Pot fans got what they wanted in Colorado: they finally convinced voters there to support the legalization of “recreational marijuana.” It’s seen as a huge victory for those who support the powers of the individual states, and a great example of “federalism” in action. But who is considering the burden of all of this on the American taxpayer?
Before I go further, let me be clear: I have never in my entire life consumed marijuana. When I was a kid I was out of step with my peers on this, but I’ve just never been interested in “trying it,” and that’s still true today.
Secondly, I’m quite open to the idea that, as a substance, “cannabis” has value. The “hemp” fibers of the plant can clearly serve a variety of industrial purposes – people have been using it to make rope for years, and I own a wallet made from hemp (and my wallet “works” just fine).
There also may be medicinal values in the substance of “marijuana.” But when an individual state simply says “forget the feds, we’re legalizing it,” the state sets in motion a pattern of legal, administrative, and law enforcement chaos-and the already beaten-down American taxpayer ends up saddled with even more expenses and debts.
Consider how California began its “pot journey.” Voters there passed the “Compassionate Use Act of 1996” (commonly known as “Proposition 215”), a ballot proposition that was to allow marijuana consumption “for medicinal purposes” only. And the whole idea was sold to voters under the guise of “compassion”- you wouldn’t want somebody to suffer without their medicine, now would you?
When California voters said “yes” to medical marijuana, the next question from the government was “how do we give it to them?” It’s still illegal at the federal level, so it’s not like Californians could simply stock pot at the pharmacy, where all the legal medicines are sold. So California had to put together its own means of growing, harvesting, selling, and distributing pot.
This required the California legislators to spend taxpayer money legislating a new “Medical Marijuana Program.” After years of tinkering with legislative attempts, and making amendments, and facing threats of vetoes by former Republican Governor Pete Wilson back in the late 90’s, the California legislature finally found a friend in Democrat Governor Gray Davis, and in 2003 the state passed and began implementing the California “Medical Marijuana Program Act.” The state began hiring more government employees to administrate the new pot infrastructure program, and then began mandating to individual counties and cities that they acquiesce –and all of this was done at taxpayer expense.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.