This week we’ve seen three usually staid mainstream media outlets – Newsweek Magazine, the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and FOX Business News – examining the growing movement in California and nationwide to discuss the inevitable re-legalization of cannabis in America. [UPDATE:Apparently the FOX Business Channel (not FOX News) will have a series called “High Noon” beginning Monday at Noon ET / 9am PT.]
We begin with the PBS NewsHour and their fine report featuring the Honorable Rebecca Kaplan from the Oakland City Council and Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University. For balance (I suppose) they also interview the police chief of El Cerrito, California, who provides the obligatory doses of “reefer madness” at around the 5:00 mark.
Once again, I have to ask the cop at the end of the piece: How many people who don’t smoke pot now are going to start smoking pot once it is legal, and how much is that going to cost? Whatever it is, make the tax on pot equal to that amount, minus the expenditures we’ll save on not arresting people and sending helicopters on weeding missions, and we’ve covered the costs! (Actually, since Miron estimates that we’d reap in revenues and savings around $14 billion annually from legalized pot nationally, you have to convince us that the brand new legal pot smokers who aren’t already smoking now would cost society more than that.)
That stupid retort that legal weed will cost society more than the taxes only works if you believe that nobody is smoking weed now and suddenly when it’s legal, everyone will smoke weed. 22,000,000 PEOPLE ARE SMOKING WEED THIS YEAR ALREADY! Whatever that costs us as a society, we’re already paying NOW without taking in any tax money!
Cannabis does not “add another vice” to tobacco and alcohol that costs our society so much more than their taxes bring in. Alcohol and tobacco use create huge medical bills and death. Cannabis does not. With three legal choices and cannabis being obviously safest, we’ll cut costs as people choose it over alcohol and tobacco, and raise tax revenues that are currently going to black marketeers.
Read more about Newsweek and FOX Business News after the break…
Next we have the series of article in Newsweek, which has seemingly devoted an entire issue to the subject of legalization. In “Welcome to Potopia”, they describe the section of Oakland known as Oaksterdam as “a model for what a legalized-drug America could look like.” Dr. Nora Volkow from NIDA and Prof. Mark Kleiman from UCLA are cited to provide the necessary balance, with the typical warnings that “It’s certainly true that this is not your grandfather’s pot,” as if our grandfathers were smoking nothing but ditchweed in the 1960’s. (Sorry, but Sgt. Pepper and Dark Side of the Moon were not composed by nor appreciated by people smoking ditchweed.) Our own Paul Armentano is quoted as well:
The fact that we now are debating it—at least in some parts of the country—is the result of a number of forces that, as MacCoun puts it, have created the perfect pot storm: the failure of the War on Drugs, the growing death toll of murderous drug cartels, pop culture, the economy, and a generation of voters that have simply grown up around the stuff. Today there are pot television shows and frequent references to the drug in film, music, and books. And everyone from the president to the most successful athlete in modern history has talked about smoking it at one point or another. “Whether it’s the economy or Obama or Michael Phelps, I think all of these things have really worked to galvanize the public,” says Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the coauthor of a new book, Marijuana Is Safer; So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?”At the very least, it’s started a national conversation.”
Newsweek also looks at the “green rush” in Los Angeles County in a piece called “The Wild West of Weed” and how District Attorney Cooley says “about 100%” of the dispensaries are illegal and that “the time is right to deal with this problem.” Weed dealer turned dispensary owner Jason Beck tells his story of suffering through a DEA “smash-n-grab” raid where the cops were trapped in his store thanks to all the bulletproof glass and “man traps” he had installed for security. “If we were real gangsta drug dealers, we could have sniped them all out,” Beck says, lamenting how the DEA destroyed all his security equipment and how $12,500 in cash just mysteriously disappeared.
The Newsweek series winds up with a look at Drug Policy Alliance’s Ethan Nadelmann, called “The Pro-Drug Czar” (a term I’d bet he’d disagree with… he’s not “pro-drugs”, he’s “anti-prohibition”). Ethan gives the readers some of the best sound bites on how the drug war is impacting our prisons, saying “We lock up more people on drug charges than all of Western Europe locks up for everything, and they have 100 million more people than we do. We have less than 5 percent of the world’s population but we have almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population. We rank first in the world in per capita incarceration, and the drug war is the No. 1 driving factor.”
Then this morning we are told the folks over at Fox Business News are beginning a series looking at the legalization wave in America. There are no stories or videos to post yet, but you can be sure that when there are, we’ll report on them here at NORML.
The remarkable thing in these series of news stories are not that the mainstream media is covering the legalization issue, it is how they are covering the issue. The discussion is no longer “what about the children?!?” and the doom-and-gloom warnings of heroin in the 7-Elevens if we legalize cannabis. The discussion now focuses on the economic viability of the cannabis market and the 40-year-long failure of the War on (Certain American Citizens Using Non-Pharmaceutical, Non-Alcoholic, Tobacco-Free) Drugs™ to do anything to impede that market. The pot-pun headlines are fading away and the ledes of the stories are tilted favorably toward our issue. In the past the government anti-pot propaganda dominated the story and if any contrary view was even broached, it was reformers being thrown a bone deep in the closing paragraphs to offer a rebuttal that was often couched in derogatory, “here’s what the stoners say” language. Now our side is presented as the rational, common-sense, business-savvy side of the issue with the hysterical law enforcement propaganda given the end-of-article quotes, often couched in desperate, “here’s what the reefer mad say” language.
America is becoming convinced that legalization of cannabis makes sense from a public health, public safety, and economic standpoint. And we haven’t even begun bringing up how much money industrial hemp would bring us in a legalized cannabis world…