76347_600.jpg76347_600.jpgDoobie or Not Doobie?
by David Goodloe

It may be an issue whose time has come. And, if that is the case, there may be no more appropriate place for it than California.

Voters in that state will decide in November whether to legalize and regulate marijuana use, an issue that has come before voters in other states in other election years but has always failed.

In 2010, however, there is an unusual confluence of issues, like two mighty rivers that meet and create an even greater force, that might make this vote different from the rest. Even if the eventual result is the same, the margin may be closer than it has ever been — and it may be a sign that the tide is turning.

First, there is the recession, which has produced — thus far — a 13.2% unemployment rate in California and a shortfall of the state budget that has forced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to call for”draconian” spending cuts while warning that there is surely more/worse to come.

The folks in Washington seem to have lost sight of the fact (assuming — and that is a hugeassumption — that they ever fully realized it in the first place) that this recession — and the unemployment it has spawned — is different from the others with which they have dealt. And they appear determined to fight it the same way they initially chose to fight Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis — on the cheap.

On the cheap didn’t work in Iraq, and it won’t work against the recession.

Policy analyst Samuel Sherraden, in an article for CNN.com, says the new jobs bill, in which the president and the members of his party seem to place so much faith, is doomed to fail because it focuses on inadequate tax credits instead of promoting infrastructure.

Of course, it is understandable — to a point — why infrastructure is not emphasized. Infrastructure costs money, lots of money, but revenue is down because fewer people are working and paying taxes — so there isn’t as much money available as there once was.

“The House of Representatives passed a relatively strong bill in December, which included $48 billion in infrastructure spending,” Sherraden writes. “Now the House and the Senate have adopted a bill that consists primarily of a payroll tax deduction for employers who make new hires and keep them on for a year. The original House jobs bill was $154 billion. The new bill is one–tenth the size.”

I’m not an economist, but I don’t think you have to be to see that Sherraden is right. The money simply isn’t there, and the jobs bill doesn’t provide the sources for the kind of revenue that is needed to repair the infrastructure and put millions of unemployed Americans back to work.

Legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana has the potential to produce the kind of revenue — I’ve heard it estimated that legalizing marijuana in California alone can produce $1 billion annually in tax revenue for the state — that will address the infrastructure issue. And it will keep doing so beyond 2010, unlike the tax credits the Democrats have proposed.

As Sherraden observes, “It is unwise to pass a temporary hiring incentive that will expire during a year when the unemployment rate is forecast by the Congressional Budget Office to average 9.5 percent.”

Yet, in addition to providing the kind of revenue that could be used to make meaningful improvements in the nation’s infrastructure, legalizing marijuana could create, virtually overnight, the demand for all kinds of jobs. Those people in occupations that would be adversely affected by legalizing marijuana — for example, lab workers who perform drug tests and law enforcement officials who have been waging a losing war against marijuana for decades — would simply be reassigned to more productive pursuits. It is doubtful that their jobs would be eliminated, only the functions of the jobs. If marijuana is legalized, attention can shift to testing for the use of demonstrably deadly drugs and the enforcement laws against violent behavior.

Then there is health care reform, an issue that has dominated the thinking of Barack Obama (who seems to have devoted more attention to his NCAA Tournament predictions in the last couple of years than he has to unemployment) and the Democrats in Congress for more than a year. With the passage of health care reform legislation, the thoughts of many have turned to the subject of easing the pain of those afflicted with AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, etc. And that is where the issue of medical marijuana comes in.

Marijuana has been proven — repeatedly — to be effective at fighting the nausea that is a by–product of some treatments (most notably, chemotherapy). It has also been shown to stimulate appetite, which is helpful for those whose medical treatments have robbed them of the desire for food. For glaucoma patients, it eases intraocular pressure that robs people of their vision.

However, fear mongers continue to spread inaccuracies (I prefer that word to lies even though this is one of those times when the latter is more appropriate) about marijuana. I can only assume that, because medical science has established a connection between tobacco consumption and life–threatening illnesses like lung cancer, opponents of legalization have jumped to the conclusion that smoking anything will cause lung cancer, too. I am aware of no medical studies that have shown that marijuana causes cancer. In fact, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, which makes its research articles from the last 86 years freely available online, has demonstrated precisely the opposite. JCI’s research shows that marijuana kills cancer cells, which is one more therapeutic benefit.

