For the past several years, the North Carolina General Assembly has toyed with the idea of legalizing medicinal marijuana, contemplating what should be a given even as other states have gone a step further and legalized recreational pot.
While our legislators have been busy dicking around with our civil rights and generally wasting time and money, states like Washington and Colorado have been raking in the cash brought in by Mary Jane.
The state of Washington alone has brought in over $400 million in tax revenue since June 2014, when recreational marijuana sales began.
I was there, in line, ready to see what kind of store would sell pot. And it wasn't a big deal. A guy checked my I.D., then, it was my turn at the counter, I told the person what I needed – "something for pain, but I can't get stupid," I said. They suggested Blue Dream, a hybrid strain.
It was a cool moment. And, you know what? The world didn't explode. Despite lines for the first few days, nothing changed in Seattle, where I lived for a year before returning to Crown Town.
Things are chill in Colorado, too, where the state is also making a shit-ton of money off of legalized pot and all the other products — edibles and drinks, for example — rolling out of busy factories. The demand for those products creates jobs at those factories and the farms that grow pot there.
The claims that legalizing pot would increase crime? Bunkus according to The Denver Post, which reported in 2016 that "marijuana-related crimes in Denver make up less than 1 percent of all offenses counted in the Uniform Crime Report."
And in Washington, D.C., where recreational pot has been legal since 2015, crime dropped.
"The decrease in marijuana arrests is an enormous victory for District residents, who have resoundingly rejected the criminalization of marijuana," said Bill Piper, Senior Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, in a press release. "Marijuana law enforcement has particularly damaged communities of color in the District, who have borne the brunt of prohibition. We hope that law enforcement continues to responsibly enforce the new law and completely eliminates any racial disparity in arrests."
There is a bill before the N.C. General Assembly now – House Bill 185 – that would legalize medical marijuana, but (surprise!) it's languishing in a committee where it's been stuck since February and will likely remain.
The text of the bill includes this, "According to the United States Sentencing Commission and the Federal Bureau 17 of Investigation, 99 out of every 100 cannabis arrests in the United States are made under state law, rather than under federal law."
That is important. As you probably know, the U.S. Attorney General is a lunatic from Alablamastan who would like to re-start the "War on Drugs." That's the completely ineffective prison-packing baby of Nancy Reagan. That makes HB 185 a win for the States' Rights folks.
All told, HB 185 is what you'd expect from a medicinal marijuana bill, plus it would instruct the University of North Carolina to research marijuana for medicinal purposes.
There are even some safeguards for those who are caught with pot without a medicinal license.
It matters what the NCGA does on the pot issue. HB 185 isn't ideal, frankly, but a start toward full decriminalization.
So, if you don't like the idea of for-profit prisons; if you like the idea of being able to choose for yourself what you plant and ingest; if you're in favor of the ever-elusive freedom promised by our country's Founding Fathers; then you need to Google your state rep's digits and give him or her a call and let them know what you want regarding HB 185.
You know, maybe tell them that you'd gladly pay a little extra per bag for the ability to visit your neighborhood pot shop so you can purchase a strain of marijuana that helps you with what ails you.
If nothing else, the tax revenue could pay for the lawsuits the General Assembly, in its scant wisdom, has looped us taxpayers into over the past few years.