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Lawmaker Wants to Tax Marijuana

February 25, 2009
by Gary Enos
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Does it seem that advocates for significant changes in how marijuana is addressed in public policy have become bolder in their pronouncements in recent months? On the national level these advocates appear encouraged by President Obama's selection to run the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Now we see that a California state legislator has introduced a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana in the same way alcohol is regulated.
"This legislation would generate much needed revenue for the state, restrict access to only those over 21, end the environmental damage to our public lands from illicit crops, and improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to more serious crimes," says state Assembly member Tom Ammiano. The Drug Policy Alliance, which supports Ammiano's proposal, says that while many local police agencies in California consider marijuana enforcement to be one of their lowest priorities, marijuana arrests still increased by nearly 18% statewide in 2007. The drug policy reform movement is not being shy about its view that marijuana should be treated more like alcohol than like an illegal drug. How do you think the addiction treatment community should respond to this, if at all?

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Marijuana is like gays in the military there's a great deal of "don't ask, don't tell" surrounding it. I know many folks in both the professional treatment community and in the 12-step community who take a very soft line on pot, but would never say it out loud for fear or rebuke by those who feel marijuana is a dangerous illegal drug just like heroin.
For me, I don't think pot is all that harmful, and certainly less so than alcohol. Had alcohol been illegal all along, does anyone actually think that the FDA would recommend the legalization of such a bothersome substance? Pot, maybe booze, no way.
Think "harm reduction" before you lynch me and no, I don't advocate my clients smoke dope.

Using alcohol policy as a model for marijuana policy is somewhat ironic since there are so many people who think that there are significant problems with our alcohol policy. On the one side, you have people who propose very significant alcohol tax increases to drive down consumption, want harsher drunk driving laws, and more restrictive advertising standards. On the other, you have people (like the Amethyst Initiative) who think that the drinking age isn't working and ought to be re-considered. For those people interested in going deeper into the alcohol drinking age debate, at NAADAC and NAATP's Advocacy in Action conference (March 8-10) there will be a lunch panel discussion between two proponents of reconsidering the drinking age (one college administrator, one youth rights activist) and two opponents (one from MADD, one from the Center for Science in the Public Interest). It should be a lively discussion! For more information, please visit www.naadac.org and click on the "Advocacy" tab.

Assay it, regulate it and tax it.
After 30 years as a Tx professional
the risk/benefit is negligible.

Gary Enos

Editor

Gary Enos

@apeditor

www.addictionpro.com

Gary A. Enos has been the editor of Addiction Professional since its inception. He...