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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cannabis Legalization My Be Closer Than We Think

After much ado, it seems that the relatively harmless nature of cannabis, and the inanity of its criminalization has finally started to dawn on lawmakers across the country. The now concluded year 2009 is appearing to be one of the best years for publicity that the cannabis legalization movement has ever seen. It seems as though every day, another state is considering medical marijuana legislation, decriminalization, and even legalization. Even the federal government has started to change its attitude toward the highly controversial plant after President Obama issued a memorandum to the Department of Justice requesting that the organization not pursue medical marijuana recipients and their suppliers who operate legally under state law. However, it seems that the biggest news occurred as the decade drew to a close; our very own state of Washington is now considering cannabis legalization.

State representatives Roger Goodman and Mary Lou Dickerson have introduced the bill, and it aims to reclassify cannabis from an illegal drug to a licit and taxable substance. This bill differs from other bills such as decriminalization and deprioritization bills, which still treat cannabis possession and cultivation as a crime. The legalization bill would treat cannabis like alcohol, as a substance that would be sold through the state, with a hefty tax attached. Whether or not cannabis would be sold in liquor stores is up in the air as for one, the bill hasn’t passed yet, and secondly, Goodman has suggested that he would like a provision that would prevent cannabis from being sold were alcohol is sold.

The tax revenue from the bill would not go into the Washington state general fund, but rather it would be used specifically to fund drug treatment and mental health services. These services have been on the chopping block since our state’s budget woes began. It is unclear how much tax revenue could be earned from cannabis, however estimates place the figures in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Regardless, the monetary figures generated from cannabis tax would doubtfully be small potatoes, and the added tax revenue could make a serious difference in our state.

In addition to earning our state money by taxing cannabis, the legalization of cannabis could potentially save our state untold and gargantuan sums of money. As of right now our state prosecutes citizens for cannabis possession and cultivation, and even simple possession of cannabis in amounts of less than forty grams is considered a gross misdemeanor and can warrant jail sentences of up to a year. If cannabis were made legal, we could literally fill swimming pools with the money that we would save by not investigating, arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating cannabis offenders, and that is just the start.

In addition to money earned and money saved by the state, our very own citizens would also be saving and earning money if cannabis were made legal. Convictions for cannabis possession can cost an individual thousands of dollars in legal fees and fines, and in addition it can prevent that individual from gaining employment, finding a place to live, and even getting money to go to school. Cannabis legalization could once and for all end the viscous circle of tragedy that follows a drug which has negligibly harmful effects that don’t even begin to compare with the very harmful effects of alcohol, which is currently legal.

Finally, in addition to our own citizens saving money, among many other things, legalizing cannabis would increase personal opportunity by opening the doors to new industries and economies. It is important to remember that cannabis is not simply a recreational drug. When grown as hemp, it is a valuable and environmentally friendly industrial resource. There are over 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, and much of our farmland is prime real estate for hemp cultivation. Industrial hemp could provide our state with a bio-fuel source, while simultaneously reducing our use of pesticides and fertilizers on farmland.

There are countless and untold benefits to cannabis legalization, and it is important to insure that this bill succeeds. This means that all of us must do our part by encouraging our representatives to support this legislation.

If you live in Washington, please contact you're legislators and tell them that if they expect your continued support for their political careers, that you expect their support of this bill in return. Remember, they are employed by your tax dollars, so make them work for you

If you don't know who your legislator is, go here.

I have already contacted my district reps, and they so far one has replied and showed interest, which just goes to show you that if you want your legislators to support or not support a bill, you have to let them know.


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