Legalize it already

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

Are the feds ever gonna legalize cannabis?

Your guess is as good as mine. A lot of people are super excited because the MORE (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement) Act has made it through the House Judiciary Committee and is most likely headed to the House floor for a vote. If passed, the MORE Act would decriminalize and reschedule cannabis, which is listed as a “Schedule 1” drug, meaning it has no medicinal properties and is easy to abuse.

The bill would also free people doing federal time for weed and a few other cool things. It's a good bill, and it may make it through the House, but I would bet all the weed in my pockets right now that if this bill gets to the Senate, Moscow Mitch McConnell and his gang of willfully ignorant miscreants will keep the MORE Act (along with more than 200 other bills passed by the House) from ever coming up for a vote. One might think that the party of small government would like to strike a blow for freedom, especially since the latest polls from Pew show that 67% of the American people (and 55% of Republicans) say weed should be legal, but betting on a Republican senator to do the right thing is an easy way to lose money. So go ahead and be excited about the MORE Act if you like. Hell, you should definitely call your elected representatives and tell them to support this bill. Just don't expect anything to change until we get a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.

Are cannabis prices really going up?

Yep. The state Bureau of Cannabis Control, in its infinite wisdom, has announced increases on two cannabis taxes. The cultivation tax will go from $9.65 per ounce of cannabis to $9.87, and the “markup rate,” which is used for determining excise taxes, will go from 60% to 80%. The changes take effect Jan. 1, and the regulated cannabis industry is livid.

The BCC claims it is adjusting the taxes to keep up with inflation, but it seems to me as if the BCC is the only one inflating the price of pot. The price of an eighth (3.5 grams) of weed has been between $40 to $60 since 1995. The only thing that makes the cannabis at regulated dispensaries more expensive than the “black,” or rather “traditional,” market is that the traditional market isn't gonna add a 30% tax to your purchase. One would think that if the BCC really wanted to compete with the black market, it would be searching for a way to expand access (75% of California cities and counties still prohibit cannabis businesses) and find a way to keep prices low. Also, maybe the state should let clubs stay open later. I can buy a beer until 2 a.m., so why do dispensaries have to close at 10 p.m.? A small increase in the cultivation tax may not seem like a big deal, but a bunch of little things will soon add up to big trouble for the regulated market.