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Gibson writes: "The entire world is watching [Washington State] and how we're handling this, how we're putting it all together."

A vendor displays products in Seattle. Washington State was one of the first to legalize recreational marijuana. (photo: Jason Redmond/Reuters)
A vendor displays products in Seattle. Washington State was one of the first to legalize recreational marijuana. (photo: Jason Redmond/Reuters)


The Pros and Cons of Legal Cannabis

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

29 September 13

 

t the CPC, or Center for Palliative Care, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle, a friend and I walked into Ben Reagan's office in the back of the clinic. The walls were lined with extracts, concentrates, and edibles. Rotating shelves containing tubes of different strains of cannabis were neatly labeled with the name of the strain, the price per gram, and the percentage concentrations of Sativa and Indica. My friend asked Reagan what the difference was between White Widow and Widow's Peak.

"The White Widow species produces several different kinds of plants that produce different kinds of effects," Reagan said. "Widow's Peak is usually seen as the height of potential for White Widow. What kind of effect are you looking for?"

"I want to have really great sex," said my friend, who was visiting the CPC as a carrier of a medical card that gave him permission by the state of Washington to use medical cannabis for the back pain he had contracted from his years as a firefighter. "And I don't want my partner to fall asleep."

"Then you want to blend the Harlequin and the White Widow," Reagan said. "It's kind of heady, but still a little more on the fun side than the sleepy side. The White Widow is 60% Sativa blend, making it more of a daytime thing. The Indica strain is more for joint pain and insomnia."

Washington approved the use of medical cannabis in 1998, and the CPC has been in business in Seattle for roughly four years. Just last year, voters in both Colorado and Washington State approved ballot initiatives that legalized the recreational sale of cannabis while instituting regulations similar to those governing the sale of alcohol. For example, nobody under the age of 21 can buy it, it's still illegal to consume it in public, and getting caught driving under the influence of cannabis will still result in a DUI charge. It's still not possible for anyone without a medical card to buy cannabis in Washington, but regulations are expected to go fully into effect by spring of 2014.

"As a business that's been around for a long time, Ben and I have been lucky to serve as consultants to state legislators, city officials, police departments, and district attorneys who now have to figure out how to regulate a product that can be used as medicine, fuel, polymer, plastic, and other products that are already regulated," said Jeremy Kaufman, executive director of the CPC. "The entire world is watching [Washington State] and how we're handling this, how we're putting it all together."

The CPC is still legally classified as a nonprofit medical R&D firm. Kaufman explained the concept of palliative care as the type of care you receive for various ailments and conditions, and said there hasn't been one case that's walked through his doors whom he hasn't been able to help with cannabis.

"A big part of what we do is education," Kaufman said. "We've been able to help treat cancer, chronic pain, loss of appetite, insomnia, nerve disorders, psychological disorders, and a lot of other conditions. As symbiotic, organic organisms, human beings and cannabis have a very unique relationship."

However, Kaufman still hasn't reclassified his business under the new 502 law that was passed by Washington voters last fall, because the end result would be more costly to customers. Under the new system, there would be an additional 50 to 70 percent increase in sales taxes on top of the 9.8 percent sales tax the CPC already charges. Kaufman said the additional taxes come from a 25% sales tax any time the product changes hands.

"You get taxed 25 percent when it goes from the grower to the extractor, to the processor, to the baker, to the retailer, before it even gets to the end user," Kaufman said. "The state is seeing the CPC as a model to build off of going forward, so a big part of our education is also showing that there are more efficient ways of regulating cannabis."

Under the new laws, the sale of recreational cannabis is being regulated by the same state agency that regulates the sale of liquor. But because cannabis used to be regarded as an illegal substance, there's no existing case law establishing legal precedent for how cannabis can be sold and regulated by a public entity. According to Kaufman, this means the laws literally are up to interpretation by anybody who participates in any part of the trade whenever a product changes hands, making the process a giant headache for both producers and consumers.

"At first, there was an immediate flooding of the market, and a huge free-for-all when 502 passed," Kaufman said. "People were opening all kinds of businesses, shipping in stuff from out of state, getting really cannibalistic."

Obviously, legalizing and taxing cannabis for recreational use would mean a huge increase in state tax revenues. A 2010 Cato Institute study estimated $8.7 billion in new federal and state tax revenue if cannabis were to be legalized all over the United States. Washington State's I-502 alone is projected to generate $1.9 billion in additional tax revenue in the next five years.

