Follow the money

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

Seriously, why can’t marijuana just be legalized at the federal level?

—E. Nuffleready

You know, I have been asking that question for more than 20 years. I am sure there are than a few different factors, but from what I can tell, the whole cannabis-prohibition thing was started because of racism, perpetuated and amplified by President Richard Nixon, and now the system of prohibition is maintained because when given the choice between doing the right thing or having large sums of money, people prefer large sums of money. The private prison industry would lose billions of dollars if cannabis were legal nationwide. So would the recreational alcohol industry, big pharma and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA has maintained cannabis as a Schedule I drug for decades, in the face of all the evidence indicating that cannabis is a relatively harmless drug.

A few months ago, a group of citizens composed of medical marijuana patients and pro-cannabis businesspeople challenged federal cannabis prohibition in court. Last week, presiding Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ruled against the plaintiffs because they “need to petition the DEA first.” This is a terrible decision. Cannabis activists have been petitioning the DEA for years, and despite all evidence, the DEA still continues to insist that cannabis is as bad for you as heroin. Why? Because The DEA would lose hundreds of millions of dollars if they couldn’t go after cannabis users. I am reminded of the quote from Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

In the meantime, states are taking the lead. Alabama (Yes, you heard me) is working on a law to decriminalize cannabis possession. I am sure U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pleased. Texas is working on a law. The entire West Coast has legalized cannabis. Smart people understand that weed isn’t the evil monster Harry Anslinger (he was the first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, starting under President Herbert Hoover in 1930) and Nixon made it out to be. Weed is not a gateway drug. It doesn’t make people violent. It has many medicinal uses and is less addictive than coffee and nicotine, There is no reason for cannabis to be anywhere near the list of dangerous drugs. If I was making a list of dangerous drugs, I would put “greed” and “willful ignorance” at the top of the list. And that’s about it. However, our president just floated the idea of using the death penalty to go after drug dealers. This country is so weird right now. I hope we can figure it out.

Heard you just got back from Texas. How was the weed?

—Al Amo

Better than before. I finally found a weed man in Austin, and they had like a mini dispensary with like eight different strains, some dabs and even some vapor pens. It used to be that you had to meet a person in some shady spot and buy whatever they had. It was nice to see the Texas weed man enter the modern age.