by Lou Binninger
Politicians are at their worst when imposing sin taxes on tobacco, alcohol and marijuana (MJ). Alcohol is the most widely used and devastating substances to society when considering addiction, health impact, auto accidents, crimes and offensive behavior. The country tried prohibition but has resorted instead to heavily taxing and regulating the industry.
Government takes a similar punishing approach to tobacco short of making the product completely illegal. The costs and taxes are so egregious that a flourishing black market has emerged. The same pack of cigarettes in Sacramento for $9 can be purchased in Saigon for 90 cents. The price difference between one state and another inspires bootleg cigarette entrepreneurs to move truckloads into the higher cost jurisdictions.
The enforcement and collection of revenues is so lush that there is the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to root out ne’er-do-wells who want to save or make thousands of dollars a year for their enjoyment. You can sin but you have to pay for protection to the government.
Libertarians say let people partake of what they want as long as they are just harming themselves. Let’s do away with government profiting from people’s preferences in life.
However, with a socialist medical system where “the poor” get a free ride, if the taxpayer is paying for the medical bills resulting from imbibing and inhaling, then should society be able to recoup its investment in livers and lungs? Some may say let’s have a market –driven approach to determine how to medically address drinkers and smokers who cannot pay their way.
The biggest cash cow that could be taxed are fat people who scientists say are over-dining for a disease or just plain wearing-out their body by packing around an extra 50-500 pounds. However, others say the medical expenses even-out because fat people die sooner saving the taxpayers. And, skinny people living “too long” can blow a couple million dollars in a health crisis at 85 by utilizing extraordinary life-saving equipment, super drugs and expensive procedures. Socialized medicine gets complicated.
Maybe all people could weigh-in at the health department each year to be charged by the pound for not making weight. That money could go into a co-op to pay for medical care.
Since 1996, when Proposition 215 permitted the use of marijuana with a prescription (215 Card) from a doctor, society has been evolving toward legalizing MJ and hemp for whatever ails you or just a buzz.
Though many very sick people have tried and/or benefitted from MJ, most people with a “wink and a nod” got the card to get high recreationally. Who wants to tell a cancer or severe seizure patient suffering on narcotics that they cannot try a MJ product anyway?
With the new recreational use passed in California the costs of both recreational and medical MJ are extremely high for growers, middle men, dispensaries and consumers. The fees to obtain a permit, jump through innumerable hoops, and taxing every phase from farm to fork are extremely high, so high that legitimate businesses have a tough time staying solvent. And, there are a huge number of illegal dispensaries who show-up then pack-up overnight with the state lacking the enforcement personnel to manage.
The black market will remain alive and well and keep ATF and other law enforcement types in business. This is another government-driven fiasco to profit politicians.
Along with government cashing-in there is a plethora of myths, bologna and wild claims about the benefits of MJ. Allen Berenson, a self-described libertarian who is married to Dr. Jacqueline Berenson, senior psychiatrist at Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute (for the criminally mentally ill) has written “Tell Your Children, The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence.”
A Yale graduate with a respected journalism career, Berenson did research on the connection between cannabis, mental illness and violence. Talks with his wife about her clients prompted his alarm and interest in the subject.
Berenson accuses the media, MJ advocates and politicians of under-selling the dangers of MJ use while over-selling the benefits. He says, “For centuries, people worldwide have understood that cannabis causes mental illness and violence just as they’ve known that opiates cause addiction and overdoses.”
Currently, the government is making the big money from MJ but are authorities intentionally ignoring the studies and statistics on the risks with MJ usage? While the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, opiates and a bad diet are frequently publicized today maybe it’s time to help people make a wise choice on whether marijuana is right for them. In our current socialist system taxpayers will pick-up the tab for the trouble that arises.