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Medicating America

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In The Magazine

Medicating America

America is broken. Unemployment is at its highest since the recession of April 1983. The national deficit is the largest in the history of the world, and politicians are arguing like children about raising the debt ceiling, raising taxes on the richest Americans, and cutting social programs like Medicare and Social Security. So, how do we fix it without breaking the bank?

According to a report by the Small Business Administration, “small businesses represent 99.7% of all employer firms and employ just over half of all private sector employees.” When Main Street suffers, Wall Street suffers. So, the answer lies in establishing more small businesses, but in order to do so they must have funds, which America is short of due to a $130 billion commitment to the “War on Terror” and a $787 billion stimulus package…not to mention a $1.4 trillion deficit.

There is an answer I guarantee will create jobs faster than any other industry and produce tax revenues the tobacco industry won’t even complain about. Green jobs and I’m not talking about covering the world in solar panels or insulating houses. Those are great jobs that can benefit this country right now, but the payback period on a loan is too long and it’s not an industry known for making the government money in the form of taxes. The green I’m talking about is weed. The medication for this country’s illness is marijuana.

Marijuana is a product that cheaply produces high margins and has a high demand. The average price of half a gram of marijuana sells for $16.00 on the street, while its cost of production is only $3.40. Spin-off industries would also emerge, such as smoker-friendly coffee shops and industrial hemp farming. Hemp is one of the world’s strongest fibers and produces seeds that contain the highest concentration of essential amino and fatty acids found in any food and are second only to soy in protein. It grows in just 100 days leaving soil nearly weed-free after a harvest and can be used to make clothing, textiles, paper, paint, plastics, rope, insulation, and animal feed. Agriculture has always been the heart and soul of this country, and it’s about time we turn to our Mother Earth to save us. Sure, we haven’t been too kind and compassionate towards her lately, but she will graciously thank us for growing more plants, just as cancer victims, glaucoma patients, and people suffering from chronic pain will thank us.

A Harvard report by Jeffrey A. Miron estimates that the legalization of marijuana would potentially save up to $13.7 billion per year in state and federal taxes used for law enforcement, with $3.4 billion being saved by the federal government and $10.4 billion saved amongst state and local governments. That’s a lot of wasted money spent to fill our crowded jails with people for possessing what has become a prescription drug in thirteen states. There’s no reason to invest our government’s money in the enforcement of these laws when only 11% of these arrests result in trafficking charges, and cocaine and heroin arrests have actually decreased while marijuana arrests have tripled since 1990! This country spends nearly $450 per second regulating drug use, yet all they’re doing is spending more tax money to feed potheads 3 meals a day while they await hearings in courtrooms that are already overwhelmed with frivolous lawsuits. I’d rather give my money to AIG or Citigroup than see nearly $14 billion in taxes wasted enforcing laws that serve and protect no one.

More and more people are turning to marijuana as a business plan now that the job market has gone dry. This is most evident in Michigan, where the first ever college devoted to growing pot has emerged. Med Grow Cannabis College specializes in teaching the business of growing and selling medical marijuana in a state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation. These people are desperate to find jobs, and they are finding them…with weed. Many college graduates I know in my home state of Montana turned to growing pot legally when finding a good job utilizing their degree became nearly impossible. And now that the state legislators are forcing a reformation of the law, despite its passage by 62% of registered voters, these college graduates will be unemployed. Worse yet, the voters that passed the law have no opportunity to show their disdain for the reformation since they have no opportunity to vote against the reformation on the next ballot unless they get enough signatures on a petition. Why must we petition our registered voters when they voted to pass the law in the first place? Our state “represenentatives” are pulling our democracy rug out from underneath us.

According to Jeffrey A. Miron’s estimates based on similar taxation on alcohol and tobacco, $4.28 billion in federal taxes and another $2.14 billion in state taxes could be raised, and when added to the savings from legalization the national total comes to $20.1 billion dollars in revenue that could be used to fund education, infrastructure projects, or research and development into  renewable energy resources, creating more jobs to stabilize the economy.

