A friend of mine (who shall go unnamed) recently harvested about a half a pound of quality marijuana from his backyard. He grew it from some seeds he got for free, watered it regularly and after a few months, had enough to last him through next harvest. Cost? Almost nothing. A little water, plus time and sunshine, no fertilizer or pesticide needed. And here in California, totally legal with a medical referral. Sounds like a great deal: free weed! And it was good, too. It also made me think about the value of growing your own medication.
As far as medicine/drugs goes, all pharmaceuticals cost money. Research, testing, marketing, etc. all cost millions/billions per drug. Marijuana is free and easy to grow organically.
As far as tobacco is concerned, they cost a few bucks a pack, maybe $5-10 in NYC or California. But no smoker I know grows and cures their own tobacco, let alone sprays it with toxic chemicals. With alcohol, whether you buy it by the bottle or the glass, it costs money. Less for cheap beer, more for expensive wine, but it's rarely free. And aside from a few hobbyists, no drinker I know brews his own beer, wine or hard liquor. I've had decent home brewed beer and it still tasted pretty terrible compared to the German imports or even the watery American brews.
Now you may at this point have deduced that I am pro-cannabis, and you'd be right. But it's not a recreational issue, though a fat spleef does have its pleasures. It is an issue of middlemen and the profits they make as well as the government and the taxes they collect. With alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals, there is always a middleman. With marijuana, there is only you and Mother Nature and she's a very generous middleman. Well, the term middleman may not apply here, for it conjures up thoughts of profit margins and goods transacting and that is not Mother Natures job. She's more of a conduit, giving of sunshine and water and fairly adept at helping seed grow. She's not a man and she's not in the middle and she requires no payment nor takes a profit. And this is a big reason why marijuana has remained illegal: no company or corporation need be involved for you to grow and enjoy it. Those who oppose legalization are those with the most to lose. And you know who are most opposed to legalizing marijuana? Middlemen.
Yet they forget that Americans are built on convenience and marketing. Who's gonna set up a grow room when they can buy high quality skunkbud at 7-11? "Um, give me the Marlboro Marijuana 100's, no filter, hemp paper, extra thick fatties with the Cheech and Chong trading cards and stick of gum." Even so, a large portion of people will simply get some seed, plant some weed and move about their lives, which on so many levels threatens the profit margins of middlemen.
Think of them all: Alcohol companies, tobacco companies, pharmaceutical companies, bars and nightclubs, restaurants, and that's just scratching the surface of the recreational impact. But what about the industrial impact? The huge elephant in the room with medical marijuana and it's impending full out legalization is hemp, meaning industrial, non-narcotic hemp. Think about the companies/industries impacted by hemp fiber, seed and oil, which no one can trademark or copyright:
Petroleum, textiles, chemicals, paper, plastics, construction, food/nutrition, logging, agriculture, geotextiles, cosmetics & body care, livestock feed and bedding. And don't forget chemical fertilizer and pesticide companies, whose products are not needed for production. Get the picture? They all have so much to lose on a product that is basically free. Or do they?
Any of these industries could adopt and adapt hemp/cannabis and make great products. Remember: convenience and marketing = customers. And new middlemen. There are whole industries waiting to awaken upon the legalization of industrial hemp, as well as medicinal or recreational marijuana, and billions of dollars in revenues that as of now go to criminals and cartels (not to mention the billions we spend fruitlessly fighting them).
Businesses should think of hemp/cannabis kind of like they do solar or wind power; the sun and wind are free and available to anyone who wants to put them to use. No one can trademark or copyright the sun or the wind but we are about to build a whole new economy based on them. Bring industrial hemp out of the shadows of illegality and you'll see an even larger economy emerge. Both medicinal and recreational marijuana are just icing on the cake, though they'll boost revenues and industries of their own. And they have taken the publics eye off the real ball, which is industrial hemp. Check out this webpage on the uses of hemp; industrial hemp is being grown in western Europe and Canada but not in the US, where we import some of that hemp in a variety of forms. By legalizing hemp here in the US, we can let the market begin to integrate the plant that Popular Mechanics called "the new billion dollar crop" in 1938. They referred to more than 25,000 uses for the fiber and seed, and that was over 70 years ago! Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
PS- A while back, I posted two essays about how legalizing industrial hemp could help us turn Afghanistan into the largest biofuel producer in the world and set them up to not just export raw materials, but to build industries to create products from them as well. We could create a self-sustaining Afghanistan, take all those "drugs" off the market and end the US occupation in a very short amount of time. If you haven't yet, please do check them out HERE and HERE. Happy New Year and a wonderful 2010 to you all!