There are lots of people across this country that believe change in America starts in the state of California. It may not be as true as it was a decade ago, but the Golden State is certainly leading the way in discussions about legalizing marijuana.
It’s just a little ironic, therefore, that I woke up this morning and saw that the mid 1930s flick “Reefer Madness” was playing on IFC .
These days, 70-odd years down the road, the film seems more a parody than a cautionary tale. But back then, it did its job.
In a way, the debate around marijuana legalization still has echoes of the “Reefer Madness” era. Listen to the arguments against legalization.
It’s all about the kids, and criminal activity, the same framing used in that film. No one then, and no one now, wants to see stoned kids high as kites walking the streets or sitting in classrooms, grinning and forgetting where they are. However, something new is driving the discussion.
Times are hard. Money is tight. States like California are facing yawning budget gaps. Lawmakers are eying the unarguably huge amounts of money spent on pot and asking why cash strapped states aren’t getting their share.
The answer is simple. It’s not legal! If it were, it could be taxed, and sales could be regulated. States tax alcohol, cigarettes, and in some cases, gambling. Is marijuana really any different?
Some continue to say it is. They argue the long term effects of the drug aren’t well known or understood.
They point to the various “sin” products and services that are taxed and regulated and say pot shouldn’t be added to the list, that enough is enough. Law enforcement has a big dog in this hunt. Drug interdiction is a big part of what they do, and why they’re funded. It should come as no surprise that legalization is a problem for them or other components of the anti drug industry.
In the end, it shouldn’t even be about the potential for states to make money. Marijuana legalization, reform, decriminalization, whatever ought to be about any real danger the drug poses for society. Is it worse than alcohol? I don’t think so. Is it the gateway to harder drugs? Is aspirin the gateway to Oxycontin?
Some 870,000 Americans got busted for smoking pot in 2007. Is that really the best use of our US law enforcement resources? Obama, you tell me.
The debate called for by California Governor Schwarzenegger (on camera smoking pot in “Pumping Iron”) is long overdue. So is, at the very least, widespread decriminalization of a drug used by millions of Americans.
What do you think. Legalize it? Or, spend a few Monday nights watching Intervention.