Taking The High Road
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Taking The High Road
Posted by CN Staff on March 26, 2010 at 10:05:32 PT
By Jessica Bennett, Newsweek Web Exclusive 
Source: Newsweek
California -- In downtown Oakland, there is a nine-block area that locals call "Oaksterdam." Nestled among what was once a rash of vacant storefronts, it's a kind of pot utopia where everything moves just a little bit more slowly than the outside world. Here, where medical marijuana is legal, you'll find the Blue Sky Coffeeshop, a pot dispensary where getting an actual cup of Joe takes 20 minutes but picking up a sack of Purple Kush wrapped neatly in a brown sack takes about five. There's the Bulldog Cafe, a lounge with a not-so-secret back room where the haze-induced sounds of Dark Side of the Moon seep through thick smoke. There's a glass-blowing shop where bongs are the art of choice, and, of course, there's the fabled Oaksterdam University, a pot school operated by a man named Richard Lee.
At 47, Lee is a kind of unofficial Buddha to the pro-pot movement. He has transformed a neighborhood and brought thriving new businesses to Oakland's downtown. Now, as the sponsor of an initiative that was approved this week by the California secretary of state—to appear on November's ballot—Lee hopes the rest of California will join Oakland as a kind of trailblazer in the fight for marijuana legalization. If approved by voters, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act would make California the first state in the nation to make pot legal, allowing Californians 21 and older to grow and possess up to an ounce. And in much the same way Oakland has embraced the medical-marijuana industry, the law would pave the way for local jurisdictions to tax and regulate the marijuana trade—a concept that, with the California state government billions in the red, even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said should be up "for debate." "People are no longer outraged by the idea of legalization," former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown wrote in a recent op-ed. "And truth be told, there is just too much money to be made both by the people who grow marijuana and the cities and counties that would be able to tax it."Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron has estimated that the cost to the country of cannabis prohibition is $13 billion annually, with an additional $7 billion lost in potential tax revenue. With that in mind, Oakland voters became the first in the nation earlier this year to enact a special cannabis excise tax—$18 for every $1,000 grossed—that the city believes will generate up to $1 million this year. Lee hopes legalizing marijuana on a state level would do the same, only on a much larger scale. "The reality," he says, "is that we're creating jobs, improving the city, filling empty store spaces, and when people come [here] they can see that."California has allowed for medical-marijuana use since 1996. But "medical" is something of an open joke in the state, where anyone over age 18 with a doctor's note—easy to get for ailments like anxiety or cramps, if you're willing to pay—can obtain an ID card allowing access to any of the state's hundreds of dispensaries, or pot shops. "You can basically get a doctor's recommendation for anything," one dispensary worker told NEWSWEEK. Federal law, of course, still forbids the cultivation and possession of marijuana. It was banned, over the objections of the American Medical Association, in 1937. But in February of last year, Attorney General Eric Holder stunned critics when he announced that the Department of Justice would cease raiding medical-marijuana dispensaries (in California and elsewhere) that had been authorized under state law. Obama's newly appointed drug czar, R. Gil Kerlikowske, has since condemned legalization, in a speech to police chiefs in San Jose earlier this month.You'd think it might make California users nervous—except that the drug czar does not have the legal authority to enforce drug laws. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy did not return NEWSWEEK's calls for comment, but experts say the reality is that the federal government doesn't have the resources, or the desire, to go after each and every Californian who is operating within their local laws. Federal punishment for marijuana possession of up to an ounce is harsh: up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Under California law, the same crime is a misdemeanor—subject to a measly $100 fine. "We already have the Justice Department saying they're not going to interfere with practices that are in compliance with state law," says Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, a pro-pot lobbying group. "That statement was made in reference to medical marijuana, but there's no reason to think the approach to recreational use would be any different."The arguments against the passage of this kind of law are easy to list: that it glamorizes pot use, promotes a gateway drug, leads to abuse. And though studies show the health effects