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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pot Legalized!....Really?

         Before you pack your bags to head off to Colorado or Washington state to get a Rocky Mountain High you might want to check out what they really passed.  Technically pot is still illegal in Washington State.  They are just not prosecuting people for possession.  You can not grow your own.  That would define legal in my eyes.  The state is taking over the marijuana business from the criminals.  To sell it or grow it you have to be licensed by the state. The license will only cost you about $5000 dollars.  As I did my research I also found out if I understand it correctly you can not do both.  It is an either, or situation.  You can do one or the other.  Also you will be paying a 25% sales tax.  Oh and the state is modifying its driving under the influence law and you can now be charged with driving under the influence of both alcohol and cannibus.  Finally you still can not go to work high or get high at work.  Employers can still do drug screens and if you are under 21 years of age it is still illegal.  Washington State laws will start going into effect December 6th, 2012.

         The real reason for passing the law in Washington was to be able to pass the buck to the Federal government.  As it is now technically legal in Washington they are not spending their court money and time prosecuting what is a Federal Crime.  They also have been dropping charges and letting people go who  were caught prior to the law going into effect.  Surely they will be reviewing and letting prisoners out of their jails also.  The cost saving in this area alone could be into the millions of dollars.  Now they will tell the Federal government, "It is your law.  You enforce it, you pay for the trial, and you spend the money for the incarceration of those you catch."  This is a pretty sound decision based on a statement made by Deputy Attorney General David W.Ogden of the Obama administration.  He basically said, "It is not a wise use of Federal Funds to prosecute cases in states which have medical marijuana laws."  Well when he said it, it applied to thirteen states.  It now applies to eighteen states and the District of Columbia.  It appears even the Federal government is not willing to spend money enforcing their laws.

      Most people think legalizing pot is about getting high.  The reality is that it is all about money.  The states that legalized it can now tell the Federal government it is legal in their state.  They can simply refuse to enforce Federal law and not house prisoners.  Washington State made it very clear where they stand on the issue.  Even though the law does not go into effect till December 6th they dropped all the cases that were pending for drug related charges.  I am sure that saved the state a ton of money.  The next thing one can expect to see is the state cleaning out the prisons.  People with minor possession charges could be released for time served.  The potential savings just in that area is in the millions and millions of dollars.  When you add in the possible revenue that the state can get from taxing the now legal pot, state budgets may finally get some much needed relief. Sorry about repeating myself, but it is an important point in whole issue.

      What the states are really gambling on is that they can make money by taxing and licensing the growing and distribution of marijuana.  In this area Colorado is way ahead of many other states thanks to the actions of Deputy Attorney General Ogden.  They took the matter to the state house and approved a model medical marijuana system.  It is state licensed and state controlled.  When the State of Colorado legalized pot they did in fact legalize it for people over the age of 21.  You can grow up to six plants.  Three may be mature plants and three immature plants.  The catch is that it has to be grown in a controlled and secured environment.  One mature pot plant can be as big as a Christmas tree.  How many people can afford to house three full grown plants.  Colorado is only going to charge a 15% tax which is cheaper, but they will license all growing and selling operations and collect an annual license fee.   They have enacted laws to protect their already existing medical marijuana operations.  Also they are working toward making a way to grow a commercial grade pot for making paper, clothe, and rope.  Colorado definitely is far ahead of the other states when it comes to potentially creating jobs from the marijuana industry.  The Colorado laws do not go into effect until July of 2013 though.

   The real question is how the Federal government will react to the legalization of marijuana.  They can fight it, but if they do the states actually have a much better chance of winning than does the Federal government.  The Constitution makes clear that all rights not specifically given to the Federal government belong to the states.  As two former Presidents, Washington and Jefferson both grew marijuana on their farms it should be easy to prove that it was not the intent of the founding fathers to make marijuana illegal.  If the states win the battle it could be a big bonus for the Federal government. The Fed can then add on their taxes, release hundreds of thousands of prisoners and refocus billions of dollars in funds to more important purposes.

     So if you are considering relocating to get a Rocky Mountain High, Colorado might be the best choice.  Only time will tell if it matters at all.  If the world ends on 21st December as the Mayans predicted or the country goes off the fiscal cliff in January it may all be a moot point.  At least Coloradans will have a way to take their mind off the fact there are no jobs to be had as the economy moves from the edge of the cliff and into the abyss.

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