Weeding out the bad seeds of legislation

Matt Villa

Last week’s proposal by California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) to decriminalize the possession and sale of marijuana under state law and to set up a system to tax it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act (AB 390) would look to exploit California’s number one cash crop which is estimated to have a $14 billion industry, leading to a potential $1.3 billion increase in annual tax revenue for the state of California, which according to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will reach a $41.8 billion budget deficit in June 2010.

Of course Schwarzenegger is no stranger to smoking joints, but whether or not marijuana could be a solution to California’s growing deficit is up to our state’s ability to turn a profit on scorned habits.

The 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found the inevitable: Marijuana is by far the most frequently used illicit drug in the United States. Of course the majority of users reside in California, totaling 3.3 million, many of which fall into the college-age crowd.

A 2006 U.S. Justice Department survey reported that 16.3 percent of college-age respondents said they had used the drug within the last week that they were surveyed. However, the data could also be a dramatic understatement to just how many students actually use.

These percentages have fueled our current administration on re-evaluating our drug laws and war on drugs.’ According to FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the government spent about $41.8 million on law enforcement for more than 800,000 marijuana arrests in 2007.

Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is similar to crack, meth and LSD. It has no medical use and cannot be prescribed by a physician.’

The fear of marijuana by the feds surpasses the fear of harder substances such as cocaine and amphetamines, which are surprisingly Schedule 2 drugs.’ The real kicker is the fact that the active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can be sold in pill form as a Schedule 3 drug. So how heinous is the plant?

According to the FBI’s annual UCR, it’s dangerous enough to arrest approximately six million Americans on marijuana charges since 1992. That’s greater than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined.

Former President Jimmy Carter told Congress in 1977 that ‘penalties against a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.’
Ammiano’s proposed bill calls for a portion of tax revenue to fund drug-education programs, ones that even the sons of politicians could benefit from.’ ‘

The son of Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.), a congressman who advocated the death penalty for drug dealers, was convicted for possession of 400 pounds of marijuana. The son of former Vice President Al Gore was caught smoking what appeared to be marijuana by school authorities at St. Alban’s School.’

And who can forget our Olympic champion Michael Phelps, who recently had to apologize about his ‘misconduct’ after photos surfaced of him using his super-human lung strength to consume weed out of a glass bong.

Proponents of the war on drugs, marijuana in particular, have tried to sway our society into thinking that marijuana makes your brain soft and your feet fall off. In actuality, many people from all walks of life who have experienced the effects of marijuana have been able to move on and succeed in life’mdash;Barrack Obama, Bill Clinton, Cheech and Chong, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many others.’

However, there are still the vast majority of college-age pot users who will continue to take up room on their parent’s couch while eating cereal and watching cartoons. Marijuana usage should be a health issue, rather than a criminal one.’

As adults, we can go home tonight and drink 10 martinis and smoke two packs of cigarettes. It’s not a healthy thing to do, but it’s not illegal.’ Whether or not you think marijuana is the killer of America’s youth, or it’s the best thing since sliced bread, one can’t deny the urgency our state is in to find the proper resources to fund an adequate budget.

For more information on The Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act (AB 390), visit these Web sites:

www.leginfo.ca.gov : The California Legislature’s official site with information on AB 390 and other bills.

www.canorml.org : A Web site dedicated to informing the public and legalization of marijuana.

www.oas.samhsa.gov : The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies Web site includes information from surveys showing the frequency of marijuana users.