The Revenue Remedy Is Reefer
Marijuana is medicine.
I am a medical marijuana advocate, self medicating for 52 years who also believes in the 3 R’s—the Revenue Remedy is Reefer.
Laugh at will but let’s logically discuss. Less than one hundred years ago you could go to jail for making and selling alcohol. It was called Prohibition. In 2011-2012, State stores generated $2.1 billion in revenue. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board contributed more than $494 million to the State’s Treasury.
Forty-one years ago you could go to jail for playing numbers. It was gambling, and it, too, was against the law. Forty years later the Lottery announces record profits over $3 billion. Some of those profits are used to help senior citizens, and as, a senior citizen myself, I get homeowner’s rebates and help paying for my prescriptions. It’s all thanks to the state legalization and fiscal management of a once illegal activity.
Today, most municipalities and states are looking for new sources of income. This is certainly no secret to those of us who live in and near Pennsylvania’s capital, the City of Harrisburg, a municipality not only plagued by poverty and unemployment, but also desperately searching for new revenue sources to help solve its continuing structural deficit (never mind its enormous Incinerator debt). If I told you there is a recession proof cash crop commodity that could create hundreds of jobs and bring in millions of dollars, would you be interested?
Marijuana. Just like drinkers and gamblers, the marijuana smokers are out there, and I guarantee you know some. The fact is just like alcohol was gotten during Prohibition, marijuana smokers obtain the product, and they definitely would much rather do it legally than illegally, such as is starting to happen little by little across the United States. All marijuana smokers I know—adults with homes, families, jobs, i.e. you and me—would be happy to patronize a store called the Marijuana Mall, The Reefer Room, The Weed Feed, The Folks Smokes, or The Pot Spot. We wouldn’t worry about getting robbed, of obtaining an inferior product, or of being arrested by the police. The product could be taxed by the State, and we would pay our tax with a smile.
Of course, the debate immediately arises about recreational versus medicinal use. So let’s discuss it from a medical standpoint, which is perhaps the easier and more scientific one to evidence. No need to get into the highly charged discussion on impairment, addiction, gateway, and side effects, which is a discussion drenched in assumption, supposition, false evidence, and lack of proof by too many of those whose knee-jerk reaction is to oppose legalization. Rather the indications that marijuana is a medicine are more concrete and more digestible for the skeptical.
Who needs this medicine? Older people afflicted with pain, discomfort, and maladies who don’t want chemicals in their bodies. Cancer patients. Those infected with HIV. Other antidotes are prescribed too quickly in those cases. Many of the other antidotes such as Vicodin, Oxycodone, and Percocet are more volatile and highly addictive. When I broke my leg about twenty years ago, I was very quickly handed a prescription for Vicodin for the pain. I gave my doctor back those pain pills and told him, “I’ll smoke my reefer and feel better.” Unfortunately, we still live in a residual haze of “Reefer Madness,” but I assure you, I didn’t turn into a crazed lunatic who was compelled to pull a Lizzie Borden with an ax. Nor did I become addicted to a pill to pop every time I felt pain or withdrawal.
The fact is marijuana has been demonized in our culture and society. All too often it becomes a joke when discussed rather than a legitimate conversation about revenue and pain management in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, states like Colorado and Washington are helping change the attitude with legislation.
How will we handle the marijuana dilemma in Pennsylvania? How did 20 states get medical marijuana approved? Was there a statewide referendum, a legislated bill? How should it be regulated? Who will sow it, grow it, pick it, clip it, pack it, and ship it? Will we sell it in the pharmacy, the grocery store, the state store, the corner store, compassion centers? How will it be packaged? Not to mention that there are many other uses for the rest of the hemp plant, such as paper, food, canvas, and rope. The outlook for a renewable revenue source from beneficial products that people desire is astounding.
What would benefit the most citizens – state run or private enterprise? Who will benefit from the taxable income? Should the profits go to local schools, museums, structural deficits, each citizen? In the City of Harrisburg, how many residents would object if it paid off our Incinerator debt and funded more police? The crime rate would decline and our jails will have more room for criminal offenders rather than non-violent pot smokers.
Senator Casey, we must lobby the Federal Government to take marijuana off of Schedule 1. The Federal Government classifies marijuana as more deadly than cocaine, meth, and pills. That’s like saying coffee will do more harm than Johnny Walker alcohol.
Senator Rob Teplitz and Representative Patty Kim, I ask you to please convene a commission to intelligently deal with marijuana legislation in Pennsylvania. Let’s have this public discussion. Considering the financial fragility of the State’s capital, now seems as good a time as any to start the transformation from illegal to legal.
Let’s make Harrisburg the “Hemp Hub.”
Further reading: January 13, 2012 The Washington Post–Hemp legalization effort gathers steam
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