Of course, it is unlikely that most of the people who consume marijuana do so as a preventive measure — although there may be some who smoke it because they are concerned about the prevalence of cancer in their families.

But it is ironic, I believe, that this issue comes up now — not just because of the passage of health care reform but because it was one year ago that, during his celebrated online town hall meeting, Obama ridiculed the 3½ million people who submitted questions about the legalization of marijuana.

This comes at a time when officials have observed a reversal in marijuana use among the young. For many years, propaganda campaigns succeeded, to an extent, in discouraging marijuana consumption, but recent surveys have noted a shift in the behavior of the young.

Such a shift has been increasingly hard to ignore — or write off as the behavior of those who are unmotivated and untalented. Just a few days ago, Don Banks reported for SI.com that folks in the NFL “are concerned about the increased number of prospects who have a history of marijuana use in their background.”

Banks’ article goes on to observe that eliminating players — given the success that some marijuana users have had in the NFL in recent years — because they failed drug tests doesn’t make sense if the NFL’s personnel people are interested in winning — and keeping their own jobs. Some, no doubt, cling to the long–disproved allegations that have been used to justify keeping marijuana illegal — that it causes death, that it leads to madness and violent criminal behavior, that it serves as a”gateway” to other drugs.

Well, Pete Guither debunks a lot of the myths. As he clearly demonstrates, prohibition was on the wrong side of history in the 1930s.

And it’s on the wrong side now.

David Goodloe got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1982, and his master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1991. He publishes the thoughtful weblog Freedom Writing. This post is cross posted from his website.

The copyrighted cartoon by Daryl Cagle, MSNBC.com, is licensed to run on TMV. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.

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  • SteveK

    From a person who doesn’t ‘do’ marijuana all I can say is… Yes.

    The legalization of pot will do wonders for oh so many unnecessary problems and create a legitimate source of tax revenue.

  • elrod

    California is the trend setter. I hope California says yes to this. The anti-marijuana arguments are quite stale and based on faulty logic. Gateway drug? Well, so is alcohol or tobacco…or candy, for that matter. They all produce a “high” of sorts that encourages SOME users to want something stronger.

    • TheMagicalSkyFather

      I still think the most dangerous gateway drugs are the ones we ignore and all know about; boredom, cool and girls. Girls were my big downfall personally lol.

      • JSpencer

        Girls? That was just gods way of reminding men that they really don’t have a clue afterall. 😉 As for other gateway drugs, don’t forget TV. . . and computers. California and pot? If it’s legalized I’m not sure how much will really change there, other then a new bureaucracy and easier access for those who don’t already know how easy it is to obtain. But at least law enforcement would stop wasting so much time and resources on it.

    • archangel

      dear elrod, just wondering… if marijuana, a plant that in and of itself can be used in many ways, from making fabric to being medicinal for those in physical pain (mental pain too, it seems, (including one kind of pain seldom spoken about: boredom registers in the brain area that physical pain registers), if all that and more came to pass by de-criminalizing the plant and say, asserting regulated uses…

      then, given the huge amounts of money currently made off its growing and trafficking and bartering huge bundles in exchange for nefarious acts…

      would this take care of the issues, or would this mean introduction of a stronger more potent drug distributed (and given away free at first to hook a population) to keep the drug gangs in the money? Or, on another very black note too, would a gang to preserve its nut, turn to say trafficking young boys and girls to make up for their windloss?

      It seems that murderous gangs dont stop because one venue closes. Their point is to feed darkness for money. I wonder if one can support de-crimininalization of an innocent plant, without first and foremost dealing with people who murder and harm the young for money?

      Not sure at all that ‘raising revenues’ by decriminalizing a plant, is an ‘oly oly home free’ step at all.

      dr.e

      • TheMagicalSkyFather

        Did the mob gain more power or loose power after the end of prohibition?

        The drug gangs are bad guys but they are also nothing new since they act much like the gangs of prohibition. What ending prohibition did was not end the mob but shrink their power and influence as well as pull the public back from dabbling in illegality as a national past time which gives them less reason to observe other laws.

        The mob also sold children(and still does) as well as all other avenues of prostitution and extortion(since the mob used prostitution to pull you in and extortion to control you) but they actually had more control and funding prior to the end of prohibition(see JFK’s daddy). In fact the mobs influence did not fully gain steam again until the late 60’s and later the 70’s drug culture and the prohibition on them began to re-empower them(note it was another prohibition or many of them that caused the upsurge). Their influenced has waned but only because they did not have as effective an organisation for this particular trade as did new drug gangs from other immigrant cultures.

