Wednesday, May 7, 2014

West Virginia Should Legalize Marijuana

A handful of states have started cashing in on marijuana.  Should West Virginia join them?

The debate would have to undo decades of faulty "drug education" which tried to establish direct causal links between so-called "gateway drugs," such as alcohol and pot, with harder intoxicants such as narcotics.  

The gateway to hard drugs, however, has more often been an injury.  For almost twenty years, report an injury to the doctor and he prescribes a strong narcotic.  Prescription drugs, such as hydrocodone, have high rates of an addiction particularly tough to escape.  The intoxicant is the same as that in heroin or opium, just stronger.  Unlike conventional drugs, such as ibuprofen, they do not kill physical pain so much as they make the user not care that it exists.

Pills are big business.  A pill mill pharmacy in Mingo County sold 3.2 million prescription units in a single year before the FBI busted it.  Any better alternative coming into the market, especially one that could be grown in the user's backyard, would cut into both legal and illicit revenues.

Marijuana does have addicts, but not in the physical sense.  It has very mild physical effects.  Pot addiction is more along the lines of "addictions" to gambling, video games, and shopping, or even hyperfocusing on work.  "Addicts" get irritated when they cannot obtain it, but have no physical withdrawal. People often overuse some form of stimulation or lack thereof to escape everyday life or feel good. Pot is less addictive than alcohol and certainly caffeine.  It can get a hold on a person's mind, but does not wreck the body when people try to get off of it.

It makes sense to legalize pot even just for medical use.  Unlike narcotics, which simply kill sensation, marijuana may have positive effects even on catastrophic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis.  The District of Columbia and 21 states agree and legalized it.  When choosing between drugs with strong physical and merely psychological effects, it seems that pot is the superior alternative.

West Virginia could reap a particular bonus from the movement.  The Mountain State already produces a staggering amount of the plant.  Legal cultivation could make currently unused land productive.  Legal growth would help to fill state coffers with green.  Millions could be made by people already in the state who already own the land.  Tax revenues for states who fully legalized have been generous.  In February of this year, Denver took in $3.2 million in tax revenue from pot alone.

West Virginia should legalize the production and sale of pot at least for medical use.  The state has a massive pharmaceutical firm, land, and people who know how to work it.  It should also consider at the very least legalizing pot that is grown and used within property boundaries.  

With the money saved, the state could use more resources to go after drugs such as meth and pills that are destroying families and communities.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Empire of Unreasonable

Henry Steele Commager in Empire of Reason quotes Alexis de Tocqueville as being "chilled" by the sameness of the young American nation.  Political parties rose, succeeded, sparred, and fell.  Its geographical sections hotly debated war with Great Britain in 1812.  Yet observers saw that the chasms dividing American politics were small.

Americans believed in their Constitution, believed in the representative republic, and also the free market.  Even the debate over the Constitution's ratification reflected common concerns about infringements on liberty and dangers to the nation.  The United States created a social, economic, and political system based on reason, merit, and experience.  It did not save the nation from the unanswerable questions of state versus federal power, or the moral issues of slavery.  But it did knit the nation back together after the Civil War.  In this generation, however, the foundation has crumbled.  The Empire of Reason faces cleavages at its very heart.

America is dividing.  Last week, Rutgers University lost its commencement speaker.  Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice bowed out from the honor due to faculty and student protests.  The university that paid Snooki $30,000 (honestly, no disrespect to her for taking the money while she still could) could not handle a talk from one of America's most learned and experienced figures.

Before the Civil War, American institutions started to split.  Protestant churches cleaved into northern and southern branches.  These served as the foundation of culture, society, and sometimes even learning.  Colleges and universities partly fill that role today.  As the Left increasingly stifles debate at mainline schools, the best and brightest conservatives and libertarians head to esteemed colleges such as Hillsdale or conservative religious schools.  Others disregard college altogether for experience based training and entrepreneurship.

Demographics show that conservatives and liberals increasingly do not even want to live near each other.  Reason reported the exodus of conservatives from blue states a year ago.  Taxes, regulations, social policies, and other issues drive residents and businesses to friendlier locales.  Californians move to Utah or Texas.  New York and Maryland firearms manufacturers move to pro gun states.

Americans split over major issues.  About half of the country wants government to leave it alone.  Another half seeks to impose more controls for everyone's good, as defined by them.  A few conservatives are more comfortable with NSA surveillance; a few leftists want government to leave organic farms and pot users alone.  By and large, however, this is where the country splits.

The great contests of the past over issues like protectionism, free silver, and even the New Deal did not do this.  The first two came from differences of opinion as to what would help America prosper more.  The New Deal came as a response to a national emergency and no one articulated an alternative.

The house continues to divide against itself.  Either the United States will move one way or the other, or the basic structure of the system will loosen and allow states a lot more latitude, or there is going to be a rumble.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Belated Kudos to the West Virginia Development Office

Inspector general reports are usually only cited when someone fails to do their job.  Reporters quickly. and correctly, cite descriptions of serious neglect or millions of dollars of waste.

Sometimes it should be noted when a report reveals progress.

The Appalachian Regional Commission's IG audited a grant given to the West Virginia Development Office. It received $225,000 in federal money and came up with $450,000 in non-matching funds.

Auditors found that the procedures and safeguards against waste were "reasonable."  Over 3,600 trainees at 22 companies indirectly or directly benefited from the program.

WorkForce West Virginia operates under the state Department of Commerce. According to the website,  it works to help prepare workers to compete in the global economy and link them with employers.

Not much else to say, except a pat on the back to the WVDO for doing the job right.