I’m about to drop an elephant into the room. Ready? Okay, here it comes: Marijuana.
All right – is everyone still standing? Good. No one hurt? No Fainting? Excellent!
Marijuana is illegal. At least, it is in most places. I know this to be true. When I was a child, however, I had a hell of a time trying to figure out whether it was actually good or evil, based on the dichotomy that overall society presented to me: Nancy Reagan said it was bad. Cheech Marin staunchly disagreed. I was just a confused kid.
Growing up, both of my parents smoked. A lot. Not pot – just to clarify. At least, not that >I< know about. Just cigarettes – and enough of them that I’m probably still nicotine buzzing, even as I write this. So, for me, pot was never all that appealing (because you had to smoke it, and smoking was one of the last things I wanted to do). Full disclosure, though: I’ve tried it. On at least three occasions. And you know what? Nada – zip – zilch. Didn’t do a thing for me, except to help me understand what a bong was actually for and how it worked, and to wonder what all the fuss was about. I ended up even more confused than before I did so.
Suffice it to say, I have precisely zero interest in the stuff from a recreational standpoint. Why in the heck am I confessing all of this to you, especially if I ever want to run for public office? I’m ever so pleased that you asked! Because I’m leading up to something and – like any good showman – I feel that I owe you something for your having paid the price of admission (i.e. – reading this.)
In recent months, more and more places and individuals seem to be moving toward a bigger push than ever to legalize the stuff. First it was for medicinal purposes, but it appears as though we’re poised to move beyond that stage in the very near term.
In recent weeks, my wife and I have been working our way through a television series on DVD, that some of you might recall, called ‘The Wire’. For those of you not familiar with the show, it centers on a group of misfit cops, and various drug dealers in their collective sights within the city of Baltimore. What makes the show different is the care it takes in presenting things from both sides of the fence, rather than simply vilifying ‘the bad guys’. I highly recommend it.
Anyway, as we have been watching this, I found myself thinking a lot about what life in Rockford might be like if marijuana legalization happened – right here in our little neck of the woods. This, dear readers, is why we’re here today. Below, I intend to outline my thoughts on the pros and cons of the situation. But I want something from you as well. I’d like to see what sort of constructive conversation we can delve into here, to determine what legalization might truly mean for the Stateline area. I’ll say now that all posts that are overly profane or uncivil will be dealt a severe case of deletion. Ready to play friendly? All right then, here goes:
First of all, we have the users. If the end users of the product have a more controlled and ready supply, are they more likely to overindulge? Miss work? Cause chaos by their intoxicated interactions with a society around them? Will they have more money to spend on other things, in an open marijuana economy? Will they then use it for more intuitive purchases, if they do? Will their lives be better off? Will our penal system be less clogged? Will the lack of fines and arrests, coupled with a new-found ‘transparency’ to the buying and selling prevent more murders? Shooting? Crimes? Will it offer less revenue for law enforcement, or more in light of potential savings?
Then, we have the street level dealers: what will become of them? Will they move on to harder drugs? Will they get a real job? Will they take their business acumen and shift it into a more mainstream economic venture? Will they become new sorts of criminals? Thieves? Hard luck cases? Homeless?
On to the upper-tier distributors: who are these people in our neighborhood? Do they exist at all, or is most of our city’s pot grown outside of the city itself? Will they, too, move on to more legitimate endeavors? Or will they shift to harder drugs? Counterfeit Beanie Babies™? Are they mob-related? If so, will this mean more money that remains in our local economy?
What about the growers themselves? Will they take their knowledge and acumen and develop a more legal version of their grow op? Even if they do, do you think they’ll be able to thrive? (More on this in a moment.)
So, by now – and, heck, perhaps before we even started – you have some opinions formed. But… ha-ha! I’m not done!
Now, I want you to consider things from the other side of the coin:
Will police work go up or down, based on this legalization? Will they fill their former pot-arrest time with less working hours, or will it be offset by higher rates of crime in hard drugs, theft, murder, loitering, etc? Those drug dealers all need to get money from somewhere. And once a shadow economy is as well ensconced as the drug trade is, it’s hard to – pardon the pun – just go cold turkey.
Next, I wonder how long it will be before big farming conglomerates like Monsanto, ADM, and the like develop mega farms and squeeze out the little guy? (And I’m only using them as examples – not overtly saying that they would or would not do something untoward. There: that ought to cover me from any legal harassment from those two.)
Now, let’s hit closer to home yet: you. Will YOU be better off? With hemp-based products, in lieu of those now created from other raw materials? Will these products – and others – be better? Cheaper? Safer? Cutting-edge? Will your fair city of Rockford look better or worse from legalization? Will it harm or help the societal whole of those living within its confines? Will it cost you more, or less, as taxpayers? Will school attendance increase? Graduation levels?
In the end, it’s amazing how much something that seems so simple – and that can be (and often is) summarized as glibly as ‘legalizing a ‘fun’ drug’ – can be so complex and impactful to one’s everyday existence.
What are your thoughts? Ideas? Concerns? Let’s hear ‘em, folks.
Heath D. Alberts – Co-Founder & Marketing Director