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Weed to the Rescue in the Budget Crisis?

by LINN WASHINGTON JR.

Imagine U.S. House Speaker John Boehner blasted on weed.

Given Boehner’s teary-eyed trait, he’d probably cry uncontrollably when high on pot alternating his crocodile tears with hysterical laughter…perhaps even laughing at some of that dumb shi-tuff he and his GOP colleagues constantly do on Capitol Hill.

With Boehner and his GOP congressional confederates battling the Obama White House over federal budget expenditures and debt ceiling limits, there could be value in putting pot legalization into this partisan wrangling if Boehner is honest when claiming these fiscal imbroglios are really about federal government expenditures exceeding revenue.

Putting an end to the federal government’s failed pot prohibition policies, now nearing the eighty-year mark, would provide tremendous sources of new revenue. The federal government could save the estimated $10-billion-plus now spent annually on just law enforcement. The federal government could reap additional billions from taxing what experts estimate is the now untaxed $113-billion per year illegal marijuana industry. Plus ending prohibition would save millions now spent on the anti-pot propaganda oozing from government agencies.

A prime example of the money wasted by the federal government on enforcement efforts is evident in the September 2012 invasion of a predominately Latino community in Santa Rosa, CA by dozens of combat-clad/assault-rifle-armed agents from Homeland Security, the FBI and the DEA. That massive raid, also involving state and local cops, did net a stack of just pot plants but some of those plants were lawfully grown under provisions of California’s state approved medical marijuana law. That invasion, however, did accomplish a mission to terrorize that community including the spectacle of handcuffing mothers in front of their young children.

Yes, the Latino community site of the raid evidenced the racially discriminatory targeting embedded in America’s War on Weed. Other evidence of racism in pot prohibition is evident in blacks being arrested for pot possession in the county encompassing Santa Rosa in excess of twice their percentage of that county’s population according to a 2010 study conducted for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Drug warriors and others quickly dismiss charges of racially discriminatory practices but is it just mere coincidence that of the 3,709 pot possession arrests in Philadelphia, Pa during 2012, only 629 whites were arrested compared to 3,052 blacks? More than 600 whites smoke pot daily on just college campuses in Philadelphia.

This year, as thousands of federal government employees endured having their paychecks slashed by the bi-partisan boondoggle called Sequestration, the National Park Service in Philadelphia wasted money paying park rangers and other police overtime specifically to arrest pot legalization activists who smoke marijuana during monthly protests near the iconic Liberty Bell. And adding insult to the insanity of wasting money arresting peaceful pro-pot protestors, federal prosecutors want to send two of those arrested activists to prison for six months each.

This vengeful antic by federal prosecutors sending ‘a message’ to prohibition opponents will snatch over $28,000 in just jail-cell costs from federal coffers that Boehner-&-Company claim is too empty to fund food stamps for hungry children.

Ending pot prohibition would end the need for expensive anti-pot propaganda from the federal government that still touts discredited rationales initially fashioned by federal anti-drug warriors in the late 1930s.

President Obama’s Office of National Drug Control Policy still contends that use of cannabis causes “cognitive impairment” – propaganda belied by the personal/professional accomplishments of Obama himself. The president admits that he smoked marijuana as a teen and that cannabis consumption didn’t impede him from graduating from two Ivy League institutions including Harvard’s Law School. If marijuana is as mentally destructive as ONDCP contends Obama could have never made it to the Oval Office.

Officials across America have historically exaggerated the so-called ‘pot problem’ ignoring solid evidence that pot is benign and is not a ‘gateway’ drug to harder drug addition. Do some people get whacked-out on weed? Yes! But some people get whacked-out on religion. And some get whacked-out on politics. Remember the craziness radiating from Capitol Hill is not caused by conservatives smoking Whacky-Weed.

A few years after the federal government’s formal prohibition of pot in 1937 the mayor of New York City ordered an extensive examination into the alleged pot problem in his city. That multi-layered examination spanning over four years reached conclusions that contradicted alarmist claims of federal pot police. The fed’s top cannabis cop, Harry “Reefer Madness” Anslinger, indignantly dismissed that NYC study as “unscientific” despite it having been conducted by the New York Academy of Medicine, hardly a cabal of cannabis consumers.

With federal, state and local governments in desperate need of new revenues legalizing pot would clearly offer a good source of currently untapped income. The legalization of medical marijuana in 19 states so far has produced tax revenues for governments while stimulating employment and other economic benefits.

Santa Rosa, the site of that September 2012 pot raid, is the seat of Sonoma County, a jurisdiction providing examples that stupid spending priorities are not exclusive to Capitol Hill.

Many Sonoma County residents wanted to tap that jurisdiction’s contingency fund to restore full-day operating hours in its century old public library system. County officials had cut library hours to shave expenditures, a policy stance that penalizes children heavily. Yet, the same Sonoma County Board of Supervisors that defiantly refused to use contingency funds to restore library hours quickly approved using $240,000 from that fund to retain a marijuana eradication officer when federal funding for that anti-pot position was eliminated.

Legalizing and taxing marijuana will not eliminate the federal budget deficit but it will end the absurdity of ruining lives with arrests for simple pot possession like the 658,231 persons nabbed nationwide in 2012 according to recently released FBI statistics.

LINN WASHINGTON, JR. is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper. His work, and that of colleagues JOHN GRANT, DAVE LINDORFF, LORI SPENCER and CHARLES M. YOUNG, can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net

Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.

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