        The drug gangs will still sell children, women and drugs but you will be cutting their prime avenue of profit since much like alcohol weed is rather popular and viewed as a “silly law” much as laws against alcohol were which means it is more popular and gives the citizens involved a lack of respect for the law.

        This is of course ignoring the fact that we refuse to look at factual studies of MJ and its effects and prefer to live in the land of Reefer Madness until relatively recently and still the Madness side fights with studies that have been debunked.

        The one time I can think of that legalisation has helped gangs was with gambling, which I would note is a very popular thing to make legal oddly, they had experience and knowledge to run these businesses that others did not. MJ nor alcohol are like that since anyone can start a business selling or making these if they observe any pertinent laws and regulations. Also if they continue selling MJ with other drugs they #1 are now competing against 711 which will be hard on their pricing and #2 if they are caught they will not only loose their illegal drugs and the money they had at the time but the new legal ones and those profits as well which is a rather large disincentive to mix the two.

        Another thing to look at is that it takes equipment and knowledge to make liquor…for weed it only takes earth and sunlight which means if I can grow it at home not only do I not even speak to any gangsters, I will not even have to go to 711 which usually has dealers hanging around outside. Also they are already claiming that strains are now more powerful, though many studies have shown that they are just crying wolf so its up for debate but again WHO CARES. I say that because yes beer is rather calm but dont we also happily sell Ever Clear in the US which is a rather pure and dangerous form of alcohol?

      • DLS

        “It seems that murderous gangs dont stop because one venue closes.”

        They don’t. They’ll turn to something else if marijuana were legalized.

        The Drug War has many things wrong with it and I’ve been against that which is wrong, but people shouldn’t be naive and expect the opposite, nirvana, with legalization. (At least many people are sound enough as to limit their interest currently to marijuana, which is much more benign than other drugs.)

        • David_Goodloe

          DLS wrote — (At least many people are sound enough as to limit their interest currently to marijuana, which is much more benign than other drugs.)

          That is a significant point. I am not in favor of legalizing ALL drugs.

  • I base the following opinion only on my own experience and that friends and acquaintances who have recovered from addictions.

    Marijuana is often cited as the gateway drug, but I believe that the only reason for that is it’s illegality and lack of commercial distribution. Most kids start out smoking (oh noes! we broke the law!), and then try drinking (that was awesome!). They have already crossed the line and instead of horrific and painful spontaneous implosion, they usually liked how it felt. Pot is so plentiful, that at this point why won’t most teens try it out? Right now pot is an illicit drug without commercial distribution and regulation, and is socially acceptable by most (a sociolegal paradox).

    The problem is, only dealers have pot, and most of them also have some other, and more dangerous drug also. Maybe pills, maybe heroin, maybe meth, but they don’t pay taxes, and they don’t care if you’re in trouble with it – they have bills to pay. It’s much easier for them to spot you something really dangerous and reel you in. This is how most people I know got hooked on hard drugs.

    Take the pot out of the hands of the dealers and put it into the stores. Regulate it like alcohol and tobacco (which kill more people in the U.S. than any other drugs). Tax it and oversee that it’s production is safe. The alternative will simply remain a losing battle.

  • merkin

    I really have mixed feelings about this. It is hard to find any government program that is a bigger failure than the war on drugs, as any program that is based on lies ultimately must be. There is no question that the war itself causes much more damage than the drugs. The total prison population in the United States when the war started was 300,000. Today that population is over 2 million. It is the prison-industrial complex that was spawned by this war that now funds the opposition to legalization.

    On the other side the damage legal tobacco and alcohol have done should be sobering to legalization proponents, not an argument in support.

    Altogether I would support decriminalization of marijuana, something like a traffic ticket if caught in public, nothing if done in the privacy of your home, no prison, no breaking down doors.

    I know, milquetoast. Small steps are the best.

    Full disclosure: I take marijuana (or TCP) as a pain relief drug. I ingest it and don’t take enough to get high. For some reason the marijuana seems to work better for my pain.

    • JSpencer

      I’ve found it helpful in heading off an oncoming migraine. Never heard of anyone else using it for this, but it’s worked for me. I prefer a nice lager or ale when it comes to recreation though.

