The economy of the United States is in trouble, but according to investigative journalist Doug Fine there’s a way to turn it around: full legalization of cannabis. Did you know that the underground cannabis’s $30 billion annual revenues are rated to already exceed the combined value of corn and wheat in the U.S.? In his new book Too High To Fail, Fine argues that cannabis should be regulated like alcohol, and how this change could boost the country not only economically, but also culturally and politically.
What made you decide to write a book about the role of cannabis in the U.S.?
“I knew as a journalist that the Drug War was our nation’s longest and most expensive, with very little effect after 40 years. Then a neighbor of a nearby ranch, a retiree, got raided in a huge aerial and land assault for something like a dozen cannabis plants. Total waste of tax dollars (plus the noise woke me up and scared the hummingbirds), while at the same time the mayor of a nearby town was a Cartel member, shipping arms to Mexico. So, per my journalistic model, instead of whining about the problem, I sought a solution, and found it in the cannabis permitting program in Mendocino County, CA. By following one sustainable, permitted farmer’s plant from seed to patient, I as able to calculate the economic, social and health effects of legalizing cannabis nationwide.”
How did Mendocino County become the first American county in which cannabis farming is fully legalized and regulated?
“It was ready socially and culturally. It had already become the first U.S. County to ban genetically modified organisms. Cannabis was and is 80% of the economy, and, as the Sheriff put it of recognizing this, “I found that the sun still rose, there was still an America.””
For what main reason should cannabis be fully legalized in the U.S.?
“$30 billion in annual revenue for the U.S. economy while crippling the Cartels, reducing our prison population, and putting small American farmers back to work not just on medicinal/social cannabis, but on a biofuel that can help solve our energy needs.”
Critics argue that too many people already struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, and legalizing another substance would lead to a “surge” of use, making problems worse. What is your opinion about this?
“It is untrue. Prohibition of something that people want doesn’t work. It only creates organized crime. Also, alcohol and prescription pill abuse are our real epidemics. Cannabis is far less dangerous than either, and recent studies show it is not a “gateway” drug. We can take just a fraction of today’s obscene drug war budget ($9 billion in 3013 for domestic enforcement alone, including authorization of the use of drones domestically) toward education to make sure to minimize abuse.”
What do you expect to happen in the (near) future; will the farming and use of cannabis soon be legalized nationwide?“That’s the half trillion dollar question. In the case of alcohol Prohibition, it took states rebelling against the unenforceable, unpopular law (and we now have 17 medical cannabis states, plus 15 decriminalized cannabis states), added to a tipping point of public opinion when regular folks started getting raided in speakeasies. The heavy handedness of recent federal raids of state-approved cannabis farms in California might speed that side of things, too. 56% of Americans now favor regulating cannabis like alcohol, up from 49% a year ago. When that hits 70% or more, Congress and the White House will have to do their job of representing the people and act.
And when exactly will that be?
“Many thought it’d happen by now, since candidate Obama campaigned on it in 2008. So some are hopeful we’ll see action in a second Obama term (we wouldn’t under Romney). What has to happen is cannabis gets removed from the Controlled Substances Act completely, allowing states to regulate. We must avoid sneaky deals where certain compounds or concentrates are permitted to a few pharmaceutical companies. The whole plant must be legalized for all uses. One day the industrial side might prove the most lucrative — clothing, fuel, etc. Cannabis fiber is already used in the doors of Dodge Vipers. But the plant in those cars can’t legally be grown in the U.S. Yet.”