Legalize, Regulate Marijuana

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††Legalize, Regulate Marijuana

Posted by CN Staff on July 06, 2010 at 12:05:29 PT
By John Masterson†
Source: Missoulian †

Montana -- There have been several alarming crimes in the news recently, reportedly linked to the burgeoning marijuana industry. The lurid headlines are leading some to believe that Montana's medical marijuana system is broken or even hopeless. Clearly, some changes are needed. The ultimate fix, however, is eluding most coverage.Medical cannabis didn't "cause" the crimes mentioned. Cannabis is just a plant, used from time to time by some 100,000 Montanans for medical, spiritual, personal or social reasons.
It's just a plant, but a plant that sells for more than any other herb or spice on the market. Why?It takes some skill and experience to reliably grow high-quality cannabis indoors. But cannabis requires no fancy laboratory processing, no dangerous chemicals, and no special tools or equipment beyond those needed for basic indoor gardening.It's just a plant, less toxic than aspirin, less addictive than caffeine, and less intoxicating than alcohol.It's just a plant, but because of the black market, it still sells for $250 to $400 per ounce. For perspective, a single tomato can weigh several ounces.When you have dried flowers that command prices in the range of precious metals, it is simply inevitable that violent thugs will break the law to steal, hoard, defend and profit from it.Medical marijuana, while a blessing to many, leaves the criminal black market intact, which keeps prices high. That's the reason for the violent crimes we've seen recently, not the plant itself.The solution? Regulate cannabis in a manner similar to how we control beer and wine.Under such a system, licensed producers would be allowed to sell to licensed retailers who would be responsible for age verification of their customers. These businesses would pay annual licensing fees, sales would be taxed (raising an estimated $24 million annually) and we'd allow adults to produce a personal amount in private (just as we do with beer and wine). There would continue to be strict penalties for driving under the influence.Under such a system, the seemingly bottomless well of medical marijuana gray areas would be eliminated, the black market would be virtually extinguished, and cannabis would become much harder for kids to buy because retailers would check IDs (and it would continue to be a crime to provide marijuana to minors).Unbuoyed by prohibition, prices would fall and people for whom marijuana is medicine would immediately benefit from ready access from multiple licensed retailers. If the experience of numerous other states and countries is any guide, general usage rates would not go up.Regulating cannabis more like alcohol would also embrace principles of individual liberty and privacy envisioned and enshrined in our nation's and state's constitutions.Despite the recent headlines, we don't have a "medical marijuana crime problem" - we have a prohibition-related crime problem that is making the news because marijuana is legal for a small segment of the population. If you want to get control of the Prohibition-style gangster violence, the solution is to regulate marijuana similarly to beer and wine for all responsible adults.John Masterson is director of Montana NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and writes from Missoula.Source: Missoulian (MT) Author: John MastersonPublished: Tuesday, July 6, 2010Copyright: 2010 Missoulian Contact: oped missoulian.comWebsite: URL: -- Cannabis Archives

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Comment #7 posted by EAH on July 06, 2010 at 20:53:00 PT:

If only
Legal like beer and wine is a step less restricted than spirits. Beer and wine can be produced at home legally. Distilled spirits, not. The thing is that if some degree of sanity arrives with a B+W style legality, special interests will aggressively seek to steer policy. Then it will depend on how things are going
with legality, but I imagine there won't be any further relaxation of regulation.The 21st amendment gave alcohol regulation to the states. That established 
a patchwork of differing state regulations. It also established a very very entrenched status quo of powerful distributors. They rule the "three tier" system and most state politicians are in their pockets. That system is badly outdated in today's world but we're stuck with it because of the 21st amendment and the money wielded by those wholesalers/distributers.I fear state politicians will seek to place cannabis into a three tier system.
While for many consumers it's not a problem, it's a major drag for sophisticated consumers, small producers, and small retailers. Sure compared to Prohibition it would be great but why repeat more mistakes?Unfortunately the only way to real legal cannabis that has chance of being truly functional would be Federal reform and consistent national policies.
At this moment many thousands of pounds of excess CA cannabis production get exported to other states. Either it's legal everywhere or the dysfunction continues. Federal legality gets into UN treaty obligations and unwinding all that international stuff is going to be very hard to get the Bureaucrats to do.I don't expect to see cannabis become legal in the best, fairest and most functional way any time soon, unfortunately. We can't seem to solve any problems effectively these days.
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Comment #6 posted by Paint with light on July 06, 2010 at 20:10:37 PT

John Tyler
At least now we have them confused.Before they were convinced.Now we've just got to get them converted.A comment on the article........I bet none of the regulars are surprised that I think this guy has some real good points.After the legal like alcohol stage we can move to the legal like tomatoes stage.I wondered, when he compared the tomato's weight to bud weight, if he is a regular reader here.Also this line,"It's just a plant, less toxic than aspirin, less addictive than caffeine, and less intoxicating than alcohol."Agreed, legal like alcohol, for now.
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Comment #5 posted by John Tyler on July 06, 2010 at 16:55:09 PT

What we have in some places now is partial legality. This causes a great deal of confusion in the prohibitionistsí mind. These issues we see in the media would disappear, if and when the cannabis industry is fully relegalized from grower to retailer.
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Comment #4 posted by dongenero on July 06, 2010 at 14:57:02 PT

comment #3
Thanks dankhank. Good article.
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Comment #3 posted by dankhank on July 06, 2010 at 13:37:45 PT

news .... many studies do we NEED?
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on July 06, 2010 at 12:35:11 PT

Thank you for the blog posting. Drudge is another web site I never look at. I'm glad you check it out. Thank you.
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Comment #1 posted by konagold on July 06, 2010 at 12:33:13 PT

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