of marijuana are fairly mild in comparison to drugs like heroin, cocaine, or even alcohol, there are still risks to its consumption. Heavy pot users are more likely to be in car accidents; there have been some reports of it causing problems in respiration and fetal development. And, as the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, put it recently, there are a number of medical professionals, and many parents, who worry that the drug's increased potency over the years has heightened the risk of addiction. "It's certainly true that this is not your grandfather's pot," says Mark Kleiman, a drug-policy expert at the University of California, Los Angeles. Opponents of the initiative, including California's Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is seeking the governorship, and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, a Democrat who is running to replace Brown as attorney general, are gearing up for a fight. But Lee has pledged to use $1 million of his own funds from his various thriving businesses in Oaksterdam, and he has put together a highly organized group of allies, including former Clinton White House consultant Chris Lehane. It's also possible he'll tap multibillionaire investor George Soros and George Zimmer, the head of the Men's Warehouse chain of clothing stores, who have donated to efforts to relax drug laws in the past.The vote will be the second time in nearly 40 years that Californians have had the chance to decide the issue of legalization; the first one was Proposition 19 in 1972 (it failed). But much has changed since then, in both legal regulation and cultural attitudes. Thirteen states now allow medical marijuana, and a number of cities, such as Oakland and Seattle, have passed measures making prosecution of adult pot use the lowest law-enforcement priority. In April, an ABC/Washington Post survey showed that 46 percent of Americans support legalization measures, up from 22 percent in 1997. And in California, a recent Field Poll showed that 56 percent are already on board to legalize and tax the drug. This month, NORML launched a national ad campaign that will appear in the center of Times Square, declaring "Money Can Grow on Trees!" And everyone from the president to the most successful Olympic athlete in recent history (Michael Phelps) has talked about smoking it at one point or another. "This is a new world," says Robert MacCoun, a professor of law and public policy at University of California, Berkeley, and the coauthor of Drug War Heresies. "If you'd have asked me four years ago whether we'd be having this debate today, I can't say I would have predicted it." We'll see if California voters will agree.Source: Newsweek (US)Author:  Jessica Bennett, Newsweek Web Exclusive Published: March 26, 2010Copyright: 2010 Newsweek, Inc.Contact: letters newsweek.comWebsite: http://www.newsweek.comURL:  -- Cannabis Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help 

Comment #27 posted by Hope on March 28, 2010 at 09:37:33 PT
Chicago Tribune
An unconventional cure for Mexico’s drug violenceSteve Chapman,0,4379276,comment-display-all.column
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Comment #26 posted by runruff on March 28, 2010 at 02:53:07 PT
Anger and hate..
...the natural by-product of tyranny!
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Comment #25 posted by dankhank on March 27, 2010 at 20:00:23 PT
backatcha ... love the billy Idol at HIGH volume ... :Dneed to allow emoticons in here ... :-)
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Comment #24 posted by Hope on March 27, 2010 at 19:01:43 PT
Comment #11 posted by Dankhank
That's wonderful.Thank you.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #23 posted by runruff on March 27, 2010 at 17:38:42 PT
#15, yeah Bobby,
I like his version too!My wife said cleaning up behind me is a full time job!
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Comment #22 posted by Hope on March 27, 2010 at 17:12:08 PT
Not, "Oh well". What can we do? More of the same old fear mongering, and screaming, and fearing, and despising.It has been a long frustrating road. We expect crap, lies and exaggeration out of the prohibs. I hope we can shut them down quickly and well.Oh, well. Let's do it.Maybe not with a "sigh"... but with this...
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Comment #21 posted by Hope on March 27, 2010 at 13:51:29 PT
That's true.They won't get it.People have been led away from their families and neighbors in chains.They can't see it. They'd rather say something cute.Oh well.*sigh*
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Comment #20 posted by Hope on March 27, 2010 at 13:44:08 PT
It's doing me some good to listen to him again.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #19 posted by Hope on March 27, 2010 at 13:41:42 PT
Right now...
Mr. Tambourine Man.Wonderful.
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Comment #18 posted by Hope on March 27, 2010 at 13:18:09 PT
Runruff, Had Enough
I think I'll put some Dylan on and see if it does me some good.Thanks.
