Recent passage of two state initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana use, 20 states with medical marijuana laws on the books, and ultra-Conservative Texas Governor Rick Perry’s recent “support for softening penalties for marijuana use” have been shocking. But when taken in conjunction with Eric Holder’s teleconference with Washington and Colorado’s governors that the Department of Justice “would allow the states to create a regime that would regulate and implement the ballot initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana for adults,” along with the U.S. government’s unprecedented step toward legitimizing the marijuana industry, by announcing they would be “allowing U.S. banks to offer accounts and other services to businesses in states where medical or recreational pot sales are legal,” it becomes crystal clear a fundamental change in the Federal Government’s Presidential position on the War on Drugs as it relates to recreational marijuana use and sale has recently occurred. How did this earth-shattering shift in Federal drug enforcement law occur?
The answer, a drastic change in American public opinion suggests the political tide is turning against continued support of archaic Draconian Federal drug laws related to marijuana. However, such a fundamental shift in Federal drug policy begs the following questions: 1) Just how many recreational users of marijuana in America are there?; 2) How big of a voting block are they?; 3) How big of an economic impact is legalization going to have on the states that legalize it, and on the Nation as a whole?; and 4) What impact will “states-rights” initiatives like the decriminalization of recreational marijuana have on restoring Federalist principles to our Nation? According to the data, the final tally of pro-marijuana supporters is likely to be quite substantial, but the final political and economic ramifications of decriminalization of marijuana on the Nation are currently unfathomable.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health published that over 50% of all Americans in at least seven different age categories reported having tried marijuana in their life times. They went on to state that, “Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug. In 2012, there were 18.9 million past month users. Between 2007 and 2012, the rate of current use increased from 5.8 to 7.3 percent, and the number of users increased from 14.5 million to 18.9 million.” Likewise, 30% of 18-25 year olds, 20% of 26-29 year olds, and 16% of 30-34 years olds, admitted they had used the drug in the last year. Other significant data revealed in the 35 to 39 year old category, 10% of Americans used the drug in the last year. With only 8% having used in the last year for both the 40-44 year olds and 45-59 year olds, and with only 7% for both the 50 to 54 and 55 to 59 year old categories. Furthermore, only 3% of the 60-64 year olds and 1% of the 65+ crowd reported usage within the last year. However, these numbers are expected to rise in at least two states who’ve changed their state drug policies on marijuana sale and consumption, and for those who decide to travel to these newly emerging “green states” to engage in the now booming marijuana tourism businesses. With this in mind, Colorado and Washington’s “bud-towns” are becoming the new gold and silver “boom-towns” of old.
The biggest indicator of social change within the American electorate was revealed recently in a Gallup Poll that documented for the first time ever that a majority of Americans – 58% in fact – favor legalization of marijuana, and that a surprising 38% of Americans have tried the drug. In that same opinion poll, approval rankings broken-down by age categories revealed the following: 67% of 18-29 year olds; 62% of 30-49 year olds; 56% of 50 – 64 year olds; and 45% of American adults aged 65+ reported they would support legalization. With the 65+ category being the only American age category that still favors criminalization of the drug. But it is important to note, even “support among this group has jumped 14 percentage points since 2011 .” So even if admitted regular usage is relatively low as a percentage of the total American population, the percentage of Americans who’ve tried the drug, and who are tolerant towards legalization are statistically significant enough for politicians on both sides of the political aisle to be sitting-up and taking serious notice in Washington D.C..
To bolster the data, consider the anecdotal evidence. In a recent article published by Abby Haglage in The Daily Beast entitled, “Parents Come Out of the Pot Closet,” Citizen Jay Daily a volunteer at a Colorado dispensary stated that “At least 60 percent of our clientele are above 30.” That is an important voting block within America. Also, according to Mrs. Haglage, another marijuana entrepreneur, Nick Brown who was once an “equities trader on Wall Street,” but is now seeking to strike it rich quick in a new sort of “pot-rush bonanza” taking place in Colorado, was recently quoted as stating, “The baby boomer cohort is massive,” and, “It’s somewhere between 40-60 million people.” So perhaps this fact helps to explain the recent 180 degree change in perspective of even some of the most staunchly Conservative politicians in America, because 40-60 million people are a lot of potential Presidential votes!
