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Sunday, June 26, 2011

THE CASE FOR LEGALIZING POT

T'other day, one of the stranger incidences of politicians climbing in bed with each other happened, and I’m still not sure exactly how I like it – except that I DO like what they were proposing, up to a point.

Representative Barney Frank and Representative Ron Paul have introduced a bill to attempt to reconcile the illegality of the drug under federal law with the 16 states who have already made medical marijuana legal. The House bill is being deemed the "the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition," by the Marijuana Policy Project. This is supposed to “end the federal war on marijuana and letting states legalize, regulate, tax, and control marijuana without federal interference."

Understand, y’all – this is not a bill to legalize pot – more’s the pity. The bill, designed to limit the federal government’s role in enforcing marijuana laws, would allow states to legalize, regulate, and tax the drug, according to a press release from advocacy groups. The release was confirmed by Rep. Frank’s office, where a spokesman for the Massachusetts liberal emphasized that the measure “is not a legalization bill.” According to the release, “The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal.”

More than a dozen states have laws that allow the sale of marijuana for medical use; Texas, unfortunately, is not one of them. Again unfortunately, the practice is not legal under federal law, regardless of what the states that have legalized medical marijuana are doing within their borders, and federal authorities have raided marijuana dispensaries.

OK, so what exactly are Rep. Frank and Rep. Paul trying to accomplish?

For one thing, they are trying to get the FedGov’s draconian grip on what constitutes a legal drug that doesn’t have to go through the FDA’s approval process relaxed. For another, and this is explicitly stated in the bill, Dr. Paul is following his Libertarian principles and trying to get the FedGov OUT of the drug war, at least as far as pot is concerned; for him at least, this is a state’s rights issue, and the way that he's going about getting THAT door opened a bit is really pretty slick. There are other issues, of course, that are equally pertinent.

The War On Drugs has been an abject, ruinously expensive failure. There are more drug addicts these days getting less treatment and longer jail sentences than ever before. Yeah, yeah – I know that using pot SUPPOSEDLY leads to use of harder drugs like cocaine and heroin, which has been rather conclusively proven to be at best a misrepresentation of fact and at worst a lie. Access to pot does lead to access to other, harder drugs, but 99% of regular pot smokers are not interested in hard drugs. I know at least a double dozen folks here in Texas that grow their own, and I know several folks in other states that hold licenses to either grow and sell or obtain legally and sell medicinal marijuana. Except for pot, every single one of them abhors the use of hard drugs, and most of them are actively involved in trying to stop kiddos from using pot as well – at least, until the kids are of legal age and can make that decision for themselves.

I’ve lost count of the number of chemistry teachers that have publicly been busted for making PCP, crystal meth, crack, crank or any number of designer drugs in the chem labs at school. Some of them were junior high school teachers. Do we have a wonderful educational system or what? However, that’s a column for another day.

What, exactly, is wrong with decriminalizing marijuana, at least in a medicinal sense? Nothing at all that I personally can see – and, trust me, I do NOT have a dog in this particular hunt. I am violently allergic to THC; just being around somebody that’s smoked pot makes me violently ill. So why am I advocating decriminalization, and, ultimately, complete legalization of a substance that I can’t use?

Very simply put, two reasons: One, it’s a cash crop that can be regulated and taxed. This would help the farmers that are currently going broke trying to grow food crops, both animal and vegetable. The hemp plant, basically, is a weed that will grow anywhere, with very little encouragement. It can be used for a variety of other purposes, such as biofuel feedstock, clothing, rope and oil, to name just the ones that I can think of offhand. Two, it would cripple the illegal drug trade that is making such a mess of Mexico. The biggest market for pot from Mexico is the United States. Check out the news stories on pot busts if you don’t believe me.

This is a source of revenue that this country sorely needs. Right now, the Mexican drug cartels are getting rich off two things: Pot and black-tar heroin. By allowing medicinal marijuana to be licensed and sold, the way is cleared for the complete legalization of and legitimate growing of pot in this country. By doing so, this country makes money and helps cripple the illegal drug trade – plus it helps people that really need the medical benefits of marijuana use for pain control, glaucoma, and the estivation that comes from being treated for a variety of life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer.

Plus, it would give the states themselves a ready revenue source that all of them sorely need. I can still remember “Blue Sundays”, when you could buy groceries on Sunday, but if you needed a new spatula, you had to wait until Monday because nothing that wasn’t food could be legally sold on “The Lord’s Day”. I can still remember “local option” elections, and “dry counties”, where you couldn’t legally buy a bottle of booze unless you went to a country that wasn’t “dry” in the alcohol-sales sense. Shit, I can still remember “WHITES ONLY” drinking fountains, segregated lunch counters and segregated busses and schools.

All of those silly regulations are now dead and gone – well, except for “local option” towns, usually in the Bible Belt of Texas – and good riddance. Decriminalizing pot with an eye to eventually legalizing it entirely is another idea whose time is long overdue.

Let’s get behind Rep. Frank and Rep. Paul and see if we can’t inspire our elected officials to show some sense, first by getting the fuck RID of the Drug Czar and the whole stupid apparatus of the War On Drugs (and incidentally use that money for something better, like Medicare for all, or restoring the Social Security Trust of all the money that has been looted from it over the past 30 or so years), and secondly, by showing the rest of the world that we are at least mature enough as a society to legalize a substance that will do a lot more good than harm. At any rate, the debate’s going to be an interesting one. I’m personally looking forward to seeing it, myself.

This is something else that I didn’t think would happen in my lifetime, either. Wonder what else I’m going to live long enough to see?

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