Monday, June 8, 2009
Save the Economy, Legalize Marijuana
As California's economy goes up in smoke, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said it's time to study the possibility of legalizing and taxing marijuana. About four weeks ago, he brought up the subject, and since that time, there has been talk in the media about legalizing pot on a national scale, since the country is having serious financial problems of its own. When President Obama was asked in March about the subject, he wasn't interested. "No, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy," he said. Schwarzenegger sparked the debate in California, and the nation is joining in. A Zogby poll, commissioned a month ago by the conservative O'Leary Report, showed that 52% of Americans favor legalization of marijuana, with only 37% opposed. The other 11% were too stoned to comment. Legalizing marijuana not only allows for the regulation and taxation of marijuana, similar to cigarettes and alcohol, but it removes the criminal element, freeing up our legal system and making medical marijuana available without all the obstacles. Like any substance, the potential for abuse is there, but studies have shown that not only is marijuana safer than most drugs, users don't get symptoms similar to what some have called "Starbucks head," commonly known as headaches associated with caffeine withdrawal. Marijuana hasn't always been illegal. Because of sensationalistic stories of murder and mayhem associated with marijuana use, it was criminalized federally in 1937 by the newly formed Bureau of Narcotics. Up until that time it had been used as a household drug treating headaches, toothaches, depression, menstrual cramps and of course just plain stress, and drug companies were working on developing a stronger strain. In 1938, the mayor of New York, Fiorello LaGuardia, who it was rumored would light up a joint before important meetings, formed a committee to study the actual effects of marijuana. It found, despite the governments claims, that there was no scientific reason to criminalize marijuana. The study found that it did not cause insanity or act as a gateway drug. It did not cause people to go on killing sprees, and it did not cause other types of deviant criminal behavior. Further studies showed that marijuana use actually cuts down on crime, even when used by criminals, because it makes them more mellow. Even President Nixon took up the debate. In 1972, his Shafer Commission also concluded that marijuana should be legalized. Speculation that Nixon used to get high before giving major speeches has never been proven, but many experts site the famous "Checkers speech," when the then-Senator and Vice Presidential candidate got emotional before millions of viewers, as an example of an obviously high politician. Jerry Brown, the current California Attorney General, was known for his eccentric behavior when as governor of California from 1975 to 1983 he was referred to as "Governor Moonbeam," and although there were rumors of marijuana use by Brown in the governor's mansion, it was never proven. Brown did, during his tenure, however, propose the establishment of a state space academy and the purchasing of a satellite that would be launched into orbit. Interestingly, a similar program was later adopted by the state, as a satellite was launched to provide emergency communications. Supposedly the cost of this venture, and other liberal expenditures by California politicians are what got us into this mess in the first place. In any case, billions of dollars have been spent over the years on marijuana enforcement nationwide. A 2007 report, "Lost Revenues and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws," by Jon Gettman estimated that law enforcement costs relating to marijuana comes to 10.7 billion annually. Taxing marijuana use in California alone would bring in $1 billion a year to the state, according to Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). Ammiano introduced a bill in February to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California, and is urging the Obama Administration to look at the issue nationally. It's not Obama's priority, but Schwarzenegger and California might not have any other choice. California is on the brink of bankruptcy, and decriminalizing marijuana is a logical solution. A recent study showed that cigars are a much worse health threat than cigarettes. Schwarzenegger would be wise to give up his cigars in favor of marijuana. It's healthier.