The potential economies of scale for millions of American cannabis smokers purchasing the drug in a newly legalized marijuana market, along with a more tolerant political atmosphere at the state and Federal level, as indicated by recent DOJ pronouncements to not interfere in ” states where medical or recreational pot sales are legal ,” may yet create the “perfect storm” of political and economic forces to create the West’s next major “gold-rush” of the new Millennium. Marijuana could not only be the cure for what ails millions of sick Americans, but it could also end-up actually being the cure for what ails America’s less than healthy economy. “Going green” may yet take on a whole new political and economic meaning moving forward. If this turns out to be the case, then the symbiotic relationship between marijuana and man has reached an all time high! Too many profitable resources, building materials, and new products can be derived from the plant (beyond it’s psychedelic qualities) for this historic “cash-crop” to “lie fallow” for any longer.
If you peer through the cloud of rising pot smoke emerging from the West for just a moment, you can clearly see that if there are as many marijuana smokers in America as the data suggests, then the U.S. should have a “zero-tolerance” policy moving forward for the Federal government’s domestic and international War on Drugs. Likewise, the old expression of everyone’s “dream job” being “just around the corner,” may not be such a “pipe-dream” after all, in thriving new “bud-towns” like Denver and Seattle, where if you live around the corner from a local dispensary, business is booming! Investment in this new and growing industry is taking off, and with banks now able to accept deposits from marijuana businesses, the sky is the limit! In other words, thanks to a change in public opinion and President Obama’s new approach regarding the war on drugs, new businesses are springing-up like cannabis across Colorado and Washington in locations where few economic opportunities were available before. Now that “the long-arm of the law” at both the State and Federal levels are no longer blocking the path of prosperity, bold entrepreneurs willing to take a financial risk in a newly legalized industry are flocking into these new cannabis “boom towns” in greater and greater numbers!
How many other “boom-towns” fueled by “bud” sales will spring-up all over the rapidly changing political and economic American landscape? What positive and negative impacts will these changes have on America’s short and long term political and economic future? It is hard to say, but with 65% of Democrats, and 62% of Independent registered voters supporting legalization, the political tide is definitely turning. To express it in terms the “baby-boomers” would best understand, “The times, they are” indeed “a changing,” and we really “don’t need a ‘Weatherman’ to know which way the wind blows.” For as long as the G.O.P. continues to lose Presidential elections, and the Democrats retain control of the Senate, many an American’s future economic dreams, along with America’s “green” economic road to recovery, will likely be inspired by more than just a few “puffs” of “kind bud.”
This may not be the “green revolution” some Democratic-minded environmentalist movement members may have originally had in mind (though that is surely debatable). But one thing is certain, Libertarian-minded states-rights independents with a civil-liberties slant have invited the rest of the country to get on-board the limited government bandwagon by laying the political and economic tracks necessary in order for States across the nation to legalize marijuana, and to renew the debate about Federalism, and State-based democratic protections of civil liberties guaranteed within the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
However, the Presidential “train-conductor” stoking the furnace of this monumental change in U.S. drug policy should not be overlooked by a hasty departure of centralized power from Washington D.C., for despite some of his other controversial political decisions, President Barack Obama’s biggest economic jobs initiative may yet be his executive decision to not stand in the way of grass-roots state efforts to generate reforms of the Federal government’s long-held policies towards marijuana prohibition. By simply stepping between the Justice Department, the IRS, and other Federal enforcement agencies dedicated to criminalizing the drug, and prosecuting the people who smoke and sell marijuana, and by allowing citizens in pro-legalization states who have decriminalized recreational marijuana usage to actually benefit from the taxes and profits from legal sales of the drug, Obama’s Presidential executive decisions have served to stimulate the economy (in at least two states) and may even put America back on course (on at least one important civil liberties issue) towards a return to a true balance of power between the States and the Federal government!
In other words, when President Barack Obama recently stated that, ” smoking marijuana is less dangerous than drinking alcohol ,” it was not only a watershed event in our nation’s history, but when combined with the other Federal measures mentioned above, he fundamentally changed the Federal government’s national drug policy moving forward. But perhaps even more importantly, by not opposing citizen enacted state initiatives to decriminalize the drug, he is actually tacitly supporting and ultimately renewing the concepts of popular sovereignty, Federalism, and the principle of “limited government” at a very critical time in our Nation’s history, when the balance of power desperately needs to shift back to the States on so many political, economic, and moral issues.
