Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kelly McParland: Benign White House unleashes marijuana boom

Anyone with an interest in the debate over medical marijuana might want to keep an eye on California and Colorado, where prospects for the pot business have never been brighter. It’s not far-fetched to suggest a combination of financial need and the Obama administration’s benign neglect could make California the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana next year.

Without making a big deal of it, the White House has made life a lot easier for pot enthusiasts. Although 13 states have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes, it remains a crime under federal law, which means you may be free under state law to open a dispensary and start offering various types of pot, but can’t be sure a federal narcotics team won’t bust in and drag you off to jail anyway. If that happens, the U.S. Federal Court won’t let you use the state law in your defence....

Apart from its enthusiasm for liberal social policies -- the more high-profile the better -- California has another, more compelling reason to embrace legalized pot: It’s broke. The state budget is in such a crisis it chopped $15 billion in spending this year, largely on education, and was forced to send out 327,000 IOUs worth $2 billion.

Legalizing marijuana would allow it to be licenced, regulated and -- best of all -- taxed, producing a juicy new revenue stream. It would probably also make it all but impossible for other states to maintain more restrictive laws. With more than 30 million Californians able to fill their baggies at the corner store, attempting to staunch the flow across borders would become an expensive exercise in self-deception.

So the economic crisis may do for potheads what decades of lobbying, protesting and defiance failed to achieve. And if Obama succeeds in pushing though health care reform, marijuana users might even find a way to make him pay for their supply.

National Post

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