Pot is patriotic.
A red, white, and blue billboard is greeting drivers in Tempe, Arizona, with an all-American message endorsed by an ex-DEA agent: Legalize marijuana, then buy all-American cannabis.
“If Arizona regulates marijuana, adults could buy American,” says the billboard, which went up in late June and was scheduled to stay up through the Fourth of July holiday weekend. “Support schools, not cartels.”
The billboard is the brainchild of the media and messaging-savvy Marijuana Policy Project, the chief sponsor of a measure on the November ballot that, if approved by patriotic voters, would legalize small amounts of cannabis for adults in Arizona. MPP was the sponsor of the 2012 legalization measure in Colorado — where voters were also greeted with billboards.
Those touted cannabis as a safer alternative to alcohol — a smart parallel to draw in microbrew-heavy Colorado (which is also the home state of megabrewer Coors). In Arizona, a Republican-voting border state dragged into the drug cartel-fueled violence plaguing Mexico just to the south where local sheriffs warned holiday travelers about armed gangs of cartel assassins looking to steal drugs, the message is being carried by an ex-DEA agent.
“Marijuana should be sold by licensed businesses, not drug cartels,” said Michael Capasso, a former DEA agent who ran task forces in Phoenix and along the Mexican border.
“I know from personal experience that the illegal status of marijuana in the United States helps to fuel demand for marijuana produced in Mexico,” Capasso added in a statement. “If we truly hope to eliminate the criminal element associated with marijuana, the only solution is to make marijuana legal and regulate its production and sale.”
Repeated news reports from TIME, VICE and Cannabis Now have noted a steady drop in the flow of cannabis north across the border, a drop attributed not to improved crime-fighting techniques but decreased consumer demand for illegally-grown black-market cannabis — thanks to legalization.
Medical marijuana has been available in Arizona since 2011, where state licensed dispensaries are open for business to patients with one of 13 qualifying conditions. The program is small, with more than 75,000 registered patients out of a population of more than 6.7 million. Arizona is somewhat friendly to cannabis tourists: the state does respect medical cannabis recommendations from other states (known as “reciprocity”).
While removing a revenue stream from the cartels, legalization would add a cash flow for American government. According to a recent report from the state Legislature, Arizona could realize up to $82 million a year in tax revenue — including $55 million to its school system, which is consistently ranked near the bottom nationally.
So raise those flags high, get the kids some new textbooks, and take a bite out of horrifying cartel crime.
What do you think? Is supporting American grown cannabis an act of patriotism?