Six years ago, you got elected as the candidate of hope against the half-mad and probably corrupt people we keep sending back to Sacramento. (Note for my overseas readers: Sacramento is the capital of the state of California. That’s where the California Legislature – parliament – meets. It’s elected directly by California voters. The President of the US has nothing to say about who is Governor of California.) We keep sending the same people to the Legislature based on the view that: Your guy is a moron who probably takes bribes but my guy is all good.
Now that the voters rejected the band-aids your proposed, you are going to have to do something. (See my posting of 5/21/09, on Bay Watch Jacques.)
At the time of your first election, you challenged the legislators to a mano-a-mano precisely on spending issues. You swore you were going to reduce spending and rein in the state deficit. I was proud of you then because of that, and I because, I too speak English with a German accent (sort of), and of course, because I too have the body of a body-builder. Moreover, it made me feel good to live in a country where an immigrant just like me can become successful and rich, and the highest elected official of the number one state. (Try to imagine anything remotely like this happening anywhere else in the world!)
Now, let’s face it: You lost the mano-a-mano. The legislators bent your arm and slammed it on the table top, and you winced. Tears even came to your eyes. Spending is worse than ever. You have begun to sound petulant lately, like a little girl refused ice-cream, not like the Terminator at all. Did I hear it wrong or did you threaten us with burning to death and with murder in the streets because you and the legislators now have to reduce spending? Worse, did you threaten Californians with closing our state parks, and therefore, many or most of our beaches?
Don’t even dream of it Arnold! If there is one thing that will bring on mass civil disobedience in this state, it’s denying us access to the beach. And keep in mind that you cannot send the National Guard against beach-goers in flip-flops, armed with plastic sand-buckets and shorty surfboards, with the pockets of their cargo-shorts filled with stink bombs. Not with your cinematographic German accent, you can’t! If necessary, thousands of California girls will take off their bikini tops and flash the National Guardsmen. And who do you think is going to win then, Governor?
Deep down, you know what you have to do to solve the very bad California fiscal crisis. It would take only one legislative measure. I am not a sore loser so, let me help you with it:
Legalize marijuana in the State of California.
Let me take care of objections first. Yeah, yeah, I know that cannabis is also illegal under Federal statutes. Well, not completely if you look carefully. The Federal Government even grows its own and supplies extracts to some people. (Would I make this up?) Second, there has never been a better time, on the federal level to bend the federal government to our will. Pres. Obama wants tor remain popular with minority voters (I know I am casting aspersions about who uses what, so? I watch Black and Hispanic comedy shows on television. They don’t lie.) It’s probable that more Democrats than Republicans are in favor of legalization. Well, there is a big Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.
Besides, Pres. Obama and the Democratic Party will not want to alienate the state that is their biggest supplier of votes by saying: We don’t care what you California voters say; we will overrun your clearly expressed will. Some Republicans will complain, both in California and in Congress. First, the President won’t care because he has already lost them. Second, here is the advice you will give the President to shut up at least some of those Republicans:
California having legalized marijuana for itself is a states’ rights issue.
That will make many, if not all, Republican Congresspeople take cover .
Don’t be shy, Arnold. It would not be the first time California shows the rest of the nation the way.
As soon as you achieve the legalization of cannabis, you can start to regulate it effectively. I mean with respect to restrictions to minors and with respect to quality and purity.
There is nothing in our constitution that prevents you from making legalization retroactive. You can immediately begin giving amnesty to the tens of thousands of small-time marijuana dealers now being supported by me at the cost of about $40,000 a year each, I am told. (Please, correct me if I am wrong.) You can save a lot almost overnight by not having to maintain these people anymore. Incidentally, a disproportionate number of those behind walls are young blacks, a fact that has always disturbed me a little.
Small time marijuana dealers d not belong in prison and jail with assassins and child molesters.
You can then start laying off right away thousands of the very expensive prison guards who are state employees. Again, these people are extraordinarily costly (for reasons that might be legitimate). I would be surprised if managing minor marijuana dealers alone does not occupy fully ten per cent of correctional personnel. I want to be fair here. On the one hand, there is no reason to pick on correctional officers just because their union is extraordinarily successful. On the other hand, there is also no reason why their unemployment rate couldn’t be approximately in line with that of the rest of the California workforce, about 11% the last time I looked.
