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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Debt-Free, But Too Stoned To Notice

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco has introduced a bill to legalize Marijuana for recreational use; a previous proposition made medicinal marijuana legal in 1996. Apparently Mr. Ammiano has been partaking if that's the best idea our local government can come up with as a solution to recovering from its massive debt. It's no surprise that the idea comes from a representative of the city known for heavy usage and high tolerance for it. Previously in 2006, Ammiano introduced similar legislation based on a measure passed by 64 percent of city voters back in 1978 that called for an end to marijuana arrests and prosecutions. "The public would be better off to stop wasting money arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning people for marijuana, and to start collecting tax money from them instead," said Dale Gieringer of NORML's California chapter (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

The new proposal from Ammiano would regulate marijuana like alcohol, with people over 21 years old allowed to grow, buy, sell and possess cannabis (all of which is barred by federal law). According to an Obama transition team blog, the president "is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana". That basically means that any outcome from this new proposal will still be subject to Federal consideration. The idea is definitely facing its fair share of disapproval; a lobbyist for key police associations in the state called it "a bad idea whose time has not come." John Lovell, who represents the California Peace Officers' Association, California Police Chiefs Association and California Narcotic Officers' Association, said "The last thing our society needs is yet more legal intoxicants. We've got enough social problems now when people aren't in charge of all five of their senses."

However, Ammiano has the support of San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey, and Betty Yee who chairs the state Board of Equalization which collects taxes in California. An analysis by the agency concluded the state would collect $1.3 billion a year from tax revenues and a $50-an-ounce levy on retail sales if marijuana were legal. The analysis also concluded that legalizing marijuana would drop its street value by 50 percent and increase consumption of the substance by 40 percent. A spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for reform in marijuana laws and is backing Ammiano's proposal, said any expected increase in consumption is a "false notion."

In what imaginary world would the increased accessibility to a popular, mind-numbing drug not increase the number of users and its consumption in general? The war on drugs has cost hundreds of billions of dollars over a long period of time, and now actual lawmakers are telling us to ignore decades worth of anti-drug campaigns as they roll over in order to make a profit. According to, the U.S. federal government spent over $19 billion dollars in 2003 on the War on Drugs, at a rate of about $600 per second and another $30 billion was spent by state and local governments. More than 3 billion dollars (and counting) has been spent on the war on drugs so far this year. Personally, I feel that marijuana usage plays a huge role in every problem our society faces today. Many users are unmotivated, unable to hold steady employment, and careless about following the law (obvious being that recreational use is illegal). I have known people who have used on a regular basis, and some who cannot go a single day without it. Above The Influence provides detailed information about the effects of marijuana use and all risks involved, as well as many other drugs.

My main concern with the proposal of legalized marijuana is that many kids will have much easier access to the drug if anyone over 21 can purchase it legally. Drugs are basically a vehicle for irresponsibility, as the primary purpose of using is to fall under the blanket of a mind-numbing stupor. Just as alcohol impairs judgement and lowers inhibition, legal users will be much more likely to pass the habit on to underage friends. That means hard-working students, even in their early teens, will become increasingly approached by users who got drugs from older friends/family and now try to pass it around or pressure others to use. The notion that only those of age will be the ones using the drug is just as absurd as the idea of legalizing it, and an increase of consumption is not only likely, it's certain. I'm sure popular fast-food restaurants such as Taco Bell, and the makers of all snack food and frozen foods, would enjoy the huge boost in revenue as a result of legalization as "the munchies" take hold of its users. However, if people weren't spending their money to get high in the first place, they'd be doing their part to boost the economy or at least paying the bills they avoid so they can afford their next fix. I'd love to hear your opinion on this, whether in favor of legalization or opposed.

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