But at the same time, as an illegal substance becomes legal, other budgets will be cut. Because of the lack of people being arrested, jailed, and prosecuted for smoking or possessing marijuana, Washington State just passed through sweeping cuts to the departments of public safety and corrections. While there's a clear benefit in fewer lives ruined from the war on drugs, the budget cuts are nonetheless laying off people like parole officers who are monitoring murderers, rapists, and sex offenders who are out on bond.

Washington's shortcomings in the process of legalizing and taxing marijuana shouldn't discourage other states from trying, as Oregon, California, Hawaii, Alaska and Maine are likely to do soon, but should serve as an example of what went right and what can be improved the next time.



Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

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+62 # Small Family Farmer 2013-09-29 15:55
"While there's a clear benefit in fewer lives ruined from the war on drugs, the budget cuts are nonetheless laying off people like parole officers who are monitoring murderers, rapists, and sex offenders who are out on bond"

Gosh, here's an idea. How about these people getting retrained in new areas, you know like working with kids to help them get a leg up in the world? Maybe working with adults who have been victims of this horrific "War on Drugs" enterprise so they can get employed and have a shot at life?

Let me see if I understand this situation. Taxing weed will generate about $400 million per year AND massive amounts of money will be saved by cutting the budget of the corrections department.

Somebody care to tell me what the downside of this is for us, we the people?
 
 
+4 # politicaleconomist 2013-09-30 09:58
Yes, and why should parole officers who are monitoring murderers, rapists, and sex offenders who are out on bond be laid off?

I have so say though perhaps th author of this article is unlikely to develop the downside of legalization.
 
 
-71 # The Voice of Reason 2013-09-29 17:32
Just look at what the alcohol economy has done for American standards and morals: It brings us such wonderful programs, like sports. It gives children something to look forward to when they get to college. And what would a drunken orgy be without the devil's booze?

J'ever notice how the economic law of supply and demand never applies to alcohol? That's because the alcohol sellers don't want a bunch of angry drunks on their hands. Last time that happened was during prohibition, and the gangsters took over the government.

So let's add pot to the mix. And why not heroin and cocaine too? If it's the economy stupid, then we can legalize murder while we're at it. Oh wait, war is legal. And quite profitable too. My guess is with all these immoral economies, we should have it all figured out and working properly in only a couple months.
 
 
+58 # Small Family Farmer 2013-09-29 19:17
Comparing an herb that has benefited humanity for millenium with alcohol, heroin, and cocaine merely shows your lack of knowledge concerning each of their natures.

Actually what we have here is a common but foolish practice known as "argumentum ad absurdum" - "argument to absurdity", to take an argument to its illogical conclusion is not the practice of a wise person.
 
 
-2 # Bob P 2013-09-30 08:16
I feel a little foolish being about to say what is obvious to me. But 69 votes would indicate my feelings are not so obvious. Voice of Reason made a beautiful ironic, witty statement. He/she moves from alcohol (sublime) to murder (rediculous, no wait-also legal) to a very humerous, but logical final statement. I suspect I agree with both your positions in legalizing pot. But he/she does group pot with immoral economies, yet he says figure it out and working properly. I would love to discuss it with him/her over a glass of wine.
 
 
0 # The Voice of Reason 2013-10-06 19:27
If you guys would ever read closely, I complain about the ECONOMIES. The idea that people can profit by causing addiction is what I find sinister. So here's a real curve ball for you, alcohol, pot, etc. should be free of charge. Distributed at government 'get your pot / alcohol here' centers, and not at restaurants, bars, or liquor stores. That way no one pushes it, and those who take it can think about why they spend so much of their time and mental energy getting addicted to something they don't need. Human minds have the ability to reason, alcohol and pot take away that ability.
 
 
+13 # bingers 2013-09-30 05:56
But alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs known to mankind and one of the most addictive as well. But marijuana is the most harmless and is totally non-addictive.

So you're talking apples and oranges.

And during Nixon's time he threw out the study he ordered when it showed pot being harmless, as well as suppressing the 30 year study in Jamaica which showed heavy use didn't cause lung cancer or not holding down a job, or laziness on the job.
 
 
+13 # dkonstruction 2013-09-30 07:57
Quoting The Voice of Reason:


J'ever notice how the economic law of supply and demand never applies to alcohol? That's because the alcohol sellers don't want a bunch of angry drunks on their hands. Last time that happened was during prohibition, and the gangsters took over the government.

