Tax and Regulate

Marijuana Use Connection to Mental Illness Is Reefer Madness

On July 2, an article by Dr. Samuel T. Wilkinson was published in the Wall Street Journal positing that marijuana use can drastically increase one’s predisposition towards schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Dr. Wilkinson cites research stating that teenage and early 20s use of marijuana holds a causal link to later development of schizophrenia. However, this data is simply not a credible argument against making marijuana legal.

Within his own article, Dr. Wilkinson discusses the “cliff of sanity,” a metaphorical line between sanity and mental illness, and he claims that those with a pre-existing tendency towards mental illness may be “pushed over” by marijuana use. However, if marijuana use before the age of 21 is riskier as a result of a developing brain, then legalization and regulation is the solution.

In response to the article, MPP’s Mason Tvert said, “Legalization would involve carefully controlled outlets that would not sell pot to minors, as opposed to the current situation where illegal dealers will sell pot to anyone, including schoolchildren. The net effect would be less exposure to the drug by our young people at a time when they are most vulnerable.”

In Mason’s letter to the editor, he states that a 2009 study from the journal Schizophrenic Research found that “the prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses has remained stable or declined during periods in which marijuana use increased significantly among the general populace.”

A predisposition to mental illness is a preexisting condition that is not created by marijuana use. In fact, any chemical substance introduced into the body may very well exacerbate the issue, including alcohol. Marijuana does not cause mental illness for users, either occasional or frequent, and making marijuana legal poses the best chance for a safer marijuana market that more effectively limits access to people aged 21 and over.

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Prohibition||Tax and Regulate

George Soros Donates $1 Million to Prop 19 Campaign

Today's just-announced $1 million donation from philanthropist George Soros should help keep the Yes on 19 TV ad running through Election Day, as well as provide a tremendous boost to crucial get-out-the-vote efforts.

From Soros's op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal:

Like many parents and grandparents, I am worried about young people getting into trouble with marijuana and other drugs. The best solution, however, is honest and effective drug education. One survey after another indicates that teenagers have better access than most adults to marijuana—and often other drugs as well—and find it easier to buy marijuana than alcohol. Legalizing marijuana may make it easier for adults to buy marijuana, but it can hardly make it any more accessible to young people. I'd much rather invest in effective education than ineffective arrest and incarceration. [...]

In many respects, of course, Proposition 19 already is a winner no matter what happens on Election Day. The mere fact of its being on the ballot has elevated and legitimized public discourse about marijuana and marijuana policy in ways I could not have imagined a year ago.

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MSM Looks at Marijuana’s Political Future

Every day there are more and more stories in mainstream media outlets about Prop 19 and the growing national movement to end marijuana prohibition. That alone is a promising development. But what’s even more telling has been the way the tone of the coverage is starting to shift from asking, “Should marijuana be legal?” to, “Is marijuana going to be legal? And if so, when, where, and how?”

Check out just three examples from today:

Wall Street Journal: “Democrats Look to Cultivate Pot Vote in 2012”

Democratic strategists are studying a California marijuana-legalization initiative to see if similar ballot measures could energize young, liberal voters in swing states for the 2012 presidential election.

NPR: “Has the US Reached a Tipping Point on Pot?”

California's Proposition 19, if approved by voters, will legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for the first time in the United States. Many other states have relaxed their marijuana laws. Is this the tipping point when marijuana follows alcohol and gambling from criminal offense to harmless pastime -- and source of new tax revenue?

New York Times: “Will California Show the Way on Marijuana?”

Like it or not, the tens of millions of people in California serve as a laboratory for new legislation, and their state sets a legal example that the rest of the states might follow. So, even if you do not live in California, pay attention to Proposition 19: maybe someday marijuana may come to a store near you.

In July, I wrote about the growing belief among political strategists that candidates can benefit from supporting marijuana reform. Just last week, the Oregon Democratic Party endorsed Measure 74, the ballot question that would add state-licensed dispensaries to that state’s medical marijuana law.

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Missing the Forest for the Trees?

Bruce Ross at the Redding Record Searchlight takes issue with my post about a recent Wall Street Journal article, which showed once again how marijuana eradication efforts are counterproductive, but that law enforcement engage in them still because the federal government pays them to. I’ll reserve further comment, and let readers reach their own conclusions. You can read our back-and-forth exchange below:

Bruce Ross: “It’s not about the money.”

Mike Meno of the Marijuana Policy Project reads this weekend's Wall St. Journal story about how Shasta County is continuing -- using federal money -- its campaign against marijuana growing to mean that the county is only doing it for the money, arguing that it's a minor problem and a law the sheriff wouldn't even be enforcing but for the federal dollars.

Well, he gets paid to argue for the legalization of marijuana, so of course he'd think that. But if he knew a bit of the history that any attentive county resident would have picked up over the past decade, he'd know that illegal marijuana growing has mushroomed beyond all previous records in recent years. I vividly recall how in 2005, the Colorado-based environmental magazine High Country News ran a cover article about remote public forests being exploited by growers -- Ground Zero for the trend? Shasta County.

That year, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting uprooted more than million plants statewide, doubling its haul from the previous year, and about three-quarters of that was on public lands, including national parks. Shasta County was the No. 1 county for seizures of illegal pot, with more than 200,000 plants found.

