Greetings from
The Publisher . . .

MJ Laws, Money & Happiness?


When the President Obama recently declared he would not have the Feds go after those using medical marijuana (MJ for short), he picked an issue that's received a lot of “independent” action here.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has consistently done what they can to make it difficult for people to access medical MJ.

Personally I thought it was good to see elected officials take a stand based on principles. But isn't the underlying principle that they took an oath to uphold the law\'d1and since California law allows marijuana to be prescribed by doctors for medicinal purposes\'d1aren't they just like those who use marijuana illegally? Aren't they violating MJ laws? Both ignore the law and do what they please. Isn't the principled thing simply to say that their conscience won't allow them to support the law and since they are elected to uphold it, they'll need to step down from office?

There certainly are a lot of changes these days, a lot of rethinking, reevaluating. After the last eight years that's especially great. I've heard some suggest we just reset all the laws back to the way they were before Bush II took office as both President and legislature when he issued more executive orders than all the Presidents combined.

While some are displeased about not seeing specific changes they want to see, there is no denying a lot of the Bush policies are being thrown out.

In the case of medical marijuana, it's a whole new declaration. But does it go far enough?

Looking at the nature of it, isn't it interesting how things just won't go away sometimes? Don't we like to think that once we come up with a solution to something the problem will go away? Maybe what's more peculiar is that when it doesn't go away we think if we force it a little harder then it will.

Educators and toy builders must cringe as they watch adults try to push the square blocks through openings shaped as circles. Maybe we need to up the gradient and change the grade level on that game to Pre-School through Freshmen, including Congressional Freshmen. What a great reminder of the principle that pushing harder doesn't make it fit any better.

Of course the main purpose of the game is to help us discover shapes and patterns, which is an even better reason to keep using it.

When solutions are found, laws are passed and the problem continues to evolve and grow, maybe it was never a solution in the first place.

We've said “No” to drugs for years, and they literally just crop up in new places. Drug cartels now grow MJ in our national parks and forests. There's a pattern here.

The fact that prohibition has never worked for us/US before makes little difference. They're still talking about “winning the hearts and minds of the populace” for Heaven's sake. Why? Did that work once?

Guns and candy bars may have worked in WWII, but failing to see the differences between today's and yesterday's problems doom us from the start.

The changes with medical MJ signal a new direction, but drug control in general is undergoing the same scrutiny and unraveling that's going on all around us/US. That is, discovering that the ways things are often have way too much to do with money. We're following the money better.

Look at the flow of money in California and those we lock up, for instance.

Maureen Cavanaugh, host of KPBS' These Days recently did an incredible weeklong series on this the CA prison system.

Here are some of the things that were brought out on the series. The cost of housing prisoners now costs CA over $10 Billion a year\'d1more than what we spend on education. Spending that money has not bought us more. In the 70's and 80's we had 20,000 inmates. Now we have 170,000. The number of guards has increased from 2,600 to 45,000, yet violence in the prisons has increased.

Forty years ago we had a model prison system with virtually no recidivism. Now, 75% of those released will be back in 3 years.

The major difference is vocational training and the flow of money. One in ten guards makes more than $100,000 a year, and 70% of the budget goes to salaries and benefits. The amount that goes to vocational training is 5%. Experience and study after study have shown that when people leave prison with a job skill, a vocation, they seldom return.

When it comes to the flow of money, however there are even more troubling revelations that were brought out. Californians increased parole sanctions, prison time for non-violent drug offenders and passed the Three Strikes law. One of Canvanaugh's guests likened that to a putting people away for life for spitting on the sidewalk. This was accomplished mainly by prison guards through the CA Correctional Peace Officers Association and efforts by former Gov. Pete Wilson on their behalf.

A PAC called Crime Victims United of California has been the main force behind pushing for tougher laws and keeping prisoners in jails longer. Their financial records show they have not received donations from anyone other than the prison guard's union since 2004.

What do they call that? Marketing? Developing a long-term customer base that keeps coming back?

Whether in the prisons or out, spending less on education simply costs us too much.

Non-violent drug offenders make up 50% of those in CA prisons. Can we afford that “solution” to the drug problem?

Many people think we should go a lot further and legalize and tax marijuana. The conservative international publication devoted to enhancing and understanding business, The Economist, last year called for the legalization of MJ. They did the same thing 20 years ago.

It's hard to argue against it. Studies have shown that around the world, no matter how strict or how lax drug laws are, roughly the same percentage of people use drugs\'d1no matter the laws!

They also show that there is no increase in drug use among young people when laws are more liberal. When liquor is sold, those selling it ask for an ID. Drug dealers don't ask kids for ID when they sell them drugs. In some neighborhoods it's harder to get liquor than it is to get drugs.

MJ could become a legal revenue source as well as bring in millions in taxes. It could be a benefit to society.

One of the best reasons to legalize it is because of the violence it has brought to American cities. Our inner cites could look more and more like Tijuana . Making MJ illegal is the best way to support drug cartels.

Many have said that the whole Mexican government is controlled by drug cartels. We regularly hear about individual government officials being involved.

We already know our politicians are addicted to money. They can't resist it. How long before it becomes commonplace that drug cartels compete with insurance companies and legal drug companies for favorable legislation? Leveling the playing field between corporate and individual interests is hard enough as it is. Let's don't let it take over like many think it already has in Mexico .

The reason to legalize MJ is because we can't control it. The War on Drugs has failed. It's time we acknowledged that.

One distinction that needs to be made is that no one is saying drug use, MJ use, provides happiness. I don't. Happiness doesn't last long when it has to be supplied by external sources.

Legalizing MJ is saying it costs too much for what we get. Trying to control it directs the money to the politically connected and powerful. We have to look at all the garbage that comes with MJ now and compare it to what it might look like if it were legal\'d1taxed and sold in liquor type stores. What system do we want?

As stated above, studies have shown that there will not be a dramatic increase in drug use over the long run. Most of us will continue to find happiness from the same sources we do now.

Have a great month,