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“Show Me the Marijuana!”

Californians recently decided against legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Indeed, proposition 19 was on its financial deathbed until billionaire investor/philanthropist George Solos revived the proponents’ efforts with his $1,000,000 gift shortly before the election. In the meantime, opportunists snatched up domain names and bought up cannabis-related stocks. Since last spring, local unions had been organizing marijuana “bud tenders,” greenhouse workers, packagers and laboratory technicians just in case.

It was interesting to note how various constituencies lined up on California’s largest cash crop. The teacher’s union supported the recreational use of marijuana anticipating the ensuing taxes pouring into public schools. Beer distillers and small pot growers were worrisome over the ‘Wal-Marting of weed,’ and sought to wipe out the prospective competition. Law enforcement was mixed: some officers backed the initiative as they desired to diminish the cartel influence and decrease the prison population to focus on more violent offenders. Some were primarily opposed to the recreational use of marijuana on moral grounds. Still other departments were against the proposition because of the prospective loss of a profitable source of income (sales from the seized pot derived from their raids represent a substantial source of the budget particularly in difficult economic times).

The limits of government constraint on individual autonomy (cf. John Stuart Mill) may actually comprise the core issue in Proposition 19. However, there was relatively little evidence of this concern in current political discourse while following the greenbacks. Yet the business ethics question does not rest in simply dividing self-interest from ethics (pace Adam Smith) but in considering the economic benefits as part of a nuanced, principled plan to control a trade in need of regulation. One thing is for certain in that like war and politics−especially in this economic climate−weed makes for strange bedfellows.

  1. Kevin King
    November 2nd, 2010 at 12:41 | #1

    Include the Tea Party in that list of potentially strange bedfellows. It seems as though these apparent contradictions come from the application of existing ideologies to the issue at hand. A social and economic conservative would simultaneously stand against drug use, but for financial austerity−inherently, a conflict arises. A social and economic liberal would find themselves intertwined in the opposite end of the dichotomy. Though not as satisfying philosophically, one wonders if the correct approach is the pragmatic one. Rather than applying existing frameworks to the issue, start with the question, “What is the intended outcome?” My guess is that all sides would likely find more in common than they would care to admit, at least initially. A from-the-ground-up, practical approach to the seemingly intractable issue of recreational drug use would be more efficient, and less exposed to contradiction, than the current policy of shoehorning the most recent political party plank into the debate.

    • November 12th, 2010 at 10:37 | #2

      I don’t see how we can get away from explicit or implicit beliefs informing our positions on this matter. Consider how pragmatist John Dewey put it: “There is no question of theory versus practice but rather of intelligent practice versus uninformed, stupid practice.” An outcomes-oriented approach might provide apparent clarity but tensions would rise as constituents reflect on why they hold their positions.

  2. Eliezer Levihim
    December 10th, 2010 at 00:27 | #3

    While legalizing marijuana can increase revenue and decrease crowded jails in California, impairing one’s mind is a danger to oneself and others. Financial benefits and personal freedoms should not be attained at the cost of putting citizens in danger. Californians did the right thing by continuing to limit the use of this drug.

  3. Kamisha West
    December 26th, 2010 at 10:24 | #4

    These financial benefits come with the cost of sending a message to our youth that using marijuana is morally acceptable. As a libertarian however, I believe that every person has the right to treat their body in any way they see fit just as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. Lessons in morality are the responsibility of parents not the government. If laws are put in place to regulate the usage of this product, in order to protect others from reckless endangerment caused by intoxicated users, everyone’s rights will remain intact.

    • Deborah Nyeche
      March 17th, 2011 at 20:20 | #5

      Bringing in a mythical $1.4 billion in new tax revenue a year may sound like a powerful reason to say ‘yes’ to proposition 19 but how will its taxation be enforced? Marijuana can be grown at home so it will be difficult to regulate. Some may purchase marijuana from a retailer, producing some financial benefits, but the question of price versus quality may elicit illegal street purchasing.

      Cashing in on tax benefits will not improve society. Legalizing marijuana will further deteriorate our moral structure and produce adverse effects. Marijuana is a moral issue as the individual consequences of its use cannot be separated from the impact on society. Property owners may find themselves indirectly allowing marijuana to be grown on their property; therefore, legalization certainly may infringe on the rights of others. Laws that prohibit marijuana use are needed to assure that everyone’s rights are protected.

      • Delores Richardson
        April 18th, 2011 at 02:43 | #6

        During the Prohibition Era, in the 1930s, all sorts of alcohol related violence erupted as a result of alcohol being banned and made smuggling of spirits and other alcohol drinks an international industry. Upon alcohol legalization, alcohol-related violence from it’s illegal sales and smuggling related enterprise was cut into half and gradually waned with time. So, too, is marijuana which has been illegal and had erupted all sorts of violence from being illegal. Not only is marijuana a remedy in various kinds of ailment, if legalized, marijuana related violence would cease and the fear of violating the law would no longer count.

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