  • StockBoySF

    Yes, marijuana should be legal- there are clear medical benefits. No need to spend much time comparing it to other drugs i.e. alcohol, tobacco, meth, heroin, etc. The decision to legal marijuana use should consider marijuana’s own merits and its (few) demerits.

  • shannonlee

    I hope they add “puff puff give” to the state Constitution.

  • DLL83

    The comments mentioning marijuana and alcohol use by teens made me think that it is probably worth mentioning that if marijuana were legalized, it would still be illegal for minors. I wonder if teen marijuana use would be affected at all.

    • TheMagicalSkyFather

      Generally it is more difficult for children to get alcohol than drugs. Alcohol takes knowing someone of age, drugs just takes knowing someone your own age.

      • shannonlee

        Very true, people aren’t exactly illegally selling alcohol on the street corner. Kids and adults have the same source for illegal drugs…different sources for alcohol.

  • WagglebutII

    I’m going to change my cyber name to Puff.

    I can’t remember the literature, it may have been the National Review, but William F. Buckley’s reasoning changed my thinking considerably about decriminalization of illicit drugs. After my Scotch, I am going to research it.

  • According to the USDA, pot is our #3 crop already, behind soy and corn, ahead of wheat. Of course, making our #3 cash crop tax-free and illegal is foolish, plus prohibition has not and will not work.

    Legalization is preferable to decriminalization because of the tax issue and as for consequences, Dr. E, we should know. It’s now legal in Denver, or at least decriminalized. And state-wide it’s a class 2 petty offense, beneath the class 1 petty offense of littering. The sky is not falling here.

    As for medical marijuana, Colorado now has over 35 strains grown locally, no Mexican drug cartels or mob connections needed. If I smoked the stuff, I would be relieved that I was buying a local product and was NOT feeding the black market. And as Gov Schwarzenegger pointed out, it costs $42 K a year each to imprison nonviolent drug offenders under minimum sentencing guidelines brought in by prohibition.

    Last, and this is more detail than probably appropriate for here. Cannabis is a methyl group donor, which helps to convert norepinephrine (the crouch and hide hormone) to epinephrine (fight or flight) so we can eliminate it (we can’t eliminate norepinephrine without that conversion first). The conversion happens in the lower lungs, which is why exercise reduces feelings of stress, aggression and fear. Excess norepinephrine is associated with all diseases of stress and aging, including heart disease and cancer. Of course, there are other methyl group donors (arginine, betaine, MSM), but it is a rather special property and not well investigated.

  • WITH REGARDS TO THE SO-CALLED “MARIJUANA GATEWAY DRUG” THEORY

    During the last ten years in which I’ve been more active in politics, I must have watched at least fifty debates on the issue of marijuana decriminalization/marijuana legalization. And when I say fifty debates, I’m being very conservative in my quanitification. With all the Bill O’Reilly vs. libertarian, Sean Hannity vs. libertarian, law enforcement officers for prohibition vs. law enforcement officers against prohibition debates that I’ve seen during the last ten years, that number might very well be closer to one hundred.

    But with all those debates that I have seen, I don’t think I have EVER come across a single marijuana decriminalization/marijuana legalization debate in which the person against decriminalization/legalization didn’t trot out the old marijuana gateway drug theory.

    Yet the much-touted “marijuana gateway drug” theory has never been anything more than a bunch of half truths and correlation = causation arguments posing as “science.” Interestingly enough, the “marijuana gateway drug” theory has never been accepted by the majority of the medical and scientific community (which isn’t exactly a hotbed for marijuana legalization). Several studies addressing the “marijuana gateway drug theory” have been conducted during the last fifteen years, and while all of the studies have shown correlation between marijuana use and use of harder drugs, none showed any evidence of causation.

    People without backgrounds in science or statistics often fail to understand the distinction between correlation and causation and often them as if they were they were the same. But, of course, they’re not the same thing at all, and if people were to treat them as the same, they would come to some pretty pretty uninformed conclusions.

    A classic case is the coffee & cigarettes example. Those of you who have ever taken a Statistics class have probably heard of this example. There is ample data showing that people who drink coffee are stastically more likely more like to smoke cigarettes than people who do not drink coffee. In other words, there is ample data that suggests a correlation between coffee consumption and cigarette smoking. There is, however, no evidence whateverso that suggests that coffee consumption causes cigarette smoking. And I daresay none of you have ever heard a politician proposing a coffee gateway theory.

