Marijuana reform stirs the pot

Phil Nobile

As of Thursday last week, it was announced that in California, the “Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” would be featured on the November ballot. For the first time, weed may become another item at the drug store.

To quote Mark Binelli’s Rolling Stone write-up entitled “Marijuanamerica,” “Now, as the economy has cratered and millions of Americans have found themselves forced to rethink their livelihoods, there’s a growing feeling that the country can no longer afford its longstanding prohibition on marijuana — a sense, for the first time since the ‘70s, that pot could soon be decriminalized in many states, or even made fully legal.”

More and more people are beginning to realize the enormity of the announcement last Thursday. Baby steps have been taken over the past 30 years like Proposition 215 in California that has allowed possession and cultivation of medical marijuana and other smaller movements. But these steps have almost been destroyed, with the Los Angeles Council recently shutting down hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries and pot clubs. It seems that every action toward marijuana reform has been met with an equal and opposing reaction.

There are high hopes, however, that this will not be the case come November.

To give a bit more detail on the act proposed, it would allow individuals 21 years and older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. The local government is permitted to regulate and tax commercial production, which, when taking into account California’s faltering economy and the estimation of marijuana taxes bringing in over $15 billion in illegal revenue, is a very important factor.

The bill points out various and important facts about marijuana: cannabis has fewer and less harmful recorded effects than alcohol and cigarettes (both of which are legally sold to adults) the criminal aspect of the product causes an unnecessary underground drug market that could be destroyed with the passing of the law, and other persuading factors.

But is this the right direction? Is America ready for marijuana reform? Thinking about it, I’d say the benefits outweigh any possible consequences.

Without a doubt in my mind, it is easier to obtain marijuana than alcohol, and a lot of people will attest to this as well. This is because an illegal and apparent drug like marijuana, both cheap and easy to find, is everywhere. I wouldn’t need a 21-year-old with a car and willingness to buy for minors, or a $150 fake ID to buy as much weed as I could get my hands on. So to those worried about it all of a sudden being found in everyone’s hands, they should instead understand that if anything, it will be harder for minors to obtain. It will become an adult item foremost, not an item that can be flipped between hands in high school hallways.

Reform has the capability that almost anyone can agree is a positive: destroying crime. Drug cartels and the illegal drug market of marijuana, along with the arrests and murders that go with it, will cease to exist. What it will be replaced with is profit. That $15 billion figure stated previously doesn’t include the savings that will come from removing marijuana from the “war on drugs.”

Not only does marijuana as the prominent modern American cash crop save money, it will also save jobs. The possibilities of new companies, corporations and jobs in every department from labor to advertisement are endless. With an entire new market comes new workers, and a completely new future for California.

There are benefits to marijuana reform. The potential benefits far outweigh the risks, and hopefully in November, others will realize this too.