EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

March 23, 2014

Column: Legal marijuana can be government's new cash crop

A very mellow good morning … afternoon … evening … whatever. Hey, it’s all good in the land of the free and home of the high.

Or, more specifically, as you’ve probably read, home of the “Rocky Mountain High.” I really think that John Denver would be pleased; I suspect that’s what he meant more than imagining standing at 14,000 feet on one of the Collegiate Peaks.

Yes, we are inching our way toward allowing people to get high legally on something other than booze. Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana use; 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized it for medical use; and another 14 are considering it.

That’s critical mass. While it’s still illegal at the federal level, I predict the cracks in the prohibition dam will spread. It may not happen as quickly or with as much “civil rights” scolding as the gay marriage movement, but the trend is inexorable.

Justin Hartfield, founder of Weedmaps.com and perhaps the country’s most well-placed entrepreneur to reap billions from that trend, made the same comparison to the Wall Street Journal last weekend.

“What happened with gay marriage is going to happen with marijuana,” he said. “Give me 24 months.”

It ought to happen, and while it will probably take more than 24 months, it shouldn’t. It is vastly less disruptive and revolutionary than redefining marriage. It will get law enforcement out of the business of arresting and jailing people for nothing worse than having the equivalent of a couple of cocktails with dinner. It will eliminate the absurd equivalence of marijuana with cocaine and heroin.

Most importantly, it will (mostly) remove it from the underground economy, allowing the kind of regulation that now covers alcohol and bringing growers and dealers out of the shadows to become respectable, taxpaying citizens. (More about that “taxpaying” part later.)

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