    Of the studies that have been conducted, some, such as the 1999 study conducted by the Institute of Medicine have concluded that

    There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.

    Others, such as the 12 year study conducted by the University of Pittsburg, have even concluded that there is enough evidence to refute the marijuana gateway drug theory. Of note, no scientific study has EVER demonstrated any solid evidence in favor of the marijuana gateway drug theory beyond the simple correlation argument that could apply just as easily to cigarettes (as a predictor or drug use) or coffee (as a predictor of cigarette use).

    In my opinion, it’s because so many people resort to half truths and pseudoscience instead of empirical evidence that we as a society cannot seem to have an honest debate over marijuana decriminalization/marijuana legalization. I’m not arguing that pro-marijuana people haven’t been known to exaggerate or resort to half truths or pseudoscience themselves (I’ve even met some), but it seems to be a nearly universal phenomenon among people on the anti-marijuana side of the debate. As I mentioned earlier, I have not yet come across a single marijuana debate in which the anti-marijuana debate didn’t resort to the unfounded marijuana gateway drug theory.

    So when any of you come across an anti-marijuana stalwart who trots out the old marijuana gateway drug theory, you have to point out to them that there’s absolutely no empirical evidence behind the pseudoscience that they are spewing. And you have to ask their prospect converts

    If this were a debate about space exploration, would you be listening to someone who posited the discredited theory that the sun revolves around the earth?

    • WagglebutII

      I liked your post. Well written.

  • DLS

    There are two issues here.

    The first is that legalization is no panacea, and its strongest supporters typically are naive or are extremely self-absorbed, childish, radicalized-individual-behavior people with little or no conscience, bogus so-called “libertarians” and others who are being unrealistic or extremely self-indulgent. (In the real world, we’ll treat different drugs differently, and we’ll expect some regulation, not a complete lack of regulation.)

    The second is that California is nearly bankrupt from a legacy of liberal politics and policies, and this is likely a desperate, pathetic tax grab, as I’ve written before, “legalizing gambling on steroids.)

    Related issues:

    * The Obama administration is hypocritical and a poor party to face Mexico these days. It has said it won’t prosecute marijuana cases. They are cowards. If they were worth anything, they at least would be direct and honest and repeal federal marijuana laws.

    * Pay attention to other states and the federal government, as well as state and local governments in California, and how they might react to unfortunate consequences such as drug tourism.

  • DLS

    Actually, the smarter activists ought to be pushing already for a “hemp for fabric and for biofuels, too” campaign, though of course the “hemp” activism has just been an adjunct effort for drug legalization.

  • DLS

    Keep that Plateau and guard it or manage it well and get fabulously wealthy after 2020.

    We’ll see up-to-date information with the Census, and even with complications and disruptions from the economic slump, you’ll still see a population (and economic and power) shift continuing south and west. (Pull factors to the south and west, push factors in Blue Nation Snow-and-Rust Belt locations.) So many Baby Boomers will head southwest in the 2020s onward (and most of the rest will head to the Southeast.)

    Conservation is obviously never enough. What to do about future water supplies?

    The answer in the West is — transfer from Columbia watershed to the Colorado watershed.

    (Just as California’s future is set or better assured by exploiting the Klamath and other northern rivers.)

  • DLS

    Stockster:

    You don’t know how lucky you are there. You’re not only on the West Coast (Pacific Slope — west of the Pacific Crest), the wet, mild, West Coast edge of the West, but in the part that’s wet, unlike the rest of the West.

    http://www.fwee.org/nwhydro.html

    There’s a big problem coming, and the Colorado (already the most used and politicized river in the US) is going to be the area in particular where there are going to be future problems.

    biodiversity.ca.gov/Meetings/archive/water03/water2025.pdf

    wwa.colorado.edu/western_water_law/docs/Water2025_USDOI.pdf

    http://www.water.utah.gov/Interstate/TheColoradoRiverart.pdf

    Water transfer from A to B is going to be looked at, eventually. Who knows how we’ll pay for it, though.

    http://earthtrends.wri.org/text/map_lg.php?mid=383

    http://earthtrends.wri.org/text/map_lg.php?mid=382

  • WagglebutII

    For chrissakes, why are you listing the Sears Catalogue index of websites?