Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Christian, I’m not a Republican, not your boring white dad, and I definitely didn’t believe everything “Reefer Madness” told me about getting high. But if nationwide marijuana legalization were up for vote any time soon, I would have to check the box marked “no.”
Why? Well, in a nutshell: because fuck no to rules, man.
There are many issues in this debate routinely overlooked my fellow smokers, which if brought to light might change your opinion about Uncle Sam giving us the big OK-GO.
Legalization (of anything, not just marijuana), while packaged as this freeing and wonderful golden egg to be snatched up after beating the boss at the end of level IV, is really a big set of rules designed to direct funds from one account to another in the interest of legislators, politicians, and the corporations that fund them. Big Marijuana, as an extension of Big Tobacco, will absolutely employ the same tactics that is has for years with cigarettes including (but not limited to) the heinous use of addiction-enhancing additives and artificial flavorings, co-opting of smoking culture, manipulation of the legal system and FDA guidelines for further financial gain, and the manipulation of “controlled” lab testing to fight the annoying and inevitable hell that will rain down on them from the Christian Right if this bill ever goes through.
I must point out that smoking mary-jane is in no way a victimless crime. I’m not going to get into how many people die working for the cartel every year while they transport the good stuff through tunnels under the border, but there are carcinogens produced during the combustion of weed, just as there are during the combustion of tobacco. That said, there is no reason to add insult to injury as Big Marijuana inevitably will, if it means they will turn a higher profit. (See what I did there?)
In 1994, a list of 599 additives, created by five major American cigarette companies, was approved by the Department of Health and Human Services for use in mainstream tobacco production. Under the guise of organoleptic use, or to appeal to the senses, these additives range from harmless (acetic acid, almond bitter oil), to downright villainous (skatole, thymol, dimethyl sulfide) and all increase the addictive properties of an already addicting plant.
Marijuana, also arguably addictive because of its naturally occurring Tetrahydrocannabinol, does not need any additional dependency causing qualities, in my humble opinion, and as a purist I prefer to obtain the cleanest marijuana possible anyway. While this isn’t always possible on the black market (some growers use toxic pesticides, or have the nerve to lace their product), it is much less of a risk than it would be if Phillip Morris started dipping his filthy hands into the pot.
Furthermore, mainstream tobacco production, which we can safely assume will be mimicked for marijuana, includes many wetting and drying processes which degrade the quality and flavor of the plant. These losses are then compensated for or covered up using chemicals and artificial flavors. Meanwhile, this is easily avoided by dealing with home-growers in small batches who take pride in their curing.
Now, you may be thinking, “So? Who says I have to buy a pack of Marlboro Marleys? Can’t I just keep getting it from the dude who lives on the 2nd floor of my apartment building?”
Maybe. After all, the black market will never be completely stamped out. But the truth of the matter is that legalization of marijuana will translate into harsher penalties for independent marijuana growers and distributors because they will be viewed as “taking money out of Big Marijuana’s pocket.” Lobbyists for Big Tobacco will push for stricter legislation to protect their industry and crackdowns on even small-time dealers will ensue. For every grower or dealer that is caught and used as an example by the courts to his colleagues, you can count on 2-5 more quitting the business out of fear. Of course, this isn’t even taking into consideration how many of them will give up because their business will slow too much to be sustainable now that their clientele can buy legally and conveniently by simply walking down to the corner store.
Finally, marijuana “culture”—I’ll be the first to say, it fucking sucks. I don’t like tie-dye, I don’t think the 7-pointed leaf makes for a good logo, hemp should only be used to make paper, and please cut your fucking hair. But even still, it’s a culture that has been developing organically for decades. Can you even begin to imagine what will happen to it when the creative directors who used a cartoon camel wearing sunglasses to sell cigarettes to children get their hands on it?
So there you have it, ganja lovers. The real power is in a black market existence for our beloved plant. Vote no and stay in control of your market and quality of smoking experience.