Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alaska, Oregon, D.C. Will Move to End Pot Prohibition

The buzz today? The impending victory for the liberal and libertarian alliance riding down Highway 420.

Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voters will vote to legalize marijuana, moving toward creating a new state tax revenue stream and saving time and resources so the police, courts and corrections systems can focus on violent criminals.

When all the votes are counted, it will mark the second wave, following Colorado and Washington, to reverse outdated, expensive and dangerous marijuana laws. The mood of the nation has mellowed and there is much more at stake than simply ending too-often arbitrary small-time pot busts be banned by law in those states.

The Chamber of Commerce is about to consider embracing a new player in the agribusiness. Many conscientious growers will apply their entrepreneurial vision, legally, in a democratic marketplace. Cash-strapped governments will slap a sin tax on a substance and hamper the dark side of violent cartels that hawk their wares duty-free and persist as a pox on pot's kind kin.

The seeds have been planted. Colorado has collected about $45 million in pot tax revenue through the first eight months of this year, the state Department of Revenue reports. Other states and residents in the nation's capital are waking up to the potential windfall the government can make by taking illegal marijuana profits largely out of the hands of organized crime.

After nearly a century as part of the economic underground, the American cannabis souk is already a budding, competitive marketplace. Washington state and nearby Vancouver, B.C. weed merchants fear that once marijuana is legal in Oregon, growers and sellers there will be able to undercut prices, creating a demand for their clients to head south to catch a cheaper buzz. That, according to pro-legalization activist and entrepreneurs, is not the worst problem to face for a fledgling industry fleeing an ill-informed and unenforceable prohibition.

The expected green light that will come today in D.C for legalizing pot will be one of the most significant political victories for the blooming mainstream marijuana trade. Its advocates hope it will be a wake-up call for the federal government. With legalization staring them right in the face everyday, Congress and the Justice Department may finally choose to rectify anachronistic 20th century laws with the will of the people in the 21st century.

"We are going to win and the opposition will have to overturn an election to stop us," Adam Eidinger, the chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign, emailed me in response to a couple of questions I threw at him this weekend. "The D.C. Council will transmit the initiative in January as planned as well. Any stopping this makes America no better than China or Russia when it comes to respecting democracy."

Eidinger's activist curriculum vitae is well known, but in truth he has for more than a decade hoped to make his living re-igniting the American hemp industry. As pot's innocent cousin, production of hemp's strong, natural fiber is another victim of a misappropriated and misinformed war on drugs. From clothing to oil to durable rope and rugs, hemp can offer new jobs, more taxable revenue and another cash crop for American farmers.

One other state, Florida, decides today whether to legalize medical marijuana, but there is a giant sinkhole in the path: the question is being posed as state constitutional amendment, not a straight referendum. It requires 60 percent of the voters in The Sunshine State to pull the lever for 'yes' in order to become law.

The Florida measure will surely fail to hit the necessary threshold for passage. Older voters remain skeptical. Clearly the pro-medical marijuana campaign failed to sway Florida's elderly voters on the merits of medical marijuana. Seniors are a powerful bloc of voters across the country still influenced by the prohibitionists' lingering propaganda.

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