Newsweek Magazine, PBS NewsHour, FOX Business News all look at mainstreaming of marijuana legalization

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator October 16, 2009

    This week we’ve seen three usually staid mainstream media outlets – Newsweek Magazine, the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and FOX Business News – examining the growing movement in California and nationwide to discuss the inevitable re-legalization of cannabis in America.  [UPDATE:Apparently the FOX Business Channel (not FOX News) will have a series called “High Noon” beginning Monday at Noon ET / 9am PT.]

    We begin with the PBS NewsHour and their fine report featuring the Honorable Rebecca Kaplan from the Oakland City Council and Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University. For balance (I suppose) they also interview the police chief of El Cerrito, California, who provides the obligatory doses of “reefer madness” at around the 5:00 mark.

    Once again, I have to ask the cop at the end of the piece: How many people who don’t smoke pot now are going to start smoking pot once it is legal, and how much is that going to cost? Whatever it is, make the tax on pot equal to that amount, minus the expenditures we’ll save on not arresting people and sending helicopters on weeding missions, and we’ve covered the costs! (Actually, since Miron estimates that we’d reap in revenues and savings around $14 billion annually from legalized pot nationally, you have to convince us that the brand new legal pot smokers who aren’t already smoking now would cost society more than that.)

    We're still trying to figure out how you inject marijuana (from Newsweek photo essay on pot propaganda)
    We’re still trying to figure out how you inject marijuana (from Newsweek photo essay on pot propaganda)

    That stupid retort that legal weed will cost society more than the taxes only works if you believe that nobody is smoking weed now and suddenly when it’s legal, everyone will smoke weed. 22,000,000 PEOPLE ARE SMOKING WEED THIS YEAR ALREADY! Whatever that costs us as a society, we’re already paying NOW without taking in any tax money!

    Cannabis does not “add another vice” to tobacco and alcohol that costs our society so much more than their taxes bring in. Alcohol and tobacco use create huge medical bills and death. Cannabis does not. With three legal choices and cannabis being obviously safest, we’ll cut costs as people choose it over alcohol and tobacco, and raise tax revenues that are currently going to black marketeers.

    Read more about Newsweek and FOX Business News after the break…

    Next we have the series of article in Newsweek, which has seemingly devoted an entire issue to the subject of legalization. In “Welcome to Potopia”, they describe the section of Oakland known as Oaksterdam as “a model for what a legalized-drug America could look like.” Dr. Nora Volkow from NIDA and Prof. Mark Kleiman from UCLA are cited to provide the necessary balance, with the typical warnings that “It’s certainly true that this is not your grandfather’s pot,” as if our grandfathers were smoking nothing but ditchweed in the 1960’s. (Sorry, but Sgt. Pepper and Dark Side of the Moon were not composed by nor appreciated by people smoking ditchweed.) Our own Paul Armentano is quoted as well:

    The fact that we now are debating it—at least in some parts of the country—is the result of a number of forces that, as MacCoun puts it, have created the perfect pot storm: the failure of the War on Drugs, the growing death toll of murderous drug cartels, pop culture, the economy, and a generation of voters that have simply grown up around the stuff. Today there are pot television shows and frequent references to the drug in film, music, and books. And everyone from the president to the most successful athlete in modern history has talked about smoking it at one point or another. “Whether it’s the economy or Obama or Michael Phelps, I think all of these things have really worked to galvanize the public,” says Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the coauthor of a new book, Marijuana Is Safer; So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?”At the very least, it’s started a national conversation.”

    Newsweek also looks at the “green rush” in Los Angeles County in a piece called “The Wild West of Weed” and how District Attorney Cooley says “about 100%” of the dispensaries are illegal and that “the time is right to deal with this problem.” Weed dealer turned dispensary owner Jason Beck tells his story of suffering through a DEA “smash-n-grab” raid where the cops were trapped in his store thanks to all the bulletproof glass and “man traps” he had installed for security. “If we were real gangsta drug dealers, we could have sniped them all out,” Beck says, lamenting how the DEA destroyed all his security equipment and how $12,500 in cash just mysteriously disappeared.

