It’s fascinating to me how different states are approaching the popular idea of marijuana legalization.

Most of the states to tackle it so far have recognized that it is wrong for the government to punish adults who cultivate, buy, sell and consume cannabis for their own personal use. That’s the case in California, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Maine and Massachusetts—so far, though, they vary on how many cannabis plants and how much usable marijuana is “personal.”

But some jurisdictions are approaching legalization in a piecemeal fashion that makes no sense to me.

Start with Washington State, which in 2012 passed legalization of commercial marijuana sales and possession, but maintained a ban on personal cultivation of cannabis.

Why?

How is a dude growing a houseplant indoors committing a violation of public safety so severe it mandates a five-year felony sentence, while some lady growing thousands of those plants in a warehouse for sale to that dude isn’t endangering the public at all?

Even stranger is the law passed in 2016 for Nevada’s legalization of commercial marijuana sales and possession. That law allows adults to cultivate their own personal cannabis plants, but only if they live farther than 25 miles from a pot shop.

Why?

How is a dude growing a houseplant indoors in Las Vegas committing a violation of public safety so severe it mandates a misdemeanor sentence (and a one-year mandatory minimum felony for a fourth offense), but the lady doing the same thing in the outskirts of Duckwater, Nevada, isn’t endangering the public at all?

This sort of legalization of marijuana, while prohibiting the cultivation of cannabis, is being considered by the New Jersey legislature as well.

Meanwhile in 2014, the other Washington, the District of Columbia, overwhelmingly passed marijuana legalization that allows adults to possess marijuana and cultivate cannabis, but forbids the commercial cultivation and sales of marijuana.

Not that the people wouldn’t have passed full tax-and-regulate marijuana legalization there, but Congress, which controls much of Washington, D.C.’s government, has refused to allow the city to pursue commercial legalization.

Why?

How is it OK for a dude to grow a houseplant indoors and give some of it to a lady, but if the lady hands the dude $20 for it, she’s committed a crime worthy of five years in prison?

This sort of legalization of marijuana, while prohibiting the commerce of cannabis, is being considered by the governor of Vermont as well.

Can someone explain to me why Vermont and D.C. think home-growing is OK, but pot shops are not; while New Jersey and Washington think pot shops are OK, but home-growing is not?

Especially considering that for medical marijuana patients in Vermont, pot shops are OK. How do healthy customers make a pot shop any more criminal? Or considering that for medical marijuana patients in Washington, home-growing is OK. How do healthy gardeners make home-growing any more criminal?

The only answer I can come up with is that the restrictions on cultivation and sales in these states have nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with corporate and government profits.

If adults can cultivate their own cannabis plants in states with legal marijuana sales, then that will eat into the corporate profits of the licensed sellers of marijuana and the government profits from taxed marijuana sales.

If adults can purchase their own marijuana in states that allow home cannabis cultivation, then that will eat into the corporate profits of pharmaceutical and alcohol sales and the government profits from taxed drug and alcohol sales.

Ironically, for the timid states that don’t legalize sales or home-grow, their legislation actually exacerbates the problems of cannabis commerce that they think they’re addressing.

Vermont’s “grow-and-give” proposal is underground weed dealers’ dream policy, as it reduces the risk they get caught, eliminates that risk for their customers and prevents any large commercial competitor from lowering their profits.

New Jersey’s “no home-grow” proposal is “Big Marijuana’s” dream policy, as it maintains the criminal risk of individual customer competition that lowers their profits.

Legalization of personal possession and use of marijuana is a good thing and should not be rejected, despite these shortcomings. But without legal home cannabis cultivation and commercial marijuana sales, it’s incomplete.

Previously in Radical Rant: Curing Vermont Governor’s Fear of Stoned Driving
Click here for all of Russ Belville’s columns

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