The Marihuana Problem


     The use of marihuana should be regulated and taxed by the government, whether federal, state or local. That’s what governments are for. It is a great mistake to allow the entire industry of marihuana, from beginning to end, to be conducted as a black market, without any control or regulation. It is the role and function of government to regulate the traffic in any material that is deemed to be hazardous in any way, and it is also the role of government to lead the way in the research of hazardous or controversial materials. Education must be the pillar of any policy of control, not legal sanction.

     To maintain the position that such a policy is useless, since the use of marihuana is to be stamped out in its entirety, is indefensible, not only because it is a lost cause, but also because it is legally and politically without authority. It is an arbitrary and unprecedented abuse of power to attempt to interfere with the way people want to live their lives.

     The absolute depths of stupidity are reached when the response to a controversial material is to forbid any research on the subject. I don’t understand. Certainly anyone can see that to forbid research on a controversial subject is just about the stupidest approach imaginable. Perhaps the data on marihuana is flawed or incomplete or inadequate, but to date the overwhelming consensus of informed opinion regards the dangers of marihuana as vastly overstated, and potential medical benefits possibly considerable. If this is not true, and marihuana really is a dangerous drug, I certainly want to know, and I ask that research not only be allowed, but funded. I want to know more about LSD too, while I am at it. Without any doubt, LSD is a most incredibly amazing and potent material, and I want to know more about it. Since one of the most common reactions to the use of LSD is to report a spiritual experience, or even an experience of the presence of God, I want to know more about it, not to see it stamped out in fear as something too powerful to investigate.

     The lessons from the prohibition of alcohol are so obvious: in the first place, when the Government of those days had the happy notion of simply outlawing the use of alcohol, they at least realized that nothing less than an Amendment to the Constitution would be required before they could assume the authority for such an arbitrary act of power affecting people’s personal lives. The argument against prohibition is the same for both alcohol and marihuana: leaving the industry in the hands of an outlaw black market, rather than having it taxed and regulated, turns out to be an incredible mistake, with negative social consequences everywhere you turn.

     No matter what you think of alcohol, making it a criminal offense to consume it does not represent the enlightened way to deal with the problem. The only politically correct way to approach a problem such as alcohol is to educate the public, perhaps most especially the youth, to a full and clear understanding of the nature, risks, and possible consequences of the use of alcohol.

     The use or abuse of alcohol, marihuana, nicotine, caffeine, theobromine, sugar, or any other hazardous substance should be considered a health issue, not a legal issue. It is one of the functions of Government to maintain Departments of Health that will look out for important health-related issues and make sure to publish important information. This policy has worked quite well in the case of cigarettes, and there is no reason why an educated public should not be able to make informed choices about their use of marihuana.

     The only way for so many billions of people to live together on this earth in peace and freedom is to maintain a policy of Tolerance of Diversity. Tolerance for diversity is related to flowering, and is associated with such times as the Renaissance and the 60’s. I find the progressive narrowing of social tolerances which has been going on for many years now to be a very chilling social thermometer. Relax, enjoy life, love one another, live in peace, and let everyone else do so too, in their own way.

     If the production and sale of marihuana were licensed by government, its use would still be controlled in two ways: first, by a program of research and education, and secondly, by a tax. Theoretically, there is no limit to the amount of control you can exercise by simply adding a tax. The use of gasoline, alcohol, and cigarettes are all severely modified by aggressive taxation, and marihuana could be dealt with in the same way.

     So here is the proposal: allow marihuana to be cultivated and sold under license, but collect a tax of $100 per ounce sold, with the tax revenue used for drug research and education. That would set up a simple machine that would become self-regulating. The exact amount of the tax could be modified as needed.

     At one stroke, this would stop a “war” on peaceful American citizens who are just trying to live their lives. This whole slice of America’s people who spend time in jail for marihuana related offenses would be relieved of this oppression, and an ineffective and very costly military opposition to marihuana cultivators would be laid to rest. All those who want to play war games should be loaded up on space ships and shipped off to the dark side of the moon, taking their armaments with them.

     In its place, the Government quietly moves onto the other side of the pay window, and instead of spending billions of taxpayers dollars on a drug war (in which it turns out that about 98% of the takings are industrial hemp with no THC anyway, a crop which Canadian farmers are once again allowed to farm for their profit), the Government starts collecting a tax that could not only fully fund the education and research program mentioned above, but could replace the income tax, and retire the national debt into the bargain; and all of this as a voluntary tax just like the lottery. If you don’t buy lottery tickets or smoke marihuana, you can enjoy a free ride, with all expenses paid. The buses will run for free.

John Stahl
September 18, 1998

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