Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I think it's time to talk legalisation and regulation of Cannabis

You know, I've been talking alot lately about medical cannabis, and how it has helped me. What I really should be talking about at least every now and again, is the legalisation and regulation of cannabis in the State of Washington.
As we speak, California is set to become the first State in the Union to fully legalize and regulate cannabis for recreational use. There is a bill in the State Congress now, and an initiative drive has turned in over 200,000 more signatures than was needed to get an initiative to legalize and regulate the cannbis industry on the ballot this year. The medical marijuana initiative passed with %56 support, and according to several polls, the bid to fully legalize the green stuff also has %56 support with the people of California. So one way or another, it looks like California very well may be the first State to end the senseless war on drugs, at least where cannabis is concerned.
Estimates on the amount of money they would make from taxing it fall around 1.3-1.5 BILLION dollars a year!! That's huge folks! Then you take into account the estimated savings of 203 million dollars a year in enforcement costs (that doesn't take into account local investigations by sherrifs and local LEOs), the ability for law enforcement to shift it's focus back on crime that we really need protected from, such as theft, murder and rape, and it's starting to look pretty nice.
Then you take into account the jobs that are going to be created, the tourism from coffee house type establishments, the increase in public safety because the drug gangs will not have cannabis to sell as an illicit drug anymore, and I'm really paying attention.
The drug warriors out there will yell, "But then it will be easier for our kids to get pot!" Go ask any group of teenagers, "What is easier to get right now, beer or marijuana?", and they will tell you pot is nearly everytime. The drug dealers out there are not checking for IDs, whereas the store clerk better be, or he will get busted. And that drug dealer gives them access to far scarier drugs out there, that will really cause them harm. Want to shut him down? Make cannabis legal for people aged 21 and older, and he will not have a business anymore.
Now I've written a little about the more practical reasons why cannabis should be legalized and regulated. But I also need to write about some of the other lesser thought of plusses to regulated cannabis. It would help keep many families together. People lament about the absence of fathers in their children's lives. Well STOP putting them in jail over non-violent marijuana possession so they can have that chance! Marijuana prohibition has broken up many families, and caused massive financial hardship for them as well. The costs a person and his family soak up while he or she is being prosecuted for a marijuana offense can be staggering. The costs in court fees, potential fines, loss of job while incarcerated, and unable to get a decent job once free, can break a familie's financial back. That puts a huge stress on everyone else, as they will likely end up needing public assitance just to get by.
In countries that are much more tolerant of cannabis use and possession, such as the Netherlands, they are noticing a lower per capita use of the stuff than here in the United States, home of some of the most restrictive prohibition laws in the first world. Yes, that's right, lower. And not just among adults, but also among teenagers. Not to mention, the Netherlands is a much safer place than our nation is.
There are 3 groups of people I see that have the most to lose from the ending of cannabis prohibition.
1. The drug lords themselves. They don't want the stuff legal, then they would lose their biggest source of money. They are billionaires with armies at their disposal thanks to cannabis prohibition, and they are winning folks, make no mistake about it.
2 . Law Enforcment. Yes, I am questioning the motives of law enforcement. I do not think the police are above question, nor do I think they should be free from public scrutiny. After all, we are the ones they are sworn to protect and to serve right? We are the ones that pay their salary. That means I want to know just what they are using my hard earned tax dollars for. Unfortunatley, I am finding that they are all too often being used to fund a drug war that's really a war against the citizens. It gives them the finances to get military style equipment, so that they can kick down doors of private non violent citizens, just because they smelled marijuana smoke through an open window or something. I'm a little offended by people thinking it's the term "violence of action" is ok when used in conjunction with non violent offenders. It is most defintely not ok for law enforcement to use terror tactics on it's citizens. Where is the protection from them? The days of what amounts to paramilitary soldiers busting down your door at 5AM with a battering ram, throwing flash bangs, terrorizing your children, quite possibly shooting your dogs, even if it's a poodle, all because you maybe smoke a little weed, needs to be over.
And finally, last but not least, 3. The Health Care Industry and the politicians they employ. The Health Care industry and the Federal Government are the biggest drug dealers in the world, and they simply don't want any competition. Right now, I am in the process of being taken off of Methadone, a very powerful and dangerous opiate. It's a process that my doctor tells me could kill me if I don't do it right. And I believe her, because I started the process by trying to go cold turkey on my own, and it damned near did. They gave me a sack full of drugs meant to help me through this. Yet the side effects of some of those drugs are just as vicious as the side effects of the methadone, not to mention the cost on my liver. My healthcare team convinced me to use the methadone, because they honestly felt it was safer for me than the medical marijuana. That's a funny one, they wanted to take away a substance that has very few negative side effects, and has never killed a single person directly in the history of it's use, and works like a charm to manage my pain levels, and give me a substance that in 2005 killed more people aged 45 to 54 than car crashes in the United States. And they stated it was because they were afraid of the side efffects of the cannabis use. Funny, prior to the Delaudid and Methadone, when I was just using medical cannabis, I went to work everyday, was productive, fairly pain free, and happy. I had a great relationship with my family, my romatic life was finally squared away, and I was on the road to success. Now, I can't go to work. They don't want me to go into withdrawl symptoms while at work, which I totally understand. I'm moody, depressed, and fearful right now. Those things will change with time though.
I am a living testimony to what the drug war has done to us. It has perverted our Criminal Justice system, helped to make the public suspicious of law enforcment, and caused us more human civil rights abuses than we care to think about. It is being perpetuated by greedy people that don't want to work hard for a living. Why go after dangerous criminals that can get you killed when you can pick on some poor wheelchair bound soul for smoking some grass? That pervailing attitude needs to change. We cannot truly live in a free society when such a significant portion of it is criminalized for what is essentially no different than someone that drinks a glass or three of wine every evening. And we certainly can no longer afford to let such a huge cash crop go to the criminal gangs anymore. Legalizing it puts the benefits of the marijuana industry into our hands, not theirs. Right now, Washington State is suffering from a 1.5 Billion dollar deficit in it's budget. A significant portion of that money could easily be received by a similar thing happening here as well. There are over 630,000 marijuana users in Washington State as of 2007, with about half of them being regular users. That's alot of potential revenue going down the drain. And excise tax on the marijuana being grown, as well as a sales tax on the consumer end of it, would generate alot of revenue this state desperately needs right now. It would create jobs, from people involved in the growing of it, to the distribution side. Those jobs would allow more people to be tax paying citizens, keeping our economy growing. We would save millions of dollars every year in law enforcement costs. Who would you rather be locked up, the guy that got busted with 60 bucks worth of pot, or a serial rapist? Why are there violent, level 3 sex offenders out on the street, when we have jail beds taken by that guy with marijuana? I totally get it if you don't like pot, I myself do not care for cigarettes and alcohol all that much. I would most definetely rather be stoned than drunk. But I respect your choice to be a beer swilling, gun toting redneck, if you can respect my choice to be a stoned, peaceful, no gun having libertarian.

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