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Comment #17 posted by Had Enough on March 27, 2010 at 13:06:24 PT
The Watchtower
The hour is getting late...for... The Joker and the ThiefAnother great tune from Bob Dylan...This is Jimmy’s rendition***All Along The Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix (studio version)***lyrics
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Comment #16 posted by observer on March 27, 2010 at 12:49:36 PT
Hackneyed 'High Road'
They just can't help making light of things with the cutesy pot puns in an article's title.'d be laughing much harder if ordinary people weren't regularly hauled off to long jail terms for pot - in the land of liberty and freedom. But the very thought of jail or prison for pot must be such a downer for media hacks and their Mockingbird editors, for they rarely even mention it. 
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Comment #15 posted by Had Enough on March 27, 2010 at 12:48:49 PT
Re: #13 Highway 61...revisited
Bob Dylan - highway 61 revisited***lyricsHighway 61 Revisited
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Comment #14 posted by FoM on March 27, 2010 at 05:58:44 PT
What a great song and video. The peace, love and understanding of our generation is alive and well and it makes me smile. 
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Comment #13 posted by runruff on March 27, 2010 at 05:23:37 PT
Chicken Little University!
The school of no change, still the school of no, not the the school of know!"The earth is flat" and "the sky is falling" and "the boogie man still hides under your bed at night". Still the only subjects taught at CLU, still their only talking points!The Second mother said to the seventh son, yes I think it can be easily done, just set some bleachers out in the sun, out on Highway 61! Whea Wheeeeeuuuuu! [enjoy the show folks] 
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Comment #12 posted by Skillet on March 27, 2010 at 00:21:31 PT
2/3 of conservatives say legalize it.
stupid comments as suspected by the prohibs.still 61% approve 
Fox news poll
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Comment #11 posted by Dankhank on March 26, 2010 at 20:10:25 PT
OT ... my favorite subject ... song ...
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Comment #10 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on March 26, 2010 at 19:27:00 PT
Paul A. vs. Gen. B.M. on Dylan R.
I got to see it live.Paul won hands down. He was able to answer the questions. Paul Armentano, as usual, made perfect sense.On the other hand, when asked what different approach other than legalizing that he would take as an alternative to the failure of the status quo, General B.M. had nada, nothing, no answer what so ever. B.M. just babbled about alcohol, heroin, cigs, and kids.It was like a discussion on how to put out a fire. Paul argued that putting water on it would help. B.M. said that the water was dangerous because might get some children in the fire wet, and we should keep flicking matches at it, without explaining how that would retard rather than continue to feed the fire.
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Comment #9 posted by The GCW on March 26, 2010 at 17:56:35 PT
1,000 applications per workday
US CO: Flood of medical-marijuana applications forces change Webpage: 26 Mar 2010Source: Denver Post (CO)"The department has been receiving about 1,000 applications per workday"-0-The people want cannabis.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on March 26, 2010 at 16:17:22 PT
You're welcome.
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Comment #7 posted by Cheebs1 on March 26, 2010 at 16:13:18 PT:
Nice Job
Thanks for the vid post. I think Paul did a great job at the end. As always, there was not quite enough time to refute all the opposition's views though.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on March 26, 2010 at 14:31:04 PT
Video: Dylan Ratigan: Will California Legalize MJ
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Comment #5 posted by Cheebs1 on March 26, 2010 at 12:56:57 PT:
Look at this load of fertilizer. This prohib site is run by a recovering meth addict that was also an "escort". I find it funny that most prohib sites don't allow comments. I think it is comic that these sites only hand out their narrow minded unsupported beliefs without any kind of back and forth discussion. I think it goes to show that it doesn't matter what my, your , or our opinion is. They are only interested in stroking their own egos and listening to themselves repeat the party line.
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Comment #4 posted by The GCW on March 26, 2010 at 12:44:44 PT
Summit Daily News.
US CO: Calif. pot vote isn't just hippies versus cops 
Webpage: 26 Mar 2010Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on March 26, 2010 at 12:44:28 PT
MSNBC Video: Legalize Pot?
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 26, 2010 at 11:34:33 PT
Arizona Senate Votes To Tax Marijuana if Legalized
March 25, 2010URL:
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Comment #1 posted by Graehstone on March 26, 2010 at 10:12:10 PT
Not Guilty was a long and hard road, but he won, God bless his heart.
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