by Tim Stelloh, January 7, 2010
While Mendo's pro- and anti-pot legions tussle over the particulars of the county's economic engine, a pro-legalization movement--and lobby--more potent than ever has sprouted across the country, according to a lengthy overview published in this week's SF Weekly.
Among their observations:
The pro-marijuana movement has never had an army so large, politically sophisticated, and well-funded, even if supporters downplay the millions that roll in. Nor has it enjoyed such a frenzied period of media exposure, a startling amount of it positive.
Never has there been such a concerted thrust to legalize the drug nationwide — for medical purposes, for the plain old joy of getting stoned, and for a gold mine in profits to be reaped by those who control the multipronged industry. Together with a rapidly shifting public attitude toward pot and a White House willing to accept state medical-marijuana laws, legalization seems as inevitable today as it was unthinkable a generation ago. "We're almost at a zeitgeist," says one of the high-profile lobbyists who is making it happen, Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in Washington, D.C.
Then, what until recently might have seemed an unbelievable assertion:
"We believe medical marijuana will be in more than half the states in two years ... and maybe 47 states in the next 10 years," says attorney Sean T. McAllister, who led a successful crusade last fall to get pot legalized in the small ski-resort town of Breckenridge, Colo. In a vote that was largely symbolic, given that possession remains a misdemeanor under Colorado law, 72 percent of Breckenridge voters favored changing local laws to remove any sanctions for private possession and use of less than an ounce of pot, meaning that, on the city's books at least, there is no threat of jail, no fine, and no danger of acquiring a criminal record.
The thinking behind legalization is straightforward, of course: The war on drugs is a massive failure, marijuana is medicine, the government could make a killing on pot, etc. All of this--along with the "moral" implications of legalization--are noted in the piece. But one thing it doesn't ponder are the economic implications for a county like Mendo--or for much of Northern California, for that matter--where robust black markets are the norm. It's an exercise in hypotheticals, but it's an exercise worth considering, as that long march to legalization seems more inevitable now than ever.