Thursday, August 07, 2014

The War on (Legalizing) Drugs

There are a number of powerful organizations across the country using their money and influence to try and stop marijuana legalization. They have a legal right to do this, of course, but it’s their motives that are highly problematic. From law enforcement organizations to pharmaceutical companies to private prisons and prison guards to alcohol and beer companies, the reason they oppose legal marijuana revolves around profits. It all boils down to money.

As knowledge about cannabis has spread, the “all drugs are bad” mentality has shifted, and there are few serious attempts anymore to portray marijuana as the devil weed of depraved and soulless addicts. Today’s opponents of legalization have much more practical objections. Once again, capitalism raises its amoral head. For the companies that object to legalization, arguments do not revolve around what’s clearly the right thing to do for society, but how legalization will affect their bottom lines. There’s no concern for the tens of thousands of people doing hard time in prison for being caught with a baggie of pot. There’s no sympathy for the disproportionately large number of African Americans serving time for pot possession. There’s no interest in the scientific findings that marijuana is far less hazardous to a person’s health and far less addictive than alcohol or tobacco. Our allegiance, they will gladly tell you, is to our shareholders and investors.

Although their objections to marijuana legalization are morally repugnant, it’s not hard to understand the resistance of police and private prisons. The more people they arrest and lock up, the more money they make through various channels. The groups that puzzle me are the alcohol and pharmaceutical companies. Both of these industries seem perfectly suited to take advantage of legalization and profit form it. They already have distribution channels, staff for research and development, and in the case of alcohol companies, a network of farmers who would probably be happy to grow marijuana alongside their hops and barley.

The other aspect to consider is the inevitability of legalization. Spending tens of millions of dollars opposing the will of the American people seems incredibly stupid from a business standpoint. The snowball is rolling down the hill and while some efforts may succeed in slowing it down, it won’t be stopped. If I were Anheuser Busch, I’d quit throwing money away on anti-legalization efforts and put it toward retooling the company to start growing, packaging and selling pot. Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if behind the scenes, they weren’t already doing just that.

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