So let's add pot to the mix. And why not heroin and cocaine too? If it's the economy stupid, then we can legalize murder while we're at it. Oh wait, war is legal. And quite profitable too. My guess is with all these immoral economies, we should have it all figured out and working properly in only a couple months.


J'ever notice that alcoholism rates went up during prohibition? J'ever notice the violence associated with the illegal trade during prohibition? J'ever notice that prohibition didn't work and in fact made whatever problems individuals and we as a society have with alcohol worse?
And, J'ever notice that the Scandinavian countries that have "legalized" heroin and cocaine don't have the same drug problems we do (or the problem we have in that the fastest growing part of our economy is the prison industrial complex)?

Guess you agree with Reagan that "facts are stupid things" and believe that we should just continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over again.

"The devil's booze"?...what century are we in again?
 
 
+8 # reiverpacific 2013-09-30 09:55
Quoting The Voice of Reason:
Just look at what the alcohol economy has done for American standards and morals: It brings us such wonderful programs, like sports. It gives children something to look forward to when they get to college. And what would a drunken orgy be without the devil's booze?

J'ever notice how the economic law of supply and demand never applies to alcohol? That's because the alcohol sellers don't want a bunch of angry drunks on their hands. Last time that happened was during prohibition, and the gangsters took over the government.

So let's add pot to the mix. And why not heroin and cocaine too? If it's the economy stupid, then we can legalize murder while we're at it. Oh wait, war is legal. And quite profitable too. My guess is with all these immoral economies, we should have it all figured out and working properly in only a couple months.

There's nothing more irrational than those who trumpet false morals and terms like "Devil's booze" and "Immoral economies".
The government that imposed the Volstead act was imposing false morals on a population high on it's own greed in the Wall Street boom. Capone and Co. simply took advantage of this official foolishness.
It's a bit like the current FCC's list of seven banned words your kids hear every day at school when you get into broadcasting (I did Radio Training and programming); another head-in-the sand rationalization of false morality.
As Robert Burns wrote, "It's comin' yet for a' that".
 
 
+2 # humanmancalvin 2013-09-30 13:40
The voice of reason is a bit of a misnomer. To drag legalization of murder into the conversation is creating a strawman: To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition "
A ridiculous extreme similar to the ridiculous argument concerning Gay marriage. If men can marry men then why can't they marry a dog.
I'd strongly consider a name change to the voice of Fox Non News or something similar. These red meat comparisons are what id fed to the hungry & angry, ill educated rural, red voter IE: the Teapublicans.
Sorry about getting a tad personal but it is frustrating to debate someone on a logical, intelligent, & fact based basis with those that seem to pull nonsense out of their hats.
Fact search law enforcement against the War On Drugs & be prepared to view 10s of thousands of proponents of doing away with this folly. Those that are frontline & have seen 1st hand the lives destroyed are some of the 1st to condemn this utterly failed policy.
 
 
+1 # engelbach 2013-09-30 14:32
The Voice of Incoherence.
 
 
+30 # LizR 2013-09-29 21:44
Wewll, one pro of dope is that (unlike alcohol) you don't think you're the world's best driver, and can speed with impunity. Indeed, anyone who's stoned is more likely to get into a rambling philosophical discussion with the steering wheel (it's like the wheel of karma, man, as well as the wheel of the car...hey, profound insight!) - and if they do manage to drive off they'd probably go at walking speed, stopping to sniff the flowers.

The real problem is it makes people happy, and we can't have that, can we?
 
 
+5 # SOF 2013-09-30 00:27
"The real problem is it makes people happy, and we can't have that, can we?"
That's odd to me. Why wouldn't they want us happier? Fewer stressed and angry and ready to storm the gates with pitchforks. ? Unless it's the alcohol lobby.... or the privatized prison lobby...
 
 
+1 # EternalTruth 2013-10-01 21:46
"Why wouldn't they want us happier? Fewer stressed and angry and ready to storm the gates with pitchforks."

Stress and anger cloud the mind. Happy people are more creative and have better critical thinking skills than stressed, angry people, and are thus more likely to recognize and come up with constructive solutions to the problems we face.
"They" love people storming the gates with pitchforks. More fodder for the prison machine.
 
