California state Assemblyman, Tom Ammiano, has introduced a bill calling for the de facto legalization of marijuana in the state of California. This bill has been introduced primarily for economic reasons. The assemblyman hopes a tax on legalized marijuana will add to California’s draining resource pool. [See California’s recent budget crisis for further details.] Now that a state has had a publicly put forth bill with some serious merit behind it, the debate about legalized marijuana should be opened for wider discourse.

Inherent Article Bias: I am pro-legalization of marijuana. As a social libertarian, I am a firm believer in the rights of adults to put what they want in their bodies on their own property. From an addictive [marijuana is not physically addictive] and lethality [marijuana overdoses are virtually impossible at this point, though this may change as the THC percentage continues to increase – it is still unlikely but I will not rule it out] standpoint, it’s ridiculous to actively keep a drug like marijuana illegal while tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol are all legal. I am not a tobacco or marijuana smoker, and I do not use illegal drugs. I have been in favor of legalization since I was 13 years old, have taken a variety of clinical drug abuse education classes starting at a high school level, and continuing through university, and I have a BS in political science / psychology, complete with pharmacology classes. Please do not bother with your dirty hippie / pot smoker arguments. I do not recycle everything I own or smell like Patchouli.

Main Article

Marijuana has been a popular topic in the United States news lately. Sources ranging from the libertarian magazine, Reason to the Main Stream Media, like CNBC, have turned an eye towards the growth of the marijuana industry, and started to discuss openly the need to take another look at marijuana policy in the United States. While there exist a variety of arguments behind the legalization movement of marijuana, this discussion will focus on utility, medical uses, farming, and tax revenue. The pointed focuses of this article are in part directed in part to the need for California to look for further uses for this plant, as their water levels have dropped recently, combined with federal directives/judgments that decrease the availability of water for farming.

Utility

Cannabis is a very useful plant. As hemp, the uses of cannabis are exceptionally varied. It can be used in rope, cement blocks, clothing, wallets, sails, as food [the fatty oil is especially excellent for birds,] biofuels, as a natural weed blocker, and as ingredients in beauty/health supplies. If you were contemplating sustainable farming, cannabis sativa would definitely be near the top of your list. [While there are other plants, such as olive trees, that are also multi-useful, Cannabis is much hardier and will grow almost anywhere.]

The United States does currently import hemp for various reasons, but it doesn’t differentiate between the legality of growing marijuana and hemp plants. Only hemp as a material is allowed in the country, while plants, and seeds are currently banned. Our current deforestation rates could be decreased if we legalized cannabis. Cannabis could supplement or supplant many traditional uses for wood, such as housing needs, and paper. [A little trivia: There is a theory that one of the major proponents of making marijuana illegal, William Hearst, did so because he was invested in wood based paper making, and did not like a threat towards his profit margin. As he was well known as a “yellow journalist” the idea that he would invent a scare to sway a decision in his favor is likely.]

An additional threat to forests exists as large sections of our natural forests are currently being destroyed by cartels who grow Cannabis Indica in the woods due to the illegality, and thus profitability of, marijuana. Due to the increasing difficulty of smuggling drugs over the Mexican borders, the drug growth was moved into the United States. With a movement towards legality and openness of growing, Americans, and specifically California residents where the majority of these actions are taking place, can remove some of the incentive to perform such acts.

The second variety of Cannabis, the Indica strain, has substantially different uses. It can be used as a recreational drug that helps alleviate moods with less side effects than alcohol, enhances religious ceremonies, and has a variety of medical uses.

Medical Marijuana

Marijuana is classified in the United States as a schedule 1 narcotic with no medical use by the federal government. This classification is higher than cocaine, morphine, and many types of opiates, and amphetamines.

That marijuana has medical uses should really be a foregone conclusion at this point. Marinol, the trade name of dronabinol, is a synthetic THC drug with a 98 -99% rate of delta-9THC mixed with a sesame seed base. Right on the DEA’s own website are the words: Medical marijuana. [The DEA article fails to point out that among the 400 chemicals also present in marijuana are chemicals that mitigate some of the reactions to THC which is why psychotic reactions in Marinol users happen. Also, that while no medical drugs are smoked, some certainly are inhaled through nebulizers, and that while marijuana has shown some weak links to a few cancers, it has also been shown to decrease tumor size. Duplicitous assholes.]

Marijuana can be used as treatment for glaucoma, chronic pain, anti-nauseant for cancer chemotherapy, used to promote appetite to combat wasting syndrome associated with AIDS, and now may be a powerful tool to fight MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) Yet this drug is still listed as a schedule one, no medical use, drug by the federal government.

Medical marijuana legalization in a number of states starting with California, have been a reaction to this illogical drug policy. Thirteen states currently have legalized medical marijuana use with two additional enacting laws that lean towards medical marijuana. [Does your state? Check specific laws here.] A move by California to legalize marijuana across the board, in place of simple decriminalization which has been seen in a few states, would continue the court war already being fought between the state and residents of California and the Federal Government, hopefully to the benefit of all the people who need the help. [May Peter McWilliams smile upon us all.]

