Thursday, June 23, 2011

Will Barney Frank and Ron Paul legalize pot?

Barney Frank might be the guy who bankrupted America, but it looks like he's finally doing something good for a change.

He's teamed up with Ron Paul – the maverick libertarian who I'm rather a fan of – to finally end the federal ban on marijuana.

I've written extensively about the circumstances that led to cannabis being banned in the United States in Jacques magazine and how this ridiculous state of affairs has led to pot being America's biggest cash crop. I think making it illegal is the worst and most inefficient form of social behavioral policing – an attitude prohibition had already warned us didn't work (and marijuana statistics prove it still doesn't.)

I am strongly of the belief that everybody in America should have the freedom to make their own choices about what they do and don't do with their bodies and money. Legalizing pot actually recognizes this essential American liberty – respecting the free will of the nation's citizens, instead of trying to police them (ineffectively, I might add.)

Yet it's not even smoking grass that makes me want to legalize it. I don't smoke marijuana myself, but do I think hemp has magnificent potential to produce food, fiber and even biofuel far more effectively than wood, switchgrass or corn. It's quite literally a wonder-crop. Thomas Jefferson – who grew acres of the stuff – once advised: "Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country." The Frank/Paul resolution could be the first of of the many small steps it takes towards reenergizing this country's economy.

Besides, cannabis critics needn't be concerned that this is some kind of pot free-for-all. Frank and Paul are proposing not the blanket legalization of marijuana, but simply allowing individual states to dictate their own rules regarding pot.

This actually ends one of the most mind-numbingly stupid things about America's ridiculous pot-embargo – that several states (California being an example) have legalized pot through the state legislature, but state-licenzed pot growers and sellers can still get raided by federal authorities. It's an absolutely absurd, untenable situation and not helped by presidents like Obama tacitly condoning it by warning: "Legalization is not in my vocabulary."

If the bill passes, states will be able to set their own rules on who can grow it, who can buy it and – more importantly – how it gets taxed and regulated. For many cash-strapped states, including my own, this has the potential to end their deficits practically overnight.

There are billions and billions of dollars to be made legalizing pot – and at the moment all that untaxed profit is being channeled towards criminals instead (most of the Mexican drug cartels, for example, use marijuana sales as the bread-and-butter of their operations.)

Sadly, the bill is a long-shot. It has a single Republican supporter and the Democrats are far from unified in support of the measure. What's worse, President Obama will be forced to call his bluff on the bill if it did pass – and he's already threatened to veto it.

But Rome wasn't built in a day – and Barney Frank and Ron Paul planted a seed with this bill that shall somebody blossom into something magnificent.

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