institution for selling prescription medicine. It’s called a pharmacy.  In the ideal world we’d throw out prop 215, make sure marijuana clears all of the legal hurdles to get approved for public use, let doctors prescribe it to worthy patients and let patients pick it up at their local drug store.

If, on the other hand, California voters decide to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use by passing the “cannabis act” in November, it’s a whole new ballgame and a whole new fight between the state and the feds.

Last year, Obama’s justice department basically said they’d look the other way if marijuana use was allowed under state laws, and they would not enforce federal prohibitions. But that policy was made with the understanding that any legal marijuana use was medicinal. I doubt the feds will be willing to ignore their drug laws if people start selling and smoking pot just to get stoned.

Besides, if California unilaterally decides to legalize marijuana use, but cultivation and sale remain illegal under federal law and the laws of every other state, won’t that simply make California a huge new market for the existing drug cartels?

It’s possible that smoking pot will be no different from taking a shot of whiskey a hundred years from now. There may be no good reason to use drugs, but humans always have and they always will because drugs are fun. Some people say getting drunk or high is fundamentally no different from kids, on a playground, spinning around until they get dizzy. Changing consciousness is a fundamental human desire, and drugs are a risky but convenient way to do that.

Let’s just think twice and three times before we make a new drug an accepted part of our culture. It’s possible we’ve got enough already.

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