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Rob Kall

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Phelps and Obama -- Leading the Way Towards Legalizing Marijuana

Posted: 02/09/09 10:51 AM ET

You don't have to be a pothead to see that the writing is on the wall, that the end of pot prohibition is near.

Neither Barack Obama nor Michael Phelps is out in the streets protesting for the legalization of marijuana use, but let's face it, when the most gold medal winning human and the most popular president in decades both have cannabis use in their history, it's hard to argue that weed is bad for you and will f*ck you up.

To the contrary, when ultra-achievers have a record of inhaling, it turns the whole "evil marijuana" narrative upside down.

The massive coverage being given to Michael Phelps bong photo, the continued sponsorship by most of his sponsors, the election of confessed inhaler Barack Obama -- these add up to a change in the weather when it comes to the national conversation about marijuana criminalization.

Actually, Obama has advocated for the decriminalization of maryjane.


The mainstream media is totally ignoring it, but the buzz on twitter and in the blogosphere is growing. The hypocrisy, the bigotry and racism, the insane societal costs of criminalization are all adding up to the time being ripe for a major change in the archaic laws that Harry Anslinger, the nutcase from the 30's through 50's who sold the story of the "evils of marijuana" scared American into passing.

Now, one can easily argue that making ganja illegal exposes users to pushers selling harder drugs. One can argue that we are spending billions spying on, arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating mostly minority users and small-time dealers -- engaging in marijuana prohibition not unlike the alcohol prohibition that preceded the last great depression.

Some will argue that Phelps and Obama have set terrible examples by inhaling. But the truth is, it is far more terrible to destroy the lives of millions of mostly black and latino and teen smokers.

Maybe it's time. No. It is definitely time to re-visit marijuana laws. If weed was legalized and sold like alcohol and tobacco, we'd go from spending tens of billions on criminalizing it to creating an industry that would create at least a million jobs. Think about it. At least 40% of Americans have reported using marijuana. If just 5% of them were to use it legally on a regular to occasional basis, that would be 15 million users. The jobs created would entail growing, processing, packaging branding, advertising, retailing and then there would be those luscious state and even federal and municipal taxes. I can't imagine the industry being less than $3 billion a year, and probably, it would be a lot more, closer to $15-$20 billion.

Sure, states could maintain laws against it, but they would probably, to enjoy the taxes, quickly get on the Bong Bandwagon.

And if federal legislation included taxes that would help pay for the bailout and create a million or more jobs -- well, it's hard to imagine Barack-who-inhaled-Obama vetoing such a bill.

Frankly, it may start with opening up medical marijuana access, then decriminalization, like Massachusetts recently passed.

And Michael Phelps? Screw Kellogg's. I guarantee you the liquor, music and entertainment companies that will probably get into the business will jump to offer him hookah-tastic sponsorship offers.

 

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