EDITORIAL FOR OCTOBER 13-16, 2020
I’m CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof. As manager of this radio station one of my many responsibilities is to listen to new country music and decide which new songs to air on this station. There appear to be two subjects that dominate the lyrics of today’s new releases. The first is meeting girls and the second subject is drinking and getting drunk. Sometimes I think that if I hear one more song about beer, wine, whiskey, margaritas or tequilas I just might scream! I can only wonder if the liquor industry might be paying off the record companies.
The fact of the matter is that alcohol is one of dozens of intoxicants that are presently on the market. But likely due to some historical accident alcohol is the only popular intoxicant that isn’t a crime to possess. That’s probably the reason why you don’t hear any country songs about snorting cocaine. Years ago we played a song called the “Wildwood Weed” and I got enough complaints about it that I took it off the air.
In Arizona mere possession of the smallest quantity of marijuana is a felony unless a doctor prescribed it. That means that if you are caught with one leaf of a marijuana plant you could get a year in the state pen. Possession of more than two pounds of the evil weed and you could be looking at a dozen years behind bars. Many people think that the penalties for mere possession of pot are extremely out of line and all the prison time is a waste of tax dollars. Over the years there have been many proposals to reduce the penalties but the Republican leadership of our state legislature won’t hear of changing the law. They want to keep it as it is. Accordingly we now have a proposal before the voters of this state to bypass the legislature and legalize possession of marijuana in the form of Proposition 207.
Many people are aware of 207 and they think that it is a simple matter of repealing the existing law and making marijuana legal. It would be lovely if 207 were that simple but it is not. If the people who wrote 207 only wanted to legalize pot all they had to do is repeal the law that makes possession a felony. Problem solved. If they wanted to they could also impose a special excise tax on marijuana and empower the state revenue department to collect it. The whole proposition would be a couple paragraphs long. But if you read 207 you will discover that it is actually twenty typewritten pages long and it is full of all sorts of junk that is mostly about helping special interest groups make a whole lot of money off the sale of the weed.
Four years ago the marijuana lobby came up with an initiative similar to Prop 207 and the voters of Arizona defeated it. The 2016 version called for the establishment of a new state bureaucracy to be known as Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control. This year’s version calls for expansion of the existing Department of Health Services and puts that agency in charge of both regulating the marijuana industry and collecting marijuana related taxes. The proposed excise tax rate is sixteen percent. And that’s in addition to existing sales taxes. To sweeten the deal, the initiative says that $45 million a year goes to various good causes which are selected by the people who wrote the proposition. Some of those causes include education and law enforcement. Marijuana could be sold only by licensed dispensaries including those that already exist, thus protecting the existing medical marijuana industry and its profits. Marijuana would have to be grown on licensed farms; no buying it from Mexico. 207 actually creates new marijuana related crimes as there are limits to how much pot one person can have at any time.
Of course if the legal weed got too expensive people could still buy it on the black market if they wanted to take the risk.
Make no mistake about it. 207 isn’t about whether marijuana is good or bad. Prop 207 is about money. And like all ballot initiatives, if it doesn’t work out as planned, our legislature is powerless to change it as that requires another vote of the people.
The proper way to deal with the marijuana issue is to change the one party legislature that Arizona has had for as long as most of us can remember. There has to be something between putting people in prison for years for possession of a popular plant and having it sold at a corner store to anyone 21 years of age or older. A good step in the right direction would be to change possession from a felony to a low level misdemeanor. But that’s not what 207 does. My suggestion is to skip the twenty pages of assorted junk and vote no on 207.
I’m CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions you’ve just heard are mine and not necessarily anyone else’s. If you’d like a copy of this editorial or you’d like to express your opinions go to the CAVE web site and select Editorials. We’re at CAVEFM.com. That’s CAVEFM.com