Monthly Archives: February 2009

California Assemblyman: Legalize Marijuana & Tax It

One California Assemblyman is saying it’s time to consider treating marijuana like alcohol:

An assemblyman from San Francisco announced legislation Monday to do just that: make California the first state in the nation to tax and regulate recreational marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.

Buoyed by the widely held belief that cannabis is California’s biggest cash crop, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano contends it is time to reap some state revenue from that harvest while putting a damper on drug use by teens, cutting police costs and even helping Mother Nature.

“I know the jokes are going to be coming, but this is not a frivolous issue,” said Ammiano, a Democrat elected in November after more than a dozen years as a San Francisco supervisor. “California always takes the lead — on gay marriage, the sanctuary movement, medical marijuana.”

Anti-drug groups are anything but amused by the idea of California collecting a windfall from the leafy herb that remains illegal under federal law.

“This would open another door in Pandora’s box,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of Save Our Society From Drugs. “Legalizing drugs like this would create a whole new set of costs for society.”

Ammiano’s measure, AB 390, would essentially replicate the regulatory structure used for beer, wine and hard liquor, with taxed sales barred to anyone under 21.

Ammiano also points to a financial benefit to the state from legalization:

[T]he biggest boon might be to the bottom line. By some estimates, California’s pot crop is a $14-billion industry, putting it above vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion). If so, that could mean upward of $1 billion in tax revenue for the state each year.

While I’m not a fan of the taxation side of the argument, I also know that it’s an ineviable part of any legalization/decriminalization scheme that would be implemented.

It works for alcohol, why not marijuana ?

H/T: Outside The Beltway

Kids’ Nutrition Choices Made By Lobbyists, Not Doctors

Kevin Drum tells us “the reality is, this is how things get done”. In the below exchange, Kevin is MJ (Mother Jones), and Michael Pollan (Berkeley journalism prof & food author) is MP:

MJ: Does WIC [the Women, Infants, and Children program] still specify that you buy dairy?

MP: Yes. We had a huge fight to get a little more produce in the WIC basket, which is heavy on cheese and milk because the dairy lobby is very powerful. So they fought and they fought and they fought, and they got a bunch of carrots in there. [Laughs.]

MJ: Specifically? Who knew: the carrot lobby?

MP: Specifically carrots. The next big lobby. But there is also money in this farm bill for fresh produce in school lunch. The price of getting the subsidies was getting the California delegation on board, and their price was $2 billon for what are called specialty crops — fresh fruit and produce grown largely in California.

I would point out to Kevin that this not “how things get done” in my family. In my family, I [more accurately my wife] decides what the children eat, and we do so out of true and sincere care for their well-being. I’m not going to say that our decisions are always right, but they always incorporate the best knowledge we can find. I have no lobbyists showing up at my door paying me to feed my kids carrots instead of broccoli, and thus nothing to cloud my judgement.

Sadly, this is how things get done in government — a fact which I think would point more people towards libertarianism than many others.

Americans idealize government. We act as if it’s populated by well-meaning experts, who want nothing more than to provide humanity with their expertise and are looking out for us. We view them as able to integrate the demands of a wide-ranging polity into optimum policy, using their judgement and experience to improve life for all. Even more, we think they care about us.

The reality, on the other hand, is that government is a job. You do your job to satisfy your customers, which in politics is more often lobbyists than the general public. Why is dairy such a high component of WIC? Because the dairy lobby is enormous. Why did carrots — rather than broccoli, or asparagus, or cauliflower — get such favor? Because the carrot lobby, as strange as it may seem, is powerful. Seriously… CARROT LOBBY! If those two words placed in that order don’t disgust people about the arbitrary and capricious nature of government decision-making, you need to wake up.

The first step to mentally breaking with the government is to understand that government bureaucrats have their own interests — not yours — at heart. This isn’t a revelation. It occurs in business — workers often have goals that serve themselves more than their employer (such as a drive to earn a raise even if business conditions are down), and businesses often have goals that are counter to the best wishes of their customers (i.e. to earn the largest profit the market will bear to keep the doors open and please their shareholders). We understand in most commercial situations that we need to look out for ourselves, but then assume that the government is “looking out for us” in all others. When you assume the best about government bureaucrats, it blinds you to the fact that you’re giving these people coercive power and you can’t be sure that they’re going to use it in your interests.

As George Washington said:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Government doesn’t have the best methods for making decisions. That’s why libertarians don’t want government making many decisions.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished by Government

The Rocky Mountain News reports:

He may have saved three lives, but RTD bus driver Jim Moffett got a jaywalking ticket anyway, along with broken bones and internal bleeding.

Moffett, 58, was driving an RTD bus southbound on Federal Boulevard at 62nd Avenue about 9 Friday night, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

A couple of elderly women exited the bus and tried to walk across Federal to their trailer home on the east side, Moffett’s stepson, Ken McDonald said today.

“With that light snowstorm, my stepdad didn’t think they could cross the street safely,” McDonald said. “There’s a six- or seven-block area where there’s really no place to cross.

“So he got off the bus with another passenger and they helped the ladies cross,” he said.
The four people had made it about halfway across Federal, and most of the northbound traffic had slowed to let them go the rest of the way, McDonald said.

“But one pick-up driver got impatient and passed in the left hand turn lane,” McDonald said. “He plowed right into my stepdad — but not before he pushed the old ladies and the other guy out of the way.”

Moffett is at St. Anthony Central Medical Center with bleeding in the brain, broken bones in his face, a dislocated shoulder, a broken wrist and possible ruptured spleen and liver, McDonald said. His right knee needs a complete rebuild.

[…]

Moffett can’t believe he got a jaywalking ticket for his trouble. His stepson calls it “absolutely obscene.”

McDonald said his stepfather didn’t choose the route across the road, the elderly women had already started across. “And there’s not a safe place to cross the road anyway on that whole stretch.”

I cannot tell how many times I have seen people illegally cross this very street after dark; I have never seen a police officer stop someone or issue a citation for jaywalking. But now when an individual puts himself at risk and possibly saves the lives of three people? Well obviously, this man needs to pay a fine…can’t you see he broke the law!

It’s Time To Lower The Drinking Age

Last night 60 Minutes ran an interesting piece about the suggestion from some that the drinking age be lowered back to 18:

(CBS) Last fall, a group of over 100 college presidents – including the heads of Dartmouth, Virginia Tech and Duke – signed a declaration stating that the 21-year-old drinking age is not working, and fireworks went off.

But the college presidents got what they wanted: a national debate about the drinking age.

When the age was raised to 21 in the mid-1980s, the goal was to reduce highway fatalities. But everyone knows that the 21 age limit hasn’t stopped minors from drinking.

And now some experts believe it’s actually contributing to an increase in extreme drinking

Here’s the video of the entire report, which is worth watching:


Watch CBS Videos Online

I don’t agree with the suggestion that John McCardell, the former President of Middelbury College, makes at the end of the report, that a return to an 18 year-old drinking age be accompanied by a combination of alcohol education in high school and “drinking licenses” that allow someone to purchase alcohol.

The education idea is on the right track, but the idea of the government issuing licenses to people to “allow” them to consume alcohol strikes me as a step down the road toward the return of neo-Prohibitionism.

This much is clear, raising the drinking age to 21 has not curbed drinking among people aged 18, 19, and 20, and it may have helped make the situation far worse than it would be otherwise.

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