Marijuana should not be ‘legalized’ Ah, how the times have changed — in most states at least. Yes, possession of an ounce of marijuana in the Sunshine State of Florida can still get you a felony arrest and five years in prison. Simple possession of little more than an ounce in Missouri and you’re looking at seven years in the slammer. You can join Cool Hand Luke for five years on the chain gang for an ounce of dope for personal use in the Bayou State. Though Nebraska was a leading state in reducing punishment for marijuana possession by decriminalizing it in 1979, our state leads the nation in the rate of arrests for marijuana. Yet by and large, pot laws have been much relaxed across most of the nation. Medical marijuana provisions have been in place for quite a few years in about 14 states and next week, Californians will vote on Proposition 19, a statewide initiative to “legalize” even recreational use of marijuana. Legalization of marijuana as dictated in the California proposal is a bad idea. “Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam” — John Kay & Steppenwolf First of all, it’s time for a disclaimer. I’m not a marijuana user. Yes, I had my dope-smoking and hashish phase long ago. Much before any of my peers discovered the Delta Haze, I was sucking it down with my jazzbo friends on the North Side. But for a variety of reasons I stopped smoking marijuana before most of my contemporaries could spell it. Still, there’s no way I believe someone should be hassled, arrested or incarcerated for simply growing, using or selling marihuana. But passing a state law such as California’s Prop 19 to make that happen is way off base and isn’t the way to accomplish that goal. Celebrities, artists and musicians have long been associated with mind-altering substances. A legion of celebs is backing Prop 19 and I wish they would think harder about it. Instead of holding forth about the liberties of indulging in Cannabis sativa, they should consider what a post-legalized pot world would look like. California’s Prop 19 seeks to “regulate, control and tax cannabis.” How can any free thinker who smokes pot want that to happen? When has giving the government control over something ever been a good idea? In this case, it’s a really bad one. Forcing out the small producer Bad things have already begun to happen in the state of California that portend the “Wal-Mart-ization” of medical marijuana. In the quaint little East Bay burg of Oakland, the city council there passed the worst law since Prohibition. Back in July, they paved the way for what amounts to the ConAgra of marijuana cultivation. Big business has seen the dollar signs that swelled with the medical marijuana movement that took root after California made the use of pot for medical maladies a reality in 1994. Since then, thousands of medical marijuana “dispensaries” cropped up across the state servicing thousands of registered marijuana users. Several other states, notably Colorado, followed suit and the medicinal properties of the humble herb are well known. It’s frankly quite easy to get a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana and take advantage of ready availability. Small mom-and-pop storefronts and businesses have become visible across the state of California. Humboldt County, long the capital of marijuana cultivation, is the epicenter of this cash crop. In fact, pot is the number one cash crop in the United States. In California alone, it accounts for $14 billion. The profitability did not go unnoticed. The Oakland law provides for four mega-farms to grow pot. The big problem is that the legal fees and permits required are far too costly for the small grower to afford. Just as in agribusiness, small family farms are being squeezed out. The city permit fee for each of the four allowed farms is about $210,000 yearly. One firm, AgraMed, hopes to convert empty industrial buildings into pot factories the size of two football fields that will produce about 58 pounds of marijuana per day. Another, a firm called iGrow, has a 15,000-foot hydroponics superstore billed as the first to cater openly to medical marijuana growers. They also founded the University of Cannabis to teach cultivation classes. “This is about big money,” legalization advocate Dale Gieringer told ABCNews.com. “These are, by far, the largest facilities ever proposed in the United States. With only four competitors, it’s going to be an oligopoly.” Unintended consequences If the regulation, control and taxation of marijuana go down the projected path, it will be similar to the provisions for alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical drugs, all of which are far more dangerous to society and kill more people than all the illicit drugs combined. The impetus for the medical marijuana movement is a direct result of the barbaric “War on Cancer” waged since the 1970s. Victims of cancer treatment found that pot would ease pain, defeat nausea caused by toxic chemotherapy and stimulate appetite to help them gain back nutrients and strengthen the immune system. AIDS patients also found marijuana useful to ameliorate symptoms. It’s from this legitimate use of a natural substance that the push for some social vehicle to help these patients came to pass. Since then, it’s been found that marijuana is far more helpful than harmful. The answer is not to pass a law to control marijuana but to repeal the insane 1937 Marijuana Tax Act and remove the herb from the Federal list of Class I drugs, a list that equates marijuana with heroin, opiates and LSD. Marijuana doesn’t need a law to regulate it. It should simply be left alone. It shouldn’t even be an issue. Marijuana shouldn’t have to be legalized. It should never have been outlawed. Be well.