Roy Exum: Sunday’s Smoke Signals

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Easter Sunday, just passed, was on April 20 this year and at 4:20 in the afternoon – Colorado time – there appeared a huge harsh-smelling cloud of acrid smoke that billowed in the air fully across the state. Make no mistake about it, in what will become a huge holiday in more states in the quick coming years, legal marijuana is here to stay and on Sunday at 4:20, everybody was laughing while they puffed pot.

Back in the earliest days of hippies and the like, marijuana got the codename of “4/20” when, legend has it, a group of free spirits that called themselves “The Waldos” at San Rafael High School in California would meet at 4:20 p.m. beside a statue of Louis Pasteur on the school grounds to inhale a little “ganga,” or “Mary Jane,” as the herb was also called by those in the loop.

Now, some 40-odd years later, it is all but a cinch that within the next several years almost all America will abandon its ridiculous war against marijuana and follow in the brave path that has legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana in Colorado. Are you kidding me? The 420 mile-marker on I-70 running through the state has now been stolen so many times it has been replaced by one that reads, “419.99.” That’s the truth!

But the figure that had everybody gabbing about at Sunday’s great smoke-in was $6.17 million, which is the amount of money the state collected in tax revenues off of marijuana in the first TWO months of 2014 that the stuff has been available and taxable. Got your attention? In the next fiscal year that will begin on July 1 in Colorado, the state has budgeted $98 million in taxes on pot alone.

The state of Washington has also legalized marijuana and 20 other states now allow medicinal marijuana. This has enabled ArcView Market Research, a company in California, to determine the legal marijuana market in the United States is worth $1.53 billion, a number that will jump to $10.2 billion within the next five years.

With $10.2 billion a year, we could start a new country! So don’t think politicians, who can smell money faster than a trained drug dog can sniff out a reefer, aren’t studying America’s newfound acceptance of a well-known drug long forbidden by the U.S. government. According to the authorities, marijuana is still a Level 1 narcotic but don’t tell those who live in Washington D.C. If you get caught with a small amount in the nation’s capital you’ll get a ticket that you can settle for less than a parking violation.

Back to Colorado, state officials designated $40 million in pot taxes for public schools in the first two months. The trade organization that oversees the growing, harvesting, packaging and selling of marijuana within the state says almost 10,000 jobs have been created due to the new “industry” and goodness knows what the tourism figures will be – they’ve even got bus tours.

In Washington State they are conservatively budgeting $190 million in pot taxes during the first four years while California is raking in $105 million a year in taxes on medical dispensaries. Arizona, where there are 80 such dispensaries and more popping up every day, will go from $35.4 million in 2013 to an estimated $142.19 million in weed dollars this year.

Portland, Maine, voted to legalize marijuana as a municipality in November and organizers there feel certain they can guarantee $30 million in new taxes with marijuana. Rhode Island is currently studying a bill in the legislature that would regulate weed like alcohol and, if it passes, the tax revenue would be anywhere from $21.5 million to $82 million annually. Maryland, where medicinal marijuana was just approved by the governor’s signature and a recreational bill is still in the House, is figuring an yearly uptick of, oh, just about $134.6 million give or take a few dollars.

For the record, Alaska looks like the next state to fully legalize weed, with Arizona and California quick to follow. In Delaware a majority of the state’s voters support legalization, just like 66 percent of those in Hawaii. In Massachusetts the legalization approval is 50-50 among the polls but Nevada has almost 60 percent who favor it if the schools were to get all the tax money.

New York, Oregon, and Florida have groups actively pushing for legalization but what is the biggest stumbling block is the White House. After President Obama likened pot to drinking alcohol, attorney general Eric Holder seemed very open to looking at federal laws that one state after another is now openly ignoring.

I don’t think there is any question about it – 4/20 day in Colorado on Sunday sent a very visible smoke signal that times have changed. And then there is one other money figure you need to know. According to Harvard University economist Jeffery Miron, marijuana prohibition in the United States costs state and federal governments $17.4 billion (with a “b”) every year.

Please, such a battle is hopeless and long lost. We need to get on the train or be left at the station.

royexum@aol.com



Roy Exum: My October Garden

Hark! It is the first day of October and, as I make my monthly stroll through the garden, I find a growing numbers of leaves and acorns. Autumn leaves are beautiful while acorns are nuts, thus you will get the idea as we make our monthly awards: A PRETTY LEAF to Phil Hughes after the Minnesota Twins pitcher came within one inning of earning a $500,000 bonus this season. The deal ... (click for more)

EPA Overreach Jeopardizes Jobs And Increases Energy Prices

The latest round of regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency are difficult to rationalize. The EPA’s planned greenhouse gas rules will jeopardize low-cost electricity relied upon by local governments, small businesses, farmers and manufacturers – a regulation whose impact will be felt by much more than just energy producers and utility companies – but throughout the ... (click for more)

Linear Park Planned As Extension Of Walnut Street Bridge In Front Of Planned Boutique Hotel

A linear park that will be an extension of the Walnut Street Bridge public space is planned in front of a new boutique hotel at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way (Second Street). Mitch Patel of Vision Hospitality on Tuesday night told nearby residents that "the city pushed this idea of a linear park, and we agree that it is a great idea." He said the current situation in which ... (click for more)

Sharply-Divided City Council Approves Office Reorganization; Councilman Freeman Calls Move "Evil, Hellish"

A sharply-divided City Council on Tuesday voted 5-4 to completely reorganize the council office, leaving current staffers without a job down the road but with the option to reapply. Councilman Moses Freeman called the move "evil" and "hellish." He said, "We are punishing somebody on a personal level," though he said the office has been running smoothly. Saying the majority ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Earns Senior-Night Soccer Victory

Honoring the team’s nine seniors was a focus of Tuesday night’s girls’ soccer match at Notre Dame, but it wasn’t the top priority for the Lady Irish. They knew that a win over visiting Signal Mountain would secure a first-place finish in District 7-AA, and their mission was to earn it. Notre Dame did just that, making Emma Higgins’ early goal stand for a ... (click for more)

UTC Men's Hoops: Brooks Savage, Alex Wharton Promoted

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.---The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball program is promoting two staffers, pending University approval, coach Will Wade announced Tuesday. Brooks Savage and Alex Wharton are moving into new roles in the wake of assistant coach Turner Battle leaving to take a similar position at UAB. Savage takes Battle’s place as a full-time assistant after ... (click for more)