From week to week, there are five basic topics that a columnist covers. In ascending order of importance they are sports, pop culture and the arts, local politics, national politics, and predictions. Depending on the reader, there is some debate about whether local or national politics is number two, but there is no question that the most important skill any good columnist possesses is the ability to accurately forecast the future.
Naturally, my 14-months-before-anyone-else 2007 Official Groundbreaking Prediction that Barack Obama would be elected the 44th president of the United States followed by my alone-among-my-peers 2008 Official Groundbreaking Prediction that the Obama inauguration would be the “cultural, social, and political event of a generation; like Woodstock meets the March on Washington” cemented my status as America’s smartest columnist.
My Official Groundbreaking Prediction of 2010, encompassing all five of the columnist’s main topics, is that the voters in the state of California will once again lead the nation by making lawful the personal possession, processing, sharing, or transporting of not more than one ounce of cannabis — as well as cultivation, processing, distribution, the safe and secure transportation, sale and possession for sale of cannabis. In other words, Californians are finally going to legalize it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I first became interested in cannabis before I really knew what it was. The late, great John Hughes made a movie called “The Breakfast Club” in which a bunch of high school kids from different cliques stuck in an all-day Saturday detention together become friends after they smoke a few joints and let their guard down. As an eighth grader I remember thinking that anything that could bring jocks, metal-heads, freaks, geeks, and princesses together must be magic.
As I got older I got educated and I learned that it’s not magic, it’s medicine. That isn’t to say that cannabis isn’t abused as a recreational drug or that we should encourage its use by young people, but the fact remains that the Food & Drug Administration has approved it to treat nausea, vomiting, anorexia, and wasting. If a breast cancer patient wants to use cannabis to stimulate her appetite and help her keep food down so she doesn’t waste away, Californians (when given the chance) aren’t going to tell her she can’t smoke a joint in the privacy of her own home because somebody somewhere might use cannabis just to get high. This November, voters will ignore the tired, old arguments about what message legalization sends to kids — at least until we talk about binge drinking in movies — and try to understand that the best message we can send is the truth: that cannabis helps sick patients get well. It will also be argued that the decriminalization measure will open the door to scientific research (and the accompanying grants) that can’t be done in any other state. And it will pass.
Speaking of sick patients, the California economy — the eighth largest in the world — could also stand to get better. Right now we waste untold millions of dollars arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating non-violent cannabis crimes; with four out of five being simple possession charges and one in five being a kid under 18. Proponents will successfully argue that decriminalizing cannabis would save us that money, spare us the opportunity costs of taking a law enforcement officer away from the investigation/prevention of real crime, and have the added benefit of saving hundreds of thousands of our fellow Californians from wearing the mark of the convicted criminal for the rest of their lives.
The most persuasive argument is going to be the economic benefit of cannabis tourism. When the hypocritical moral dispute is rightly tossed aside (since nobody can logically say that cannabis is more dangerous to society than alcohol), then we are left with the geographic reality of the Golden State — which is that in addition to southern California’s wine country, the lush Central Valley, and northern California’s wine country, we have the Emerald Triangle: Trinity, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties. Throughout the world, these places are as synonymous with premium cannabis as Sonoma and Napa are with fine wine. Cannabis is already a $40-plus billion per year industry, the legalization of which could lead to an additional $1.5 billion in tax revenue for California — and that’s before tourists from the 13 other states where it’s legal for patients start arriving.
Back in March, Debra Bowen, California’s secretary of state, certified that the question would be on the ballot for the Nov. 2 general election after a random sampling verified that the required 433,971 valid signatures had been submitted. For the record, the actual number of qualifying signatures counted was over 694,000 when the tallying stopped — indicating broad support among voters and a smooth road to passage.
When California voters see past the inevitable ridiculous arguments in support of the same policies that incarcerate our people, hurt our economy, and prevent scientific breakthroughs that could help terminally ill patients, we will literally grow our way out of this recession — one cannabis plant at a time.
Remember where you read it first.
Kenny Mack is a multi-platform content provider with four-quadrant crossover appeal who thinks that between the tastefully extravagant same-sex marriages and the deep-pocketed cannabis tourists, California’s economy will explode as America gets over itself. His past columns are archived at www.ifyoumissedit.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.