Should Smokers Want to Legalize Pot?

Question: If California legalizes marijuana, will the rest of the \r\nnation follow?

John Buffalo \r\nMailer:  You know, \r\nthere's a lot of forces opposed to it, so I don’t want to put the cart \r\nbefore the horse.  It’s looking like it’s going the legalization route, \r\nwhich, you know, a lot of people thought it needs to for a long time \r\noutside of recreational and medicinal use, just for crime reasons.  You \r\nknow, we’re pumping our prisons full of petty weed offenses and it’s, \r\nyou know, partially to feed that industry, but it’s not good.  It’s not \r\ngood for society and you know people go in there as a minor criminal and\r\n come out as a real criminal.  You know, it seems to be the sense that \r\nonce you throw guys in prison they’re not going to come out.  No, \r\nthey’re going to come out and, you know, what kind of beast have you \r\ncreated from that process?  So, you know, we in 2004 when we were \r\nrunning High Times we took it in a very political direction and it was \r\nlike a night and day transformation, probably too radical, honestly, in \r\nterms of the timing of the business mechanics of it, but you know, we \r\nwere…  We had one of the original pot-smugglers-turned-outlaw-rider who \r\nhad started the magazine there and he was a wild man, Richard Stratton, \r\nand myself and Annie Nocenti, and we just said hey, we’ve got a chance \r\nto really do what we want to do with this magazine, and the response was\r\n great.  I've got to say that people, you know, were tickled to be \r\nreading High Times.  Do you take it out on the train?  Do you \r\nnot?  Things like that, but overall they were saying there is no other \r\nnational magazine that we can get this kind of information from because \r\nessentially High Times is a mom and pop national magazine.  There is no \r\ncorporate structure that you have to answer to.  You know, so it’s why I\r\n think it will always be around.  It’s been around for over 30 years \r\nnow. 

So hopefully we played a small part in elevating the argument \r\nabout legalization, making it less, “Hey man, stay off my weed,” to \r\n"Listen, we shouldn’t be putting people in jail for this.  This is a \r\ncivil liberty issue.  You know, do what you want to your body when \r\nyou’re alone, as long as you’re not hurting anyone else," and try to \r\ntake that tack on it.  I think that probably the NORML organization and \r\nEthan Nadelmann are most responsible for what has been going on.  But, \r\nyou know, having a mother who has had cancer and fought through it and \r\nat times used cannabis to you know fight off nausea and whatnot.  I mean\r\n it’s not really her thing, but there were times when she needed it and \r\nthe idea that you can’t have it because it’s an illegal drug, but \r\nOxyContin is legal.  That’s you know that’s just insane to a level that I\r\n think most people understand. 

Now, what’s against legalization in a \r\npractical sense?  You’ve got the oil industry.  You’ve\r\n got the cotton industry.  You’ve got the paper industry.  You’ve\r\n got alcohol and tobacco to a certain extent.  All of these\r\n industries are affected adversely by this.  There is a \r\nstory—I don’t know if it’s true, but it made sense to \r\nme—that William Randolph Hearst actually back in the ‘30s I guess had \r\njust purchased whole fields and fields and fields of trees to print his \r\npaper on and at the same time a couple of college kids figured out how \r\nto take a hemp plant and turn it into newspaper and it was actually a \r\nbetter quality of paper.  It was cheaper and if you plant \r\nhemp in a field it revitalizes the soil.  You can grow food\r\n in a dirt lot if you do enough harvest of hemp and Hearst said, “This \r\nis going to put me out of business. I just spent all my money on these \r\ntrees.”  So that is why he started that campaign linking \r\nhemp and marijuana together, calling it "the devil’s harvest" and all \r\nthat.  Again you know I read this story when I was at High \r\nTimes.  It seemed like a legitimate source.  Who\r\n knows if it’s true or not, but it makes sense and that is the kind of \r\nthing you’re up against.  I think that the reason why pot \r\nis illegal is much more because of hemp than it is for any societal \r\nreasons or stigma.

Question: Is there a sound economic argument for \r\nlegalization?

John Buffalo Mailer:  Absolutely there \r\nis.  I mean, listen, we could be taxing it and making a \r\nbundle off of it.  You know, no, I don’t pretend to know \r\nthe specifics of the economics of it to say how much we’ll be getting, \r\nbut there is money to be made there that is not being made because it’s \r\nillegal.  Now, granted, there is a lot of money that is \r\nbeing made because it’s illegal and those people you would have to \r\ncontend with as well, who are certainly not for it becoming legal.  You\r\n know, and then there's also just socially, personally.  There\r\n is something naughty about pot.  There is something that \r\nis rebellious and outlawish and a kind of, you know, a finger in the eye\r\n of the government saying, hey, you can’t tell me what to do.  That\r\n would be gone.  I remember talking to my dad about it in a\r\n book we did together called "The Big Empty."  He was \r\nsaying like, “Oh, no, no, as soon as it’s legalized it will be ruined.”  “The\r\n corporations will get their hands on it. You’ll have, you \r\nknow, pot with vitamin C and, you know, 'Viagratized High Toke.'" \r\n You know different things like that.  That it won’t\r\n be, you know, they’ll put chemicals into it.  It won’t be \r\nthat pure plant that it is now.  He may have a good point \r\nthere.  Although I think that if you look at places like \r\nAmsterdam and places where pot is very legal they do well with it.  There\r\n is nothing taken away from it and crime is very low and all that.

Recorded March 30, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

The former "High Times" editor thinks America is "going the legalization route." But will marijuana lose its outlaw mystique?

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