Monday, January 5, 2009

A Maybe Not So Crazy Proposal

by Ben Small

I was sitting in my easy chair last night suffering through football withdrawal, depressed that I couldn’t even find a junior college game on the tube, when I began scanning through our local newspaper online.

Border patrol agents had found a cache of marijuana inside a cabbage truck. Not just inside the truck, but inside the cabbage. How’s that for creativity? And just a couple days ago, a similar stop found weed buried underneath the wood floor bottom of a flatbed truck. Pickup trucks are discovered daily loaded with bales of grass.

Marijuana seems more and more to be the American drug of choice, at least according to the Tucson area Border Control. And fighting this traffic has led to open warfare between the Mexican police and drug lords, and the violence is spilling to the American side.

On the street, marijuana is cheap, $100 a lid, which is about half the price ten years ago.
The Border patrol estimates they stop about ten to twenty percent of the shipments. No wonder the price is going down.

But the price is still high enough to act as a strong incentive to smuggle. A lot of money is changing hands, and none of it is taxed. Smuggling is on the rise, and as enforcement is stepped up, those threatened respond with greater violence.

Seems to be a wicked circle.

Maybe we should just legalize the stuff and tax the hell out of it, like we do booze.


Gee whiz.

Oh boy.

Now I’ve done it.

No, I’m not talking all drugs. Just marijuana. After all, all these decades of study, and there still isn’t evidence that marijuana is more harmful to the body than alcohol. And alcohol makes people aggressive, stupid and prone to violence.

When’s the last time you saw an aggressive pothead? Stupid, maybe, but not aggressive. One must wonder how many lives would be saved if drunks were smoking grass instead of throwing down whiskey.

Drug trade is market driven. So if the market dries up because smuggling is no longer profitable, wouldn’t that be a net win? Look what happened to the mob’s liquor trafficking after prohibition was repealed.

Amsterdam may serve as an example. It’s commonly believed that pot is legal in Amsterdam. It’s not, but the law against it is not enforced if one smokes one’s doobie in a brown café or discreetly. Those who serve as exhibitionists on the public street will still be arrested. Amsterdam has not seen a huge crime wave, and smoking grass has not led to a demonstrable increase in illegal consumption of other drugs, an argument against the common assertion that grass is a stepping stone to more harmful drugs. If that’s so, then so is alcohol, as it’s the addictive personality that’s usually at fault.

Most of my friends are appalled when I make the suggestion to legalize pot. That’s because usually I’m somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun on the political spectrum. But it strikes me as practical good sense that if criminalizing pot is causing such harm, and costing us a fortune, maybe we should consider the alternative, especially when there doesn’t seem to be a wealth of research after many years of study that pot is worse than alcohol. And face it, in most states, cops have more to do than bust pot smokers. Cops know it’s no big deal. Sure, you don’t want pot smokers on the road, but look at all the medications that warn against driving. One wonders if one can drink the water and drive. Many states treat a small amount of marijuana as a traffic ticket.

Pass the munchies, please.

It’s interesting to note that the drive to make marijuana illegal so many years ago, started in the Southwest. Arizona and New Mexico. And not because of any harmful effects. Mexicans smoked marijuana, and the Southwest wanted to drive Mexicans out of the country. It was thought that if stiff jail terms and fines were imposed on Mexicans who smoked grass, they’d leave and not compete with American workers.

Well, that proved to be a resounding success, didn’t it?

One can argue, and do it quite well, that legalizing marijuana will not stop the cartels from smuggling more dangerous drugs. And that’s true. But the demand seems to be for marijuana. Yes, heroin is making a comeback, I read, and I assume that’s true. But it’s nowhere near got the numbers that marijuana does. Chances are if you are a Baby Boomer, you’ve tried pot. Just about everybody did in the sixties and seventies, even if a precious few didn’t inhale.

How many of you went on to something more dangerous (other than alcohol)?

We need tax revenues, and we need to stop the escalating border violence. We need to put a dent in the smuggling trade. My suggestion is to take their market away from them. Legalize pot and tax the hell out of it. Maybe put some of the money into rehab facilities that one doesn’t have to be rich to use.