Farming

This is a slightly different approach to the usual discussions of legalizing marijuana. Currently, a good percentage of marijuana is grown indoors primarily due to the nature of the illegality of the plant in the United States. This has allowed an impressive degree of direct control over the environment of the plant, creating a variety of different strains tailored for medical conditions. This type of direct environmental control is important to regulate what outside influences enter the system of people with illnesses, and will likely become an important future criteria in localized farming. [As the popularity of organic products have already shown.] Even if marijuana/hemp was legalized, this practice would most likely continue and hand society a great benefit, a large group of people with ready knowledge about hydroponic farming.

Within the next decade, it has been predicted that global warmth effects will increase, changing the rainfall and temperature of several already water-deprived areas such as Arizona, and New Mexico. While cities like Phoenix have water plans in place, including water hoarding, and the local Intel plants recycling 1/3 of the water they use the increase in populations continue to grow at enormous rates, straining their resources. This near future strain on water resources, combined with the current trend towards an increase in city dwelling, indicates the need to increase farming in urban areas.

Hydroponics is one answer to producing food in non-traditional environments. Profits and techniques from hydroponic farmers of marijuana could be utilized to increase the prevalence of food resources. Genetic variants in food are one step, but farming techniques also need to adapt. Projects such as the one seen here in Singapore highlight the usefulness of hydroponics in an urban setting. Under the legalization of marijuana, farmers will still produce innovations in farming that will benefit the population as they continue to search for the best growing methods in a variety of places. Legalization of marijuana will also encourage others to begin a deeper study of hydroponics without the worry that they will be visited by the government under suspicion of marijuana cultivation.

Tax Revenue

Tax Revenue could be collected through different scenarios. California is proposing a flat tax per ounce, but a better system would be a slightly more complex one. At the current cost rate, it will be likely a marijuana tax will evolve into a “sin tax” rate of 10 to 15 percent on marijuana purchases, which will take into account the vast differences in prices for the different varieties of marijuana. Additional tax revenue can also be collected through farmers, licenses on sellers, and/or marijuana related products.

All marijuana farmers can be required to have a license to grow the plant. The licenses can vary in cost, and complexity according to whether it will be for personal use, or sale of the plant. It may also differ according to medical, recreational, or industrial uses of cannabis. The highest license fees would most likely fall on those who intend to sell for recreational usage. As with alcohol, and tobacco, while you can distill or roll your own, most people will not be interested in the hassle involved when they can simply pick up marijuana at the store. Medical marijuana users are highly unlikely to have the ability to grow the complicated strains needed to treat their specific illness.

Additionally, tax on marijuana paraphernalia is already in place, despite the confusing laws surrounding the sale of such items. With marijuana legalized, shops that sell items such as bongs, pipes, rolling paper, and the like can operate freely, and produce a nice tax revenue to the government without the off-set cost of random prosecution.

Right now, the United States faces a deficit of about 10 trillion dollars and climbing. The deficit clock actually ran out of space. Marijuana, for medical and recreational resources will most likely bring in 6 billion dollars a year in taxes. Additionally, the cost of no longer prosecuting marijuana offenses will most likely free up 7 billion dollars that can moved towards another realm of needed social spending. Social costs of marijuana prohibition: See here and continue here for additional information about the War on Drugs.

Conclusion

The social costs may be more difficult to measure but for many who have had their lives ruined by mandatory minimum sentencing for possessing marijuana to the increased drug wars in Mexico that are partly funded by marijuana to one family’s loss of their beloved pets and humiliation that spurned a cause to action, a change in marijuana policy will come as a relief.

The history of how marijuana became illegal is a long one, and abounds with conspiracy theories. At the most basic level, the idea that marijuana is inherently an evil drug, or acts as a gateway to harder drugs is illogical. The idea that a person who uses one drug might use another drug doesn’t really argue for equal treatment of all drugs under the law. Citing the possibility that a child might use a drug superseding the rights of adults, a majority in this country, is silly – it is the responsibility of the parents to prevent drug use, not the state. Furthermore, it has been it could be argued that teenagers have an easier time getting marijuana than alcohol due to the lack of proper age verification needed for purchasing marijuana.

While marijuana may not save the world, as farming will become more difficult, and more costly in the future, marijuana may be a tool to help offset the new challenges faced by farmers, both in new revenue streams, and increased crop flexibility. The many uses of the cannabis plant open a wide range market for crop sales, and the already profitable, and wide market for recreational marijuana use can be a boon to the farming industry. [Just don’t let Monsanto and friends patent it all.] Healthier and in some possibilities only treatments for vicious diseases that will likely increase as the population continues to age will help usher in a safer standard of living, while the increased liberty of an ease in the drug war will benefit us all.

For more information about marijuana: http://www.mpp.org/library/

See a timeline of marijuana: http://www.a1b2c3.com/drugs/mj004.htm

Edited with a few new links garnered from the Agitator. Thanks!

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