Radical Rant: News Flash—Legalization Isn’t Going to Solve Everything

4 Minutes and 20 Seconds with Sherbinski, Iconic Strain Cultivator
Photo by Vortex Farmacy

Why are you interested in the legalization of marijuana?

To solve the gross inequality of income in American society?

To cure the evils of racism embedded in American society?

To provide an economic engine to revive the middle class in American society?

Not me. For me legalization of marijuana must solve one problem alone: it must end the ability of police to harass us over the smell of weed.

Maybe it is because I grew up in the Just Say No ’80s in a conservative county in Idaho, a redundancy from which springs such bigotry against cannabis that its governor is the only one nationwide to have vetoed a CBD-only law that would spare lives of epileptic children. (You know you’ve stepped to the fringes of social conservatism when you’re rejecting something Utah pioneered and the South embraced.)

Because of that experience of fearing a cage in the Gem State and having been caged over the smell of weed in the Beehive State, I tend to see this movement in very clear terms as what our opponents have always called it—a war, not on drugs per se, but on those of us who choose the unapproved ones. A war where the soldiers are the cops and our statehouses are the battlefields.

If you’re lining up with the enemy to support continuation of this war, in my eyes, you’re a traitor in that war. If you’re actively working for the enemy in continuation of this war, in my eyes, you’re an enemy combatant.

But if you’re a millennial and a California native, you don’t have that experience and outlook. For you, marijuana has always been something available at the pot shop. It’s always been a rite of passage to visit Permission Slips-‘Я’-Us and give the autographologist your annual protection money for Arrest Anxiety Syndrome. Even if you didn’t, back when you were in school Governor Terminator made marijuana just a ticket and a fine, so you think prohibition of marijuana is no big deal.

If you’ve got that perspective, I can see why legalization of marijuana freaks you out. But it doesn’t excuse your willful ignorance and cannabis privilege. When the bullet hits me, it doesn’t matter if the enemy soldier is an unwitting conscript or a volunteer patriot, I’m just as shot.

In decriminalized medical California, 8,800-plus marijuana felonies are issued annually, even after the passage of Prop 47 reduced many felony drug crimes to misdemeanors. People still get marijuana misdemeanors, too. And if you’re living in poverty, even a $100 ticket can be a serious obstacle to overcome.

Telling people that “anybody can get their Prop 215 [i.e., medical marijuana] card” also smacks of someone privileged enough to throw the kind of money around that poor people cannot.

I read too many cannabis consumers online in comments sections, Facebook walls, and blog posts complaining about legalization for numerous hypothetical reasons.

They complain that legalization “turns cannabis over to the corporations / elite / the one percent / Monsanto.” Yes, in America and most of the world, legal commodities are manufactured, bought, and sold by fictitious legal entities.

How is cannabis legalization supposed to create a market for marijuana unlike the market for any other product? Require all businesses to be non-profits? Artificially control supply and demand through regulation that will keep prices high and guarantee criminal diversion? Socialize the cannabis market and let the government run it?

They complain that legalization “doesn’t do a thing to address racism, since marijuana crimes remain and minorities still get busted disproportionately.” Yes, America has a racist criminal-justice system; blacks and Latinos are arrested, tried, and convicted disproportionately and more harshly than whites for just about every crime.

How is cannabis legalization supposed to rectify 407 years of racist oppression brought by white invaders of this continent? I can’t imagine that maintaining the prohibition status quo does much in that regard.

They complain that legalization “doesn’t look out for the little guy.” Yes, the tendency of American capitalism is to favor bigger business entities with the means to out-compete smaller entities.

How is cannabis legalization supposed to reverse the trend towards big-box retailers who outperform their smaller competitors on selection and price? By artificially restricting companies so price remains high and criminal diversion is profitable?

They complain that legalization “ends medical marijuana.” Yes, eventually when there are no longer marijuana crimes, we won’t need to protect sick people from arrest.

But as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed, “you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” The legalization being proposed in all five states, including California, does not alter those states’ medical marijuana protections one iota. Unless that complaint is “ends medical marijuana’s monopoly on the cannabis market,” it’s a shameful lie propagated by people whose economic interests are threatened by competition.

Economic arguments against marijuana legalization are morally indefensible. The price of marijuana under prohibition is subsidized by the misery of those busted for it. While prohibition exists, that risk tariff is a defensible cost of doing business.

Obstructing the dismantling of prohibition, however, places you in the position of promoting the misery of others for your personal gain. It makes you no better than the cops, prison guards, drug testers, rehabs, drug companies, and other prohibitionists whose profits depend on marijuana’s criminal status.


Russ’s previous Radical Rant: We Will Remember the Traitors!

And check out: The The Top 10 Myths About California’s Prop 64 (With Footnotes!)

For all of High Times’ legalization coverage, click here.

And click right here for all of our dispatches on the Prop 64 race in California. 

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