Just Say Dough: Republicans (and Democrats Too) Are Following the Marijuana Money

CANNABIS CULTURE – No one was too surprised when Denver’s newly legal cannabis stores raked in $5 million in the first five days of 2014, and now can’t get enough supply. But it was surprising when former Ronald Reagan policy analyst Bruce Bartlett wrote a piece called “Why Legalizing Marijuana Is a Smart Fiscal Move”.

Mentioning the positive polling that’s happening around the issue, Bartlett opined, “Perhaps the dominant factor driving marijuana legalization is the desperate search for new revenue by cash-strapped state governments. The opportunity to tax marijuana is potentially a significant source of new revenue, as well as a way of cutting spending on prisons and law enforcement.” He highlighted the recent California Legislative Analyst office report on the MCLR initiative, finding it would save hundreds of millions of dollars in law enforcement costs, and make the same in tax revenues.

Next thing you knew, President Obama was saying marijuana was less harmful than alcohol and AG Eric Holder was announcing the DOJ would allow US banks to accept domestic marijuana money.

Soon, politicians were lining up at the ganja gravy train, including three Republican governors suddenly in favor of some form of legalization or decriminalization. Even doddering Dem and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid finally got on the medical marijuana bandwagon. Soon afterwards, conference goers declared “a golden age of cannabis investing” in Reid’s home state of Nevada.

More pundits are pointing out the moral dilemma of continuing to arrest people for a substance that’s acknowledged to be less harmful than legal alcohol. In order to say, “Yes, I smoked it but I don’t think my daughters should,” Obama reached to the racial disparity in drug arrests, and NPR opined Americans are on the same page. We still can’t just admit that pot is fun, and that most adults can handle it.

A troubling development: states are looking to legalize non-psychoactive CBD rather than THC, but as one mother points out, no parent should support that.

“The principal opponents of marijuana legalization are industries that presently benefit from it being illegal,” stated Bartlett, naming the beer industry (which gave $10K to defeat California’s Prop. 19 in 2010), the pharmaceutical corporations, and police unions, the private prison industry, and prison guard unions.

Even as the word was out that the DEA allowed the Sinola cartel to smuggle billions of dollars in drugs, and DEA agents are leaving their posts to join the marijuana industry, DEA chief of operations James L. Capra admitted legalization scares him, and DEA head Michelle Leonhart said even flying a hemp flag over the Capitol building offended her. The Sacramento Bee‘s Peter Hecht detailed the problem with police in California even as San Francisco reports a 30% decrease in jail inmates due to fewer drug arrests.

CalNORML thinks the best way to ensure California’s medical marijuana collectives benefit from relaxed banking regulations is to pass AB604, to finally regulate medical marijuana at a state level in a way that feds are accepting of in other states. It could be imperative to pass such a bill this year, especially if the “Control Regulate & Tax Marijuana Act”, the one most likely to get funding, passes in 2014. See a comparison of California’s four proposed ballot initiatives.

Ellen Komp is Deputy Director of California NORML and a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture. She manages the website VeryImportantPotheads.com and blogs at Tokin Woman.