Or does this solution make too much sense for Congress?

[Author’s note to Congress. As I’m putting Denton Wright in the middle of this mess in my forthcoming as yet untitled book, please don’t change the laws before my book comes out.]


Chester Campbell said...

Do you intend to tour the country expounding your revenue-enhancing pot plan? You could do book signings along the way.

Has anyone checked out the cancer risk from pot smoke? Or could it blow out your eyeballs? Maybe put a crimp in your...well, you know, where crimps aren't welcome?

Maybe if we could get the bookstore owners high on the stuff, they would be more eager to invite us for signings. And the Kindle owners. They'd be so buzzed out they'd buy everything we put up there. There's all sorts of possibilities.

Ben Small said...

LOL. Actually, I believe they have. Yes, there's risk, but pot smokers are likely smokers of cigarettes, too, so it's hard to say, I'd suspect, how much of the risk is directly related to the pot. I don't pretend to be an expert. But alcoholics die, too. I've known a few who died; their livers gave out. And a friend's husband died just recently, of alcohol poisoning.

My point is really the harm, not to mention the cost, of all these smuggling and anti-smuggling efforts. A lot of people are dying on both sides of the border. Down here, it's like Prohibition all over again.

I've heard proposals to let the cigarette companies in on it, to steal the market from the smugglers and drug lords. At least, that way, THC content could be controlled, distribution could be organized and controlled, and taxes could be collected.

What we're doing right now sure isn't working.

Beth Terrell said...

I agree with you 100%, Ben. The damage alcohol does to the abuser and to and others is enormous.

Prohibition didn't work for alcohol in the twenties, and it's not working for pot today. Let's at least get some revenues out of it. Maybe we could put the Big Three Auto Makers into the pot business and kill two birds with one stone.

Ben Small said...

Beth, I am struck dumb. What an idea. Heck, maybe if they filled their trunks with pot, they'd sell some cars. :<)

Good one.

Ben Small said...

As a follow-up, an FBI friend sent me a copy of the FBI's somewhat new standard of background investigation criteria re drug use for FBI employment. Seems they've opened it up a bit. He says they were having trouble finding qualified recruits who'd never used marijuana.


The FBI is firmly committed to a drug-free society and work place. Therefore, the unlawful use of drugs by FBI employees is not tolerated. Furthermore, applicants for employment with the FBI who currently use illegal drugs will be found unsuitable for employment. The FBI does not condone any prior unlawful drug use by applicants. We realize, however, some otherwise qualified applicants may have used drugs at some point in their pasts. The following policy sets forth the criteria for determining whether any prior drug use makes an applicant unsuitable for employment, balancing the needs of the FBI to maintain a drug-free workplace and the public integrity necessary to accomplish the FBI’s intelligence and law enforcement missions. Applicants who do not meet the listed criteria should not apply for any FBI position.


Under the FBI's current Employment Drug Policy, an applicant will be found unsuitable for employment if they:

* Have used any illegal drug (including anabolic steroids after February 27, 1991), other than marijuana, within the past ten years, or engaged in more than minimal experimentation in their lifetime. In making the determination about an applicant’s suitability for FBI employment, all relevant facts, including the frequency of use, will be evaluated.
* Have used marijuana/cannabis within the past three years, or have extensively used marijuana/cannabis or over a substantial period of time. In making the determination about an applicant’s suitability for FBI employment, all relevant facts, including the recency and frequency of use, will be evaluated.

You can easily determine whether you meet the FBI's illegal drug policy by answering the following questions:

1. Have you used marijuana at all within the last three years?
2. Have you used any other illegal drug (including anabolic steroids after February 27, 1991) at all in the past 10 years?
3. Have you ever sold any illegal drug for profit?
4. Have you ever used an illegal drug (no matter how many times or how long ago) while in a law enforcement or prosecutorial position, or in a position which carries with it a high level of responsibility or public trust?

If you answered Yes to any of these questions, you are not eligible for employment with the FBI."