 
+7 # bingers 2013-09-30 05:59
"Small wheel turn by fire and rod, big wheel turn by the grace of God."* Man created alcohol, God created pot.

*The Wheel Grateful Dead
 
 
-1 # L mac 2013-09-29 22:59
...was it the Beatles that sang "smoke pot, smoke pot everyone smoke pot"...'nuff said...
 
 
+13 # wwway 2013-09-29 23:55
Before marijuana was included in list of dangerous drugs my grandmother's generation grew it in the garden with the tomatoes or as a house plant in a sun room. It had it's medicinal purposes. It was a better relaxer than alcohol too. Including marijuana on the drug list made the war easy to wage. Now that the prison lobby is one of America's largest and the privatized system is one of the most traded on the stock market there are plans to keep and use the prison enterprise. Republicans, in exchange for raising the debt limit, are demanding the complete dismanteling of Dodd/Frank and further de-regulation of the financial markets. Creditors will then be privilaged with special laws that protect them. Debtors will then fill the prisons,maybe even turning them into the old work houses of old run by poorly paid, corrupt enforcers and wardens.
 
 
+1 # Kalamakuaikalani 2013-09-30 00:30
The one factor these studies & research haven't factored in or at least published is all those tax dollars are gonna show up on the assumption that suddenly outlaws ( who can still grow it by the way ) would willingly pay taxes on a plant the govt will not be looking for now that it's legal ? Say I have 10 or 12 huge plants, I harvest 1/2 of them & come up with 100 lbs which I then sell to friends, friends of friends, etc. .... Now tell me why I would willingly pay taxes on say .... $200K ???? & the govt does know about it ? Would you ?
 
 
+1 # engelbach 2013-09-30 14:33
No, I wouldn't.

And I don't know what idiots flagged you red.

The government has no right to tax PLANTS!
 
 
+2 # reiverpacific 2013-09-30 17:18
Quoting Kalamakuaikalani:
The one factor these studies & research haven't factored in or at least published is all those tax dollars are gonna show up on the assumption that suddenly outlaws ( who can still grow it by the way ) would willingly pay taxes on a plant the govt will not be looking for now that it's legal ? Say I have 10 or 12 huge plants, I harvest 1/2 of them & come up with 100 lbs which I then sell to friends, friends of friends, etc. .... Now tell me why I would willingly pay taxes on say .... $200K ???? & the govt does know about it ? Would you ?

Interesting -and quite refreshing-way of looking at it.
Gotta ponder this one for a bit over a glass o' Scotch, my opiate of choice.
I'll share a wee personal anecdote.
I never smoked tobacco in my life, so when I first tried a reefer, I used to wonder what all the fuss was about as it didn't do thing to or for me: I must ha' been one of the few who could relate to Billy-Bob Clinton's "I didn't inhale" tale. Well in my case, I didn't know HOW to inhale so all it did was make me cough. But then I ATE some delicious, heavily spiked truffles (One, max' recommended) and was stoned of a day and a half.
I've since tried some of the more rarefied hallucinogenics available in Amazonia under the supervision of the true Shamans and I'll tell you, there is another world out there somewhere -and 'our' weed is pretty safe.
Also Opium in Morocco, OK if you have nothing else to do with the rest of your life.
 
 
+1 # EternalTruth 2013-10-02 09:32
Most people would rather purchase it than take the time and effort to grow their own. And I'm guessing that most of those people would rather pay a little more to purchase it legally, than to purchase it illegally. I assume the % would change based on the difference in cost, but that as long as cost for legal, taxed pot isn't ridiculously more than the cost of "black market" pot, the government shouldn't have a problem collecting revenue.
 
 
+4 # Milarepa 2013-09-30 00:32
All this brouhaha about a cute little plant a lot of people like?
 
 
+6 # tpmco 2013-09-30 03:51
Now there's government downsizing I can believe in.
 
 
+7 # indian weaver 2013-09-30 05:46
The nation would have been a decent place if originally alcohol would have been and still is illegal, and pot was and always will be legal. The most dangerous drugs of all: alcohol and tobacco, are of course the drugs of choice for a country's society and culture based on assassinations, terrorism, torture and greed, perfect drugs for America: the killers. Not the peace makers.
 
 
+3 # engelbach 2013-09-30 14:35
Oh, please.

You're actually advocating a return to Prohibition?

Are you unaware of the damage that stupid Amendment did to the nation?
 