As soon as you lay off correctional officers, you give an examples to cities and countries also to lighten their work force by whatever number repressing marijuana traffic and use justified. I expect that the percentages will vary from locality to locality. In my town of Santa Cruz, the numbers involved are probably minuscule and we won’t save much. In more staid, conservative towns and counties, the numbers will probably be quite significant. Of course, this does not affect the California budget directly, except insofar as the state subsidizes the so-called war on drugs with reference to marijuana specifically. You can cut those subsidies within a reasonable period, say, six months. More savings then.
Stop spending my money unsuccessfully chasing and locking up marijuana entrepreneurs.
Of course, I have kept the best for last. As soon as marijuana is legalized, you can begin taxing it. Prices will drop, for sure. They will drop overnight because only the war on drugs makes marijuana expensive. It’s fundamentally easy to grow, package, transport, and retail. I suspect the price will go down to about the same as tobacco, or a little lower. I don’t think use will increase by much. It’s a fairly price-inelastic product. Those who want to use use; those who don’t want to use are not going to be much encouraged to try it because it has become cheap. I could be wrong on this, I welcome the opinion of those who know more than I do on this precise issue. There are many, right in my neighborhood but also elsewhere, across this great state and across this great nation. At any rate, it seems to me that the order of magnitude of new state revenue to be expected from taxing this form of recreation is about the same as what California gets from tobacco taxes. That is large.
Tax sin. That’s a true and tried recipe. You might sweeten some Republican legislators by pointing out this fact.
What’s the downside of this simple plan? It seems to me that it’s mostly political and even that might be small. Today’s older people, the expected conservatives, are mostly Baby-Boomers. Many or most have tried marijuana even if they are not current users themselves. They know that good-quality marijuana is, on the whole, not a very dangerous. It’s probably not as bad for your health as daily use of tobacco or immoderate use of alcohol.
Cannabis products have two things in common with alcohol. First, they brighten a lot of people’s lives and they are probably good for their health overall. That’s because they relieve stress, even in small quantities. (I am not addressing here the poignant issue of very sick people for whom marijuana has long been proved to provide pain relief.) The second feature marijuana shares with alcohol, most legalization proponents deny against the evidence of their own experience, unfortunately, I think. It affects your driving adversely, even in small amounts. So, to that extent, policing the roads will become more expensive, but nothing like the money we are spending unsuccessfully keeping cannabis illegal. A little of the new tax revenue will be offset by added, necessary highway control.
As an additional boon, legalizing marijuana in California will help our neighbor Mexico get back on its feet. The high crime there, the bloody banditry, can be directly blamed on our war on drugs that makes certain products absurdly valuable. Some, not all, is marijuana. Stop warring on it at home and the value will drop everywhere, and there will be less reason to deal in it. Then, fewer Mexicans will die or become corrupt. Some conservatives will even give you credit for doing something tangible about the Mexican violence now spilling into southern California.
You can be a good neighbor by legalizing marijuana.
Of course, I am completely sure that our farmers, the best farmers and among the best entrepreneurs in the world, would immediately respond to legalization. Consumers too would react favorably; they would insist on buying American. Faced with the choice of buying from some guy at a street corner more or less connected to the Mafia and purchasing from their neighbors at the farmers’ market, they would go for the local stuff. Some of it would even be organic, another argument to convince the President.
Give Californians the option to buy local.
If you make the announcement, the Legislature will crumble overnight. You will be a hero to the young and to many old-timers as well. You will go down in History as the hero who solved a big financial crisis with an imaginative measure that also promoted liberty. We can expect the first, highest quality-ever harvest in about three months. You can begin taxing as soon as it hits the market. That’s nearly right away.
PS I don’t use marijuana or any other cannabis product.
As I write, President Obama is in the Middle-East, trying to “repair relations with the Muslim world.” (according to the state press.) How? Why? Muslim public opinion does not belong to grade-school children you can influence with soothing words. Some Muslims are suffering under tyrannies of long standing we, Americans, have been supporting. Others want to burn Los Angeles because your grand-daughter, or you niece, walks around with her navel exposed. In every predominantly Muslim country, there are also millions of people who like what I like: peace, prosperity*, good schools for the children, and the freedom to watch, read, and say whatever they want. Give those people a voice. That’s what we did in Poland and in Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere in the enslaved countries of Eastern Europe.
If you think a half-baked solution ( the only kind possible) to the Israel-Palestinian problem is going to pacify the Muslim world, the pot you are smoking is too strong. Buy American, instead. (See above.)