Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Have a toke and a smile billion-dollar windfall

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the head of the most populous state in the United States, with a population greater than Canada, Australia, and a whole bunch of other countries (but not put together), says the Golden State "ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana." (LAT has a brief story here.)

Note the word study: He's not saying it should be legalized — yet — but that California should look at the actual situation on the ground in those social laboratories, the positives and negatives associated with legalization, from addiction and health problems to revenue enhancement. 

The governor of the state that's home to one of eight Americans coming out and saying this is a big deal. The whole idea of pot legalization has been picking up steam for years, but what it needs to jump into the next political orbital is for high-level politicos at the state or national level to be taking it seriously. Get the fence-sitters to think about it and possibly take a stand. Did I mention that Schwarzenegger is chief executive of the most populous state in the country? 

According to that NBC piece, by the way, "56 percent of registered voters support legalizing and taxing marijuana to raise revenues."

What would the Feds do? I believe they've already stopped going after people who sell and use pot according to the state laws in places where "medical marijuana" has been legalized locally, even though this is a direct (and possibly unconstitutional) conflict with Federal law. Legalizing it across the board might be just a few steps too far. We might see some of the Red States suggesting that America do to California what Bugs Bunny did to Florida (see below).

$1 billion is a lot of money, but like the governor says, revenue should not be the only consideration. I support legalizing pot and many other common recreational drugs, but with strict safety regulations banning users from certain jobs (like driving buses, operating trains, perhaps teaching kids). 

I think that if "normal" recreational drugs are available, the organized crime element is mostly removed, and there is less impetus to develop "new" products that are more portable or more easily manufactured but which have far more devastating effects than their predecessors, like meth or crack. 

[right: The Gubernator indicates the size of the joint he'd roll if Sacramento were to end pot prohibition. And you know he wants to do it. It's a hidden message in many of his films. "Total Recall"? Dude is shacked up with his old lady but then abandons her, wanders off, and shacks up with some other chick, 'cuz he can't remember anything about his past, like where he lived, all the people he owed money to... has glimmers of some memory of something or other in his past — flashbacks, really — so he just quits his job and takes off on a major road trip, running into a bunch of badasses along the way. Frankly, if someone told me you have to be high to really appreciate Arnie's films, I'd totally buy that from sentence one.]

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