That was '05. And in 2009? The haul was more than 600,000 plants. And growers are still planting mega-gardens.

In other words, there's a very large problem. Overwhelmed federal land managers and local authorities lobbied their bosses and Rep. Wally Herger to supply more federal resources to fight the problem. The facts made persuasive arguments. That is why the federal government is devoting substantial money to fighting marijuana in Shasta County. And they're not using that money to hassle individual smokers or those growing and using under Prop. 215's medicinal guidelines.

Would this problem largely disappear if marijuana could be grown legally? Probably so, and I've written as much a few times.

But the implication that it's not a real problem in our woods today, and that Tom Bosenko's crews are mercenaries who are only chasing pot growers for the federal cash, is ignorant and dishonest.

And here was my response:


Of course I agree that illegal marijuana grows are “a very large problem,” but even the least astute observer would realize it’s a problem law enforcement cannot—and more importantly, have failed to—solve through eradication. The figures you cite prove my point. Each year officers go into the woods to find and dig up more marijuana, and each year criminals are simply encouraged to grow more, thereby worsening the problem. Repeating an action again and again while expecting different results, the maxim goes, is the very definition of insanity. This is why it’s so outrageous that the federal government continues to throw money at such counterproductive efforts. As you (correctly) pointed out, the only true solution is to regulate marijuana and eliminate the need for illegal grows altogether.

It’s also interesting that you leveled the charge of being “ignorant and dishonest” at someone who simply blogged about the story, rather than at the story’s actual author—a writer at the esteemed Wall Street Journal—whose excellent reporting left no doubt whatsoever that police continually engage in this Quixotic quest simply to obtain federal funds that help them keep their departments afloat. Just take the story’s first two paragraphs:

IGO, Calif.—Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko, his budget under pressure in a weak economy, has laid off staff, reduced patrols and even released jail inmates. But there's one mission on which he's spending more than in recent years: pot busts.

The reason is simple: If he steps up his pursuit of marijuana growers, his department is eligible for roughly half a million dollars a year in federal anti-drug funding, helping save some jobs. The majority of the funding would have to be used to fight pot. Marijuana may not be the county's most pressing crime problem, the sheriff says, but "it's where the money is."

Seriously, did you even bother to read the article before writing your post? Sheriff Bosenko himself says the eradication funds are "$340,000 I could use somewhere else in my organization … That could fund three officers' salaries and benefits, and we could have them out on our streets doing patrol." Instead he’s obligated to spend those funds on an objective he knows is unreachable and that he himself says is not as important as the many other issues he needs to focus on. Let that sink in: The sheriff himself (not me) is saying he’d like to focus on other problems and—in direct contradiction to what you wrote—the only reason he’s “chasing pot growers” is for the money. Is the sheriff being “ignorant and dishonest” as well?

Your beef is not with me, Bruce. It’s with the wasteful and irrational policies that allow these illegal grows to continue.

And then his response to my response:

Mr. Meno,

Pardon my ill temper. I've never met you. I have no reason to think you're anything but an honest guy.

But you also don't know what you're talking about if you think the feds just showed up one day offering money if local sheriffs wanted to chase pot growers out in the woods. The pressure was very much from the ground -- and not just from law enforcement but even more so from the local heads of federal land-management agencies who saw a long-standing problem spread beyond their abilities to control.

To which I say (once again), let's finally put an end to that longstanding problem, and regulate marijuana.

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For Law Enforcement, Marijuana is ‘Where the Money Is’

People often wonder why local law enforcement agencies will spend so many resources cracking down on marijuana. As this weekend’s superbly reported front-page piece in the Wall Street Journal explains, it really all comes down to money.

IGO, Calif.—Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko, his budget under pressure in a weak economy, has laid off staff, reduced patrols and even released jail inmates. But there's one mission on which he's spending more than in recent years: pot busts.

The reason is simple: If he steps up his pursuit of marijuana growers, his department is eligible for roughly half a million dollars a year in federal anti-drug funding, helping save some jobs. The majority of the funding would have to be used to fight pot. Marijuana may not be the county's most pressing crime problem, the sheriff says, but "it's where the money is."

[…] To make sure his office gets the federal funds, Sheriff Bosenko since last year has spent about $340,000 of his department's shrinking resources, more than in past years, on a team that tramps through the woods looking for pot farms.

As we've stated many times before, marijuana eradication programs are not only horribly ineffective at reducing the supply of marijuana, but even worse, they force law enforcement to commit massive amounts of resources and manpower to marijuana offenses at the expense of much more serious crimes. That’s why it’s so insane for the federal government to encourage and reward this type of misallocation. As the Journal article points out, California police departments are expected to lose $100 million in state funding this year, presumably leading even more departments to take up the eradication cause.

But if officials want to end illegal grows and see more money in state coffers at the same time, they need stop the madness and tax and regulate marijuana the same way we do alcohol, allowing the state to reap untold millions, possibly billions in new tax revenue while providing law enforcement with sufficient funding and sensible priorities that will allow them to focus on more serious crimes.

Now why can’t the federal government offer incentives with those kinds of results?

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