COLUMN: The Super Bong

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to CacheValleyDaily.com. His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.

<em>“Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!”</em>

—President George Washington

Since Sunday, it has been oft repeated by commentators, comedians and in the persuasive world of Twitter that the two teams who will participate in the Super Bowl on February 2nd come from two states that recently decriminalized marijuana use.

The irony of that factoid is worth a laugh; especially when you consider the tremendous home field advantage that the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos are believed to hold. Of course, the high quality of the players who dress for these two teams are the real reason why they will play in the Super Bowl—but none of us should ruin the chance for a good pothead joke.

And most of us, partakers of the “wacky weed” or not, have all made a sly quip or two about the mentality of marijuana users. As much as we would like to believe ourselves above such stereotypes, it is fun to make fun of an activity which is, ummm…fun.

But when we joke about pot use, the elephant in the room—metaphorical or hallucinated—is that for most in America when they cultivate, distribute or indulge in marijuana they are breaking the law.

Why?

Because of pseudoscience, the avarice of powerful men and our old friend, organized religion.

Throughout the early part of the last century, laws were passed that made marijuana cultivation almost impossible. And while it is a mere matter of conjecture now, it should be noted that many of the richest, most powerful men of that time had financial interests that were impeded by the hemp industry. Hemp, being a cheaper alternative in the making of paper and clothing, simply had to go.

The recipe was simple. Powerful forces pay scientists and doctors to say that marijuana is not mostly harmless and medicinal, but a narcotic that leads to worst ills. Then moral crusaders—many of whom had successfully brought forth the train wreck known as Prohibition—preach to the masses that pot is a threat to the American way of life. Pepper in some effective modes of propaganda…such as the 1936 film “Reefer Madness”, which shows wholesome (RE: White heterosexual) teenagers whose corruption by cannabis leads to ruined lives and death. And the stew these ingredients made turned into decades of federal laws, the inefficacy of which is the farce of modern American history.

Enter Colorado, Utah’s friendly neighbor to the east. They just did not decriminalize the use of weed, they regulated it. As soon as Amendment 64 (how funny would it have been if it was Amendment 420?) passed, Colorado had become the first state in the Union to acknowledge that a plant grown naturally in the wild, that has no more addictive qualities than fast food, religion or reality television, was profitable.

And what a profit! A news story published this week by Bloomberg claims that Colorado marijuana sales could exceed $578 million annually. In 2014, that would roughly yield a tax revenue of $67 million.

Those might be conservative estimates given that cannabis distributors have lines around the block. They are nearly as long as the line outside the Logan, Utah Olive Garden on a Friday night! Of course, we all know that the hideous effects of pot use are far worse than what eating at most chain restaurants can do to the human body. (SARCASM ALERT!)

And that is where Utah is.

In a state where blind adherence to theocratic rule trumps common sense, sound business practice and the pragmatical utilization of tax revenue streams, marijuana will most likely be legally verboten for a long time in the Beehive State.

Add to that the loss of state funds, police man-hour time, paperwork, the filling of courtrooms and the stigma attached to a pot bust that will come with Utah being one of the last states to aggressively enforce moribund marijuana laws, and you have the epitome of government abuse in the defense of outdated social mores.

Attend a class that is mandatory to anyone in Utah who got busted for a DUI or pot and see what they teach you. These classes—a scam of the highest degree, condoned by the Utah justice system—still suggest that marijuana and alcohol are highly likely to be gateway drugs to much more extreme narcotics such as heroin.

This is Utah. Why make money when you can look ignorant and uneducated? Why allow for personal freedom when you can come off as tyrannical and oppressive? It does not matter that the real drug problem in Utah is the much-avoided discussion of Xanax addiction. The availability of that drug and the reasons why it is feverishly sought after by many a Utah housewife is “The Subject Of Which We Do Not Speak”. Nope. Better to bust some kids for being potheads. That will protect “Utah Culture”.

The parlance offered by those who continue to believe, in defiance of evidence, that cannabis use is harmful is the now fashionable term for government intervention: Societal Costs. This theory suggests that the net gain of living in a free society is seriously diminished by the price we allegedly pay to help in the treatment of those “afflicted” by such things as recreational drug use, alcohol, gambling, prostitution, et al.

Someday, I might write a column where I put a beatdown on this moralistic Ponzi scheme known as Societal Costs. My short argument against the theory is this:

You cannot put a price on freedom. I think Sarah Palin said that once.

You can now smoke weed in Colorado. And the state taxes it. They make money off of it. They will bundle legal marijuana use with their normal liquor laws to continue their advantage over Utah when it comes to wooing tourists–especially skiers.

And what does Utah have in lieu of tax revenue that could be garnered by legalizing and regulating pot, gambling, prostitution, and the loosening of liquor laws? That wasn’t a rhetorical question. I really don’t know the answer.

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