Even a modest estimate of 7% growth, which is the average expected growth of nearly any industry, would create another $1.4 billion in taxes every year. And I guarantee the marijuana industry will grow at an exponential rate.

My only question is, “Why aren’t we seriously considering this?” America is very good at growing pot and getting better at it every day despite the efforts of federal task forces and rule-crazy cops that still think marijuana is dangerous. If marijuana is so dangerous why aren’t people dying? Not a single soul has died smoking or eating pot. Doctors agree there isn’t a single drug or herb on Earth that is more effective for more ailments than marijuana. It’s used to alleviate pain and stress, eliminate nausea and overcome eating disorders, lessens the effect of multiple sclerosis, helps sufferers of post-traumatic stress syndrome, and obviously helps with depression. I’m sick of people telling me weed is dangerous only to see them go out for a cigarette or hit the bar for a few drinks and drive home drunk. And I’ve never heard of a doctor prescribing cigarettes or alcohol…ever!

The facts about marijuana are drowning in the hypocrisy surrounding this subject. The real problem doesn’t liein the fears of our children trying it because most of them over 13 already have. The problem isn’t in the numbers, either. President Obama knows how profitable and pleasant marijuana can be. The problem is a lack of pure democracy. The problem is elections.

Asking Obama to legalize marijuana, or even subsidize the growth of medical marijuana, would be like asking him to lose the upcoming election on purpose. Potheads are relatively lazy. They seldom vote. That’s not to say they wouldn’t vote if the President did them a solid, but Obama cannot depend on the support of potheads to carry him to the White House. There are a lot of potheads, but like I said, they’re lazy, and wouldn’t consider carrying anyone or anything to the White House. Not even a protest sign.

Now, if we had the ability to allow everyone in the nation to vote on the subject of legalizing marijuana, I’m sure it would pass. The Internet makes this possible. And don’t tell me people without computers would be discriminated against because there are public libraries with public computers with public access to the World Wide Web. And there are also public officials paid by our government to help people access these services. You might have heard of them. They’re called librarians. Plus, this will revitalize the use of Benjamin Franklin’s greatest idea for public education – the public library. I mean, have you been in a public library lately? I didn’t think so because most of them are empty all the time. What happened to this country’s curiosity and willingness to learn? Well, the television is what happened, but that’s another story. The story here is instead of going straight to the issue at hand, our government forces us to elect a middleman to negotiate for us, when we really don’t need a middleman at all. How many times have you bought something only to go home, make a sandwich, crack a beer, and find that same something online for 10% less than what you paid? The Web can be just as useful in government elections, or better yet, national votes for specific issues.

But we don’t vote for issues in this country, we vote for people…and worse yet, we have two options usually consisting of a “Turd Sandwich” and a “Giant Douche,” as South Park so elegantly put it. Sure, you can vote for the loveable loser, but wouldn’t that just be throwing your vote away? And you have to realize the representative you vote for doesn’t know you and probably doesn’t care about you. They care about their image and the image of their party. They care about the “Giant Douche” and the “Turd Sandwich.” Why can’t our representatives at least show they care about us and hold an online vote to determine what the people they’re supposed to be representing really want? I mean, how hard is it to conduct an online poll? It’s done every day!

A pure democracy, run by the people and for the people, would never allow bank CEOs write themselves million dollar bonus checks with tax money that was used to buy them out. A pure democracy would never allow 10% of working Americans go jobless. A pure democracy would never allow 40 million Americans go without health insurance. And a pure democracy would never allow this country to go bankrupt…even if the answer is growing pot. We’ll grow that pot, and we’ll do it better than anyone, and we’ll feel no shame in doing so. So let’s consider the possibilities of the fastest growing industry in the nation and the good it brings to all ye sufferers.

Written by Anthony Varriano for Issue 3 of Cannabis Now Magazine.

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