Why California’s Medical Marijuana Dispensary Legal Fight Should Be Irrelevant
Is it just me, or do you guys out there also think that it’s a little weird that in a country where 18-year-olds can be sent to fight in a war and liquor can be bought and consumed with impunity, that for some reason marijuana still isn’t legal? Odder yet is that the one state that’s supposedly the most progressive in the country is currently embroiled in a legal battle over medicinal marijuana. The one good thing about all of this is that the rest of the world can’t knock us for being too boring – except maybe the Middle East – they always have stuff going on.
Seriously though, ever since California voters elected to legalize medicinal marijuana usage back in 1996, the state has been slowly dismantling the law bit by bit. Currently, the state’s narcotic bureau has been going after and successfully shutting down cannabis dispensaries. While this doesn’t necessarily kill off access to medical marijuana entirely since people can still grow their own bud, for those looking for the good stuff, they’ll have to go without unless they have a sufficiently green thumb.
Anyway, the reason that California has been cracking down on dispensaries is because under California’s medicinal marijuana law, though cannabis is legal for users who are legitimately prescribed it by doctors or given it by their primary caregivers, dispensaries themselves aren’t allowed to make a profit from their marijuana sales since they don’t actually fit under either of these categories. Therefore, in order to continue operating, Californian dispensaries have instead been designating themselves as the primary caregiver for each of their patients.
Now it’s pretty obvious that these dispensaries can’t possibly be considered actual caretakers. Each dispensary has a clientele list in the thousands and last time I checked a caretaker does more than just plop some drugs down on a counter for you. However, it would seem that without them, medicinal marijuana would be largely inaccessible outside of cultivation done personally or by actual caretakers and unfortunately not every chemo patient has either the energy or money to afford this option. It seems then that California is stuck between a rock and a hard place: either continue to enforce the medicinal marijuana laws as-is, resulting in the possible withholding of medical marijuana to needy patients, or turn a blind eye to the dispensaries and undermine the state’s own authority while also creating a bad legal and political precedent.
But, as I hope all of you out there have come to realize from reading my blogs, there’s always a third option and in this case it’s simple: legalize marijuana.
Yes, I’m aware that California’s Prop 19, which would have legalized personal marijuana use, was voted down in the November election. But thankfully, failure to pass a law doesn’t necessarily spell out that proposition’s death. Like a horror movie, the hand always rises again from the grave. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is currently pushing AB 2254 through the state senate. The bill would not only legalize marijuana if passed, but do so in a more structured and clear way where the state will actually be allowed to tax the new cannabis industry ala its alcohol and tobacco equivalent, a feature ambiguously written or left out of Prop 19.
Now some of you might be thinking that legalizing marijuana is all well and good, but the burdens it will cause to the state and country outweigh any of its benefits. And to this, I say we need to find Doc Brown and take a ride in his DeLorean way back to early 1800s America. The reason is because this is around the time that the American temperance movement began. For all you history buffs out there, you’ll know that it was this movement that helped to eventually spawn the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment, which led to America’s Prohibition Era, which ultimately failed with its repeal by the Twenty-First Amendment. All of this is important because by looking at what caused Prohibition to begin and end, as well as what happened afterward, we can discover what would likely happen if the same tact was taken for marijuana.
First off the temperance movement was founded by Protestant leaders and other political and religious figures who simply viewed alcohol as being counter to their own moral beliefs and denounced it because they saw it as the cause of society’s ills. Sound familiar yet? On to its enactment; Prohibition could not have occurred without the creation of the federal income tax, which was seen as constitutional until the Sixteenth Amendment. Prior to this, the alcohol tax was the main source of revenue for the government. Last, Prohibition was repealed because of the Great Depression. Because of the high unemployment, the government couldn’t collect the high amounts of federal income taxes it had been receiving up until then. Repeal mean the government could earn over $1 billion annually in alcohol tax revenue. By contrast the government was only earning about $2 billion a year on federal income tax and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on enforcing liquor laws.
Sound pretty familiar to anyone out there? The point is that by simply legalizing marijuana a lot of the government’s current financial problems can be greatly relieved much in the same way that Prohibition’s end helped the country get back on its feet. Let’s face it, the War on Drugs has been a failure and marijuana shouldn’t have been on that list to begin with.
And as far as cannabis being a gateway drug, yeah, that’s getting more and more debunked every day. In this sense, marijuana is much more similar to alcohol in terms of its political controversy; however unlike alcohol, health benefits can actually be attributed to marijuana.
There seems to be so many compelling arguments for legalizing cannabis now that it’s hard to keep this criminalization charade up any more.
But what do you guys think? As always, sound off in the comments section below.