THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Evidence suggests that almost a century of marijuana prohibition faces an event horizon.
30th April, 2018 0
On April 26, the “initiated legislation” petition proposal to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults in Michigan, similar to legal beer, wine, and liquor, was approved by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers by a unanimous 4-0 vote. And now it is on the November 6th ballot.
Times are changing fast. The political strategists for both parties have the data to show cannabis is a winning issue for candidates. With crucial midterms ahead, neither party wants to let the other party to take credit for this popular movement. Gone is the restraint that kept politicians away from sensible drug law reform for the past two generations. Time and demographics have caught up with the old-guard drug warriors.
Like the end of the prohibition era in 1933, the federal ban on cannabis needs to be lifted before cannabis companies can mature into mainstream business operations. Federal laws against marijuana have tended to cripple cannabis companies with a punitive net tax exceeding 70% (due to IRS Rule 280E) and have tended to exclude them from the banking and credit card services that other businesses enjoy. Federal laws make every person involved subject to federal forfeiture laws for confiscating private assets, even if the company is legal under state law.
Congressional politicians seem ready to ride the wave of voter sentiment and take a more positive attitude towards cannabis. So many real people have clamored for tolerant marijuana laws for so long that our leaders have finally caught wind. In these days of populism, it is a risky campaign strategy to cling to outdated marijuana prohibition laws. Politicians have even developed a talking-point for their flip-flop on the issue; Chuck Schumer recently said: "My thinking — as well as the general population's views — on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there's no better time than the present to get this done. It's simply the right thing to do."
Michigan is poised to take advantage of federal law changes when they come, and they may change quickly. The stigma of cannabis seems to be gone – and gone for good. Almost as many people use cannabis as drink beer, and the cannabis market may get to be as big to be as the beer, wine, & liquor market, and this means economic opportunity for our state if legislators stay ahead of the game. Fully legal marijuana in Colorado brought in $247 million in tax revenue for last year.
As evidence of the changing atmosphere in DC, and the prospect of a quick shift in federal law, consider the following recent conduct of congressional leadership and executive agencies:
1. Chuck Schumer announced that he would introduce a bill to de-schedule marijuana entirely.
2. Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado, who boycotted the president’s appointees when Trump’s AG Sessions tried to turn the clock back and threatened to prosecute state-legal pot stores, got a promise from Trump to live and let live with marijuana enforcement in exchange for Gardner supporting Trump’s Department of Justice nominees.
3. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill to legalize industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the federal list of controlled substances; to remove the federal hurdles in place and give states the opportunity to seize the full potential of hemp industrial production.
4. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is joining with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on a bill that could finally reconcile the current discrepancy between federal and state cannabis laws. Says Gardner, “Basically, this is a states’ rights bill. This is a federalism bill that says if a state like Colorado decides to move forward on medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, CBDs [cannabidiol, which is a medical cannabis compound that doesn’t make one “stoned”], hemp, that that activity is going to be lawfully, legally carried out. It opts the state out of the marijuana provisions of deferral law, of Schedule 1. While this doesn’t change Schedule 1 at all, it simply says if the state wants to do this, it no longer violates the law. So, if Oklahoma wishes to maintain a prohibition on marijuana, then it would be illegal under state and local law in Oklahoma. But as far as Colorado goes, there would no longer be an illegal activity.”
5. The FDA has set the stage for a debate on re-scheduling of marijuana for an upcoming session of the World Health Organization specially convened to reconsider cannabis laws, and
6. both chambers of Congress passed “right to try” bills that might have accidentally legalized medical marijuana for terminally ill patients.
7. Rohrabacher-Blumenauer protections against federal spending to prosecutor state-legal companies were added to the 2018 omnibus spending bill by Pat Leahy of Vermont.
8. American Society for Addiction Medicine, which is not an advocate for legalization, acknowledges that opioid overdose death rates are 25 percent lower in states with legal medical marijuana.
The Prohibition Era ended in 1933, but not until America learned a hard lesson in unintended consequences. Public academia has overstated and redefined the concept of addiction to exploit budgetary priorities, which provide government grant seekers with low-hanging fruit, and government bureaucrats at many levels maintain with job security. Education and parenting time are the cures for drug and alcohol abuse, not a one-size-fits-all approach of heavy-handed policing and criminal records that rob youthful offenders of their future.
Enacting the “REGULATE MARIUANA LIKE ALCOHOL” proposal is wise policy.
The lessons of the past 10 years, with the implementation problems that plagued the 2008 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, show the wisdom of staying in control of the legislative process later by enacting the measure now, if only to keep the door open for changes in the new law by ½ majority, instead of a ¾ supermajority vote. There are radical elements in each party, and some party squeaky-wheels who fall hook line and sinker for the spoon-fed government propaganda of the past 100 years would do well to rethink old conclusions and reconsider a policy of tolerance towards cannabis users. Almost as many people use cannabis as drink beer, after all, and harsh marijuana laws have accomplished nothing but to waste billions in taxpayer dollars every year. It turns out that good people do use marijuana, and almost everyone knows and loves someone who does.
Americans should be building bridges, not burning them; being judgmental about cannabis tends to divide rather than unite. Prohibition laws seem petty and officious to most Americans. Many agree that drug laws reward the criminal element they seek to repress by creating a vacuum that the black market can fill, then making dealers rich enough that they can afford to buy off the justice system. Laws that don’t respect people breed people who don’t respect laws. Prohibition undermines the rule of law by squandering the credibility and legitimacy of government.
As this great debate moves forward, those who wish to get involved can join Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol @ www.regulatemi.org, or contact the state NORML of Michigan chapter at www.minorml.org.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)