Thursday, December 13, 2012

How about we legalize marijuana without taxation?

by Ron Hart

Elections have consequences. Mitt Romney was poised to be President of the United States. He lost the election and ended up on the Marriott hotel chain's Board of Directors. He went from nearly being the next leader of the free world to trying to keep hotel guests from stealing from their hotel room mini-bars.

Overlooked in the long race for president (won, as most marathons are, by a Kenyan) were some state votes on social issues.

Washington State was the first to legalize the possession of marijuana without a doctor's prescription; Colorado followed this week. In a related story, Twinkies maker Hostess quickly emerged from bankruptcy.

Those 21 and older can now legally possess one ounce of weed, or roughly the residue in Snoop Dog’s couch cushions. Yet smoking pot in public is against the law. Since no laws have been passed on growing and distributing marijuana in the state, those who indulged must have bought their weed illegally from a pot dealer. And oh yeah, smoking pot is still a federal offense. Oh, the complexity of laws upon laws.

This week Colorado joined Washington State in legalizing the possession of marijuana; those voting in favor (I think they marked “righteous” on the ballot) outnumbered those who voted for Obama. I guess some elements of the GOP test positive for THC as well as freedom. Denver might now change the name of the Broncos' stadium from INVESCO Field back to "Mile High Stadium." Perhaps its NBA team could become the "Drive-thru Denver McNuggets."

Now these states will draft regulations on pot sales that are tied to their liquor laws. And by "laws," I mean taxes. Washington State will impose a 25% excise tax on growers when they sell to processors and another 25% when processors sell to retailers. Then, when individuals buy from retailers, you guessed it: another 25 %, plus sales tax on the total purchase. This is all VAT and a bag of chips.

When California legalized having pot with a fake doctor’s prescription, the real winners (aside from glaucoma diagnosis) were the state tax collectors. Doctors suddenly could spot glaucoma in "patients" as soon as their credit cards cleared. These liberal states have taxed and spent themselves to death. And what does a desperate person do when he is out of money? He resorts to selling drugs.

Under federal laws, pot smoking is illegal. In California it is mandatory. Left unregulated by liberal politicians, the true free-market trade in marijuana was the only business that grew in California. Only Jerry ("Governor Moonbeam") Brown could rationalize legalizing pot while outlawing plastic grocery bags.

Wars are always easier to start than to end. Nixon started the War on Drugs and, like so many wars, it has been a costly disaster. It has eroded freedoms and created intractable bureaucracies. Nixon's premise was that pot caused crime, so it went underground where drug cartels and gangs can assure that we get more crime and violence. Prisons are filled with victimless, drug crime-related prisoners, and we are no safer.

Our government totally ignored the lesson of Prohibition. Americans still drank, but Prohibition gave rise to organized crime. History has a way of repeating itself if no one is paying attention. Tellingly, Mexico opposed Washington State and Colorado legalizing pot.

I would like to see decriminalization without taxation. Like everything else government does, it is not about morality or freedom, it is about money.

Ron Hart is a nationally syndicated columnist. A "Ron Paul Republican," he lives in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida.

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