 
+2 # reiverpacific 2013-10-01 10:19
Quoting engelbach:
Oh, please.

You're actually advocating a return to Prohibition?

Are you unaware of the damage that stupid Amendment did to the nation?

And is still doing in it's residual mindset among the "Unco moral" regulators, especially in the South.
Kids in France, Spain, Italy and other less paranoid nations are allowed wine almost from infancy -and they don't have anything like the alcoholism rate that the US does.
However, the OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED and indeed encouraged, wide distribution of adulterated alcohol to the original inhabitants of this continent who had little to no genetic tolerance for it, along with diseased blankets, posed no moral problem to the governments of the time, nor their "Black Robe" priests and ministers.
It's all in the "official" perception, innit.
 
 
+8 # indian weaver 2013-09-30 05:48
I've gotta say I'm glad I live in Colorado. Not only did they get pot right at last, but are the first of only 2 states to do it so far. And they are getting a lot of other things right that the rest of the country hasn't gotten right (yet) too.
 
 
+5 # Mermaid19 2013-09-30 09:42
What is the problem here, it is all about choice. If the powers that be are so concerned about what happens to us let them focus on jobs, education and ending wars not on an herb that has been around longer then all of us. To think young people are spending years in jail because of this plant and there are those who are doing things to our economy that nothing happens to.

Besides not that I know of marijuana never killed anyone i.e. from an overdose yet there are some dangerous medicines on the market that are advertised and acceptable. Those ads that at the end show all those happy faces while side effects are given, some even leading to death yet they are suggested. That should be a concern to all of us and not marijuana. Amazing what those in power put their attention to. We can smoke cigarettes that let us know how dangerous they are to our health and alcohol which if abused can destroy our bodies and yet they are legal, makes no sense to me.
 
 
-2 # Activista 2013-10-01 16:36
"Alcohol and marijuana (cannabis)If you use cannabis and alcohol together, the results – both physical and psychological – can be unpredictable. Having alcohol in your blood can potentially cause your body to absorb the active ingredient tetrahydrocanna binol (THC) faster. This can lead to the cannabis having a much stronger effect than it would normally have. (7)Physically, you can experience dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Psychological effects include panic, anxiety or paranoia. Skunk, a term for stronger types of cannabis, can pose even greater risks, because it may contain three times as much THC. (8)There’s a serious long-term risk to your health too. Cannabis is usually smoked with tobacco, which can cause cancer. Tobacco and alcohol work together to damage the cells of the body, multiplying the damage. Alcohol makes it easier for the mouth and throat to absorb the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco. Studies have found that, on average, people who smoke and drink are up to 50 times more likely to get cancer of the throat than people who neither smoke nor drink. "
 
 
+1 # reiverpacific 2013-10-01 21:30
Quoting Activista:
"Alcohol and marijuana (cannabis)If you use cannabis and alcohol together, the results – both physical and psychological – can be unpredictable. Having alcohol in your blood can potentially cause your body to absorb the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) faster. This can lead to the cannabis having a much stronger effect than it would normally have. (7)Physically, you can experience dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Psychological effects include panic, anxiety or paranoia. Skunk, a term for stronger types of cannabis, can pose even greater risks, because it may contain three times as much THC. (8)There’s a serious long-term risk to your health too. Cannabis is usually smoked with tobacco, which can cause cancer. Tobacco and alcohol work together to damage the cells of the body, multiplying the damage. Alcohol makes it easier for the mouth and throat to absorb the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco. Studies have found that, on average, people who smoke and drink are up to 50 times more likely to get cancer of the throat than people who neither smoke nor drink. "

How 'bout people like me who never smoked tobacco but relish, in quantity & quality, good beer (not that tasteless pissy fizz like Budwiser and Coors), fine wine and aged, refined spirits -when I can afford 'em?
"And oft as wine has played the infidel
And robb'd me of my robe of honor, well.
-I often wonder what the vintner buys
Is half so precious as the goods he sells"?
 
 
+1 # EternalTruth 2013-10-01 21:55
"If you use cannabis and alcohol together, the results – both physical and psychological – can be unpredictable"
"Psychological effects include panic, anxiety or paranoia"

Odd. Back when I was into such things, I always found alcohol to be very effective in decreasing any anxiety experienced with pot alone.
But in general, I agree that people shouldn't adulterate their herb with poisons like alcohol and tobacco.
 

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