By allowing state decriminalization of marijuana efforts to move forward, President Obama is shrewdly using democratic political initiatives to thumb his nose at the big-pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and other health-care related industries that have traditionally supported the G.O.P. and profited from marijuana’s continued criminalization. His controversial political decision to not oppose state decriminalization efforts has been made at a time when his “Obamacare” health reforms have already created much “heartburn” for many in industries who have traditionally been able to effectively use their lobbyists to subvert Federal reforms for years. Perhaps not surprisingly, Obama has been very quick to “hop on-board” the decriminalization and legalization bandwagon for his own political benefit, but he also appears to truly believe “racially biased marijuana law enforcement is bad policy.” Furthermore, legalization of marijuana and hemp cultivation may generate substantial economic benefits for the States that pass new drug laws, and perhaps even for the entire Nation, when one considers how much savings could be realized from reducing the budgets of Federal agencies fighting the war on drugs. Also, new tax revenues from marijuana sales that did not exist before, expanding business-venture investments, and a legalized marijuana tourism industry that sprang-up virtually overnight after New Years Eve in Colorado will all likely serve to improve the economies of reform-minded States who legalize recreational and medical marijuana.
So the biggest “jobs bill” President Obama may yet ever be known for, may become the Federal decriminalization of the illicit marijuana drug industry, and the end of the “War on Drugs” as we know it. At the end of his Presidency, if he can pull this fundamental change in national drug policy off, President Obama will likely be praised for ending not two, but three wars – two lengthy international wars, and a war both foreign and domestic, that along with the Cold War, could rightly be labeled as our nation’s “longest war” – i.e. the War on Drugs. No wonder President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, if these reform efforts withstand the test of time, Obama could end-up being known in the history books as the “Peace President!” Talk about a potentially unexpected Presidential legacy for one who till just recently supported NSA espionage against all Americans, and who has authorized the use of more drone attacks in the “War on Terror” to violate the international sovereignty of more nations than any other President on the planet!
Regardless of the President’s potential Presidential legacy, it is the freedom loving people of the independent-minded Western states, riding a changing tide of American public opinion against the War on Drugs, against a Congress with record low approval ratings, and who have the lowest level of trust in their government since Watergate, that are really “fueling the fire” of political and economic change on the marijuana issue. And with these changing political perspectives, a fundamental shift in how citizens provide for their families when Federal laws are repealed by State democratic actions is occurring across the land. Instead of “trickle down economics,” it would appear, many Americans are now advocating for “smoke-up economics” instead.
So where will entrepreneurial “free-spirits” looking for greater freedom, and “get rich quick” schemes likely all be headed? Based on at least one anecdotal example, more and more are headed away from Wall Street, towards the setting sun, and onward to the “head-shops” and “wide-open” cities out West like Denver and Seattle. The next great migration of “snake-oil” salesman are headed to the cities in states where personal freedom has been bolstered by independent-minded citizens using democratic state initiatives to thwart Federal laws they deem unconstitutional. However, unlike the “cure-alls” of old however, these new opportunists will be selling medicinal plants and edibles guaranteed to contain enough THC to generate the desired medicinal effect in their customers. If not, I presume they could likely soon be sued by dissatisfied customers in state court! So in case you still haven’t noticed, we now live in a new political reality where democratic political initiatives have begun to cure what ails our Federal government, and “grass-roots” democracy, if allowed to flourish by the next President, may yet check the power of an ever-encroaching and centralized D.C. establishment many Americans now view as destructive to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Millions of Americans have desperately needed jobs, but Congress, consumed by it’s own self-interested, self-absorbed, political and economic distractions, has been far too slow to respond effectively and comprehensively to this basic but universal Middle-Class necessity. This basic fundamental need, along with many citizens now being totally fed-up with the new “police state” mentality prevalent within the U.S. establishment, has empowered many citizens to come “out of the closet” on yet another political, economic, and social issue. Americans should expect this trend to continue, because now that we have had our first “Commander in Chief” discredit the biased enforcement of national drug laws, and the self-destructive nature of the War on Drugs on America, many more citizens of many more states are likely to finally join the fight to legalize recreational marijuana use. Why? Oppressive “zero-tolerance” mandatory sentencing laws that tie Federal judges hands have ruined far too many lives, imprisoned far too many nonviolent offenders, destroyed far too many families, and made enemies of far too many average Americans for far too long. In fact, ever since the 1960s counter-culture dared to “question authority” during the volatile Vietnam War era, the military-industrial complex has waged war against those who smoked grass. But rest assured, a new form of ‘Grass’-roots democracy, along with a far greater economic necessity, and a renewed interest in protecting all American’s civil liberties from punitive Federal laws that have ignored constitutional limitations for far too long, has all combined at this critical moment in America’s history to create a new potent mix of wide-spread and sweeping political reforms and economic opportunities for Americans who have so desperately needed change since the Great Recession of 2008.
