Just another business

In Sacramento, the city government—to its credit— has long been planning for the day when marijuana is legal, and with the 2016 election results, that day is nearly here. Their discussions are useful for Nevada to watch, because both states are headed down this road. In its latest configuration, growers in Sacramento would be taxed the regular four percent city business tax that other merchants pay. Then comes the kicker—some city councilmembers want them to also voluntarily pay one percent of gross revenue back to the neighborhoods where they operate.

It’s not clear to us why marijuana should be singled out for a particular kind of assessment like this if dry cleaners or barbers are not. It seems a bit like trying to keep the stigma attached to marijuana. Yes, the product needs to be regulated like alcohol and tobacco, but regulation should not be used to reinforce that stigma.

In case no one has noticed, the voters are putting an end to the notion that marijuana is some kind of suspicious business that should consider itself privileged to even be tolerated. A ghastly PR offensive of racism, bad science and a pack of lies created that notion decades ago, and it has taken decades to undo it. It was never true of marijuana any more than of tobacco or alcohol—less, indeed, since tobacco and alcohol come with death tolls, and marijuana does not.

It’s true that we know less about marijuana’s effects than about tobacco or drinking because of the longtime Luddite refusal of the federal government to allow research on the plant for fear that accurate and reliable information might become freely available to the public. It’s amazing how long the opprobrium of marijuana hung on in the face of “facts” invented by bigots, law enforcement and professional troublemakers when science and medicine were available as alternatives.

Given Donald Trump’s love of all things bigoted, it is entirely possible that he will try to disrupt this period of relative enlightenment and rev up the old PR machine to revive ignorance and hysteria, and hit the gas pedal again on the war on drugs, particularly when his creepy program causes problems and he needs to distract the public.

He would not be the first president to do it. After presidents Gerald Ford and—for a time—Jimmy Carter deemphasized punitive enforcement, Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush came roaring back at the head of the forces of intolerance and ignorance, spending billions on pointless efforts to stamp out drugs which instead increased their use and availability.

If Trump has any such designs, the public needs to back him off fast. The war on drugs has done too much damage to this and other countries and has caused too much drug use and drug addiction to allow it to renew its malevolent hold now.

Local officials, too, must be kept in line. Some of them, such as the Lyon County sheriff, were content to see patients in misery and convinced their jurisdictions to veto any medical dispensaries. Now, with the 2016 vote, they are overruled. They should not be allowed to undercut the public’s vote, though they will try at every turn. Treat marijuana like other businesses.