Way back in 2005, the late, great, John Michael Flint derived considerable amusement from Modesto’s horror at medical marijuana sales on McHenry Avenue. “Omigod, hide the women and the children! Lock the doors, draw the shades and head for the storm cellar,” wrote Flint, in his Community Column for the Modesto Bee. He added,
“Suddenly, here it is – the answer to a politician’s prayer, a white horse to mount and a straw bogeyman to thrash. Don Quixote’s valiant steed, Rocinante, and windmills weep with envy.”
Amused as always at our politicians’ retrograde alarm at the mere mention of marijuana, Flint would no doubt be even more entertained today, watching Stanislaus County supervisors bring down the double bludgeon of taxes and regulation on marijuana sales in Stanislaus County.
Keep in mind, every one of our supervisors is an anti-government, anti-tax, Trump Republican. They are all free market fundamentalists and have kept the faith by looking the other way when farmers poked hundreds of holes in the last great Valley aquifer in Stanislaus County and proceeded to engage in draining it to the last drop. Regulate land use? No way.
They’ve looked the other way on establishing building codes and inspections for rental housing, especially rental housing for poor people. Regulate slum lords? No way.
They had to be forced by intense public pressure to do a pilot study for Laura’s Law, a mild attempt to offer compassion and care for the mentally ill using court orders to provide treatment. Use government to help the afflicted? No way.
But give them a chance to go after marijuana, and they suddenly become advocates for taxes and regulation. The supervisors are proposing an 8 percent tax on marijuana sales for dispensaries and 2.5 percent for testing facilities. Naturally as everyone does these days, they’re calling the charges “fees” instead of taxes. Supervisors are also considering regulating the number of retail dispensaries of the fearsome weed.
Board Chairman Vito Chiesa is especially anxious to curtail cultivation sites within the county:
“There are so many it would scare you,” Chiesa said. “We need a strategy to allow us to suppress what is going on.”
Yes, now that marijuana is legal—really, really scary—the first thing we should do is regulate the free market. Never mind we’ve got an opioid epidemic that’s killing more people every day, never mind we have hundreds of mentally ill people wandering our streets day and night. No, what we have here is legal marijuana—a dire emergency that’s going to cost millions just to police.
County supervisors figure it’s going to run $4 to $7 million a year to enforce cannabis regulations, and that’s just for openers. Before it’s over, we’re probably going to need a specially-trained marijuana task force, preferably staffed by former Navy Seals and retired marines.
What with taxes and fees pushing up the costs of legal marijuana more every day, there’s bound to be a corresponding stimulus for the black market. Even today, any half-bright junior high-schooler knows where to score a joint, and often it’s right on the school grounds. Make it the cheaper of choices, and demand for the illegal stuff is sure to soar well beyond present heights.
But that’s always been the case with marijuana—it’s most potent effects are on non-users. Symptoms include paranoid hysteria, rising hyperbole, and irresistible delusions.
Never mind that marijuana use is already firmly established nearly everywhere as a casual and mostly benign alternative to alcohol and other far more potent drugs—and that happened well before it was legalized. Never mind that is medical benefits have been determined by science. In fact, again in the words of John Michael Flint,
Never mind anything but this: It [marijuana] is a “red meat” issue for the uninformed
and the fearful, an answer to the “what have you done for me lately?”
question asked by the uncritical.
An eternal optimist, John Flint always said that government was the best free entertainment anywhere. He would be happy to know it still is, as long as your standards are low and your expectations even lower.