Will money talk?


It's a sweet-voiced, normal-looking middle-aged woman who looks sincerely at the camera and tells us that she's one of millions of Californians who want to pay taxes on marijuana, legalizing her drug of choice and helping to refill the state's empty coffers (the taxes could fund 20,000 teacher salaries, she says). This is an ad from the Marijuana Policy Project, founded in 1996 to remove criminal penalties for marijuana use. 

Even though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (who's admitted to inhaling) suggested in April that it's time for a debate on the legalization and taxation of marijuana, and even though there's a pro-pot bill in the California legislature (AB 390, which would tax and regulate the drug), many TV stations have refused to run the 30-second ad, either ignoring requests for rate cards or rejecting it on the basis of "standards" or "comfort" level.

A Field Research Corporation poll in April revealed that 56 percent of Californians favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

To bolster its case further, the Marijuana Policy Project offers these arguments:

  • In 2007, more than 74,000 Californians were arrested on marijuana charges – 80% for simple possession, not sale or manufacture. During the same year, more than 66,000 violent crimes went unsolved.

  • Marijuana is California’s top cash crop but this industry goes untaxed while Sacramento raises taxes on middle-class families and is making deep cuts to police, schools, and hospitals.

  • Prohibition creates an unregulated, criminal market for marijuana where drug dealers routinely sell to kids. Regulating marijuana will take marijuana out of the hands of criminals and put it where it belongs: in a well regulated, licensed market only available to adults.

The lady in the ad says marijuana is "a substance safer than alcohol." Alcohol abuse kills 75,000 Americans annually. Cigarette smoking accounts for more than 400,000 deaths each year. But recent research on the health impacts of smoking marijuana shows mixed results. While a study by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse, released in 2006, found no connection between marijuana smoking and cancer, a 2007 British study revealed that one ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, produced temporary psychotic symptoms in people, including hallucinations and paranoid delusions.

We've legalized alcohol and cigarettes. In the name of saving an economy, we now may legalize pot -- allowing people to make their own decisions about a substance that has not yet been shown to cause any deaths.