But will democratic state initiatives inspired by popular sovereignty, and a popular demand for renewed civil liberty protection guarantees, become the impetus of reform that will renew the dieing principle of Federalism to our troubled Republic? If so, the elimination of authoritarian and punitive Federal drug laws, and the cutting of arbitrary, “red-tape” barriers that limit the freedom of so many Americans (and the economic success of so many more “mom and pop” small-businesses), will likely cause a fundamental political and economic shift in our Federal government, and may reawaken our nation’s dreams for a better tomorrow. Thanks to President Obama, the American Middle-Class still has a means to use democratic methods to create fundamental change within America, if they will only continue to vote their conscious, and popular sovereignty is allowed to once again reign supreme across the land.
It remains to be seen however, whether the “bud-towns” out West will “boom” or “bust. ” However, other State-led decriminalization initiatives in 2014 (like legalization efforts in Alaska), and the Presidential election of 2016, will help to answer these important political questions moving forward. But now that the “bud” is out of the “bag,” it would be quite a “party-foul” for the G.O.P. (or even the Democrats) to reverse course, and “rain on America’s parade” by telling us all the legalization party is over right at the very moment America will be “riding high” on the profits and taxes from legalized recreational marijuana.
Why would “inside the beltway” politicians dare be so “square” as to tell us all to “pour the bong water out”? After all, in the not so distant future, the marijuana industry could become a new and highly lucrative source of campaign contributions for a new breed of Independent-minded “green-state” politician. In other words, the profits and taxes obtained from the legalized marijuana industry itself could lead to further political change that might surpass the blue and red state political paradigm. But fear of change based on popular states-rights initiatives focused on protecting civil liberties from a Federal government that many citizens now perceive as over-reaching and abusive might become the greatest threat ever faced by the established political order in D.C.. However, this would be a far safer means for reform measures to become the law of the land than the potential revolutionary alternative if the remnants of the once prosperous American Middle Class continues to be ignored.
Which ever political path towards change is followed, a new type of “tea”-party Libertarian may yet arise from the ashes of the War on Drugs, a civil-libertarian Conservative that may use state marijuana reforms, and other grass-roots civil-liberties issues as an important political impetus for restoring Federalism and trust in government to our Nation. A politician of that sort could rely on their meteoric rise to power via “the people’s will” as a new “check” and state-inspired political mandate against an ever-encroaching Washington D.C..
When all the smoke clears, a “brave new world” does appear to be emerging. The over forty year Federal war on peace (i.e. the War on Drugs) is perhaps finally coming to an end. And wouldn’t it be “so cool” if the “peace-loving,” “dope-smoking,” Woodstock “hippies” of the 1960s (and their crazy kids) could finally come back-out of “the closet” (or perhaps, get out of the closet for the first time), before the baby-boomers start legitimately needing medical-marijuana prescriptions to ease their pain and suffering associated with old age? Either way, if the tide of public opinion continues to swing towards further legalization of marijuana, and President Obama remains steadfast in his decision to turn a “glassy-eye” to the legalization issue, then the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s may almost be finally won! However, despite the Communist “Red Scares” of America’s historic past, those on Wall Street and inside the beltway need not fret about the likely economic upheavals ahead, because if the bud “boom-towns” out West are any indication of our Nation’s economic future, then the independent capitalistic mindset is still alive and well in America, and just “chomping at the bit” to “roam free” of the Federal laws that have sought to tame us all for far too long.