    The Newsweek series winds up with a look at Drug Policy Alliance’s Ethan Nadelmann, called “The Pro-Drug Czar” (a term I’d bet he’d disagree with… he’s not “pro-drugs”, he’s “anti-prohibition”). Ethan gives the readers some of the best sound bites on how the drug war is impacting our prisons, saying “We lock up more people on drug charges than all of Western Europe locks up for everything, and they have 100 million more people than we do. We have less than 5 percent of the world’s population but we have almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population. We rank first in the world in per capita incarceration, and the drug war is the No. 1 driving factor.”

    Then this morning we are told the folks over at Fox Business News are beginning a series looking at the legalization wave in America. There are no stories or videos to post yet, but you can be sure that when there are, we’ll report on them here at NORML.

    The remarkable thing in these series of news stories are not that the mainstream media is covering the legalization issue, it is how they are covering the issue. The discussion is no longer “what about the children?!?” and the doom-and-gloom warnings of heroin in the 7-Elevens if we legalize cannabis. The discussion now focuses on the economic viability of the cannabis market and the 40-year-long failure of the War on (Certain American Citizens Using Non-Pharmaceutical, Non-Alcoholic, Tobacco-Free) Drugs™ to do anything to impede that market. The pot-pun headlines are fading away and the ledes of the stories are tilted favorably toward our issue. In the past the government anti-pot propaganda dominated the story and if any contrary view was even broached, it was reformers being thrown a bone deep in the closing paragraphs to offer a rebuttal that was often couched in derogatory, “here’s what the stoners say” language. Now our side is presented as the rational, common-sense, business-savvy side of the issue with the hysterical law enforcement propaganda given the end-of-article quotes, often couched in desperate, “here’s what the reefer mad say” language.

    America is becoming convinced that legalization of cannabis makes sense from a public health, public safety, and economic standpoint. And we haven’t even begun bringing up how much money industrial hemp would bring us in a legalized cannabis world…

    52 responses to “Newsweek Magazine, PBS NewsHour, FOX Business News all look at mainstreaming of marijuana legalization”

    1. littleloomy says:

      Actually the etra costs from smokers is in fact a myth. Harvard did a study that shows because smokers die on average 10 yrs. earlier than non-smokers… Smokers actually save uncle sam $0.32/pack.

      I’m sure you can find the article… Just some more ammunition for the cause. Keep up the good work!

      [Russ responds: Thanks for that solid point… and damn, you’re fast on the comments! I just posted this!]

    2. Stompedonmyrights says:

      “reefer madness” is a Fraud. Nothing in this crappy movie is real. So what your saying is that a long with the reality of Cannabis we still haver to repaeat the lies, and for what reason are we repeating the fraudulent information?
      This prohabition of cannabis is equal to standing up in the movie house and shouting FIRE! Both cause harm to the public, both do nothing but harm and injury the welfare and safety of the public. Prohabition of cannabis breads disrespect for our government as it goes against the will of the people.
      It is not about making cannabis legal, it is about voiding those laws that are simply unjust and do not represent the will of this Nation. These laws have always been in violation of the Constitution and we don’t need government to tell us that. We need to just nullify the law by using Jury Nullification. This will put an end to our employees’ foolishness and take back what is ours in the first place.

    3. Cato says:

      All I can think to say is thank you Paul, and the rest of the wonderful people at NORML, and countless other organizations.

      It must feel amazing to be able to write this blog up 🙂

    4. […] the original post: Newsweek Magazine, PBS NewsHour, FOX Business News all look at mainstreaming of marijuana legalizati… Share and […]

    5. Deff Shepard says:

      i can see the ball has begun to roll again, lets keep pushing!!!

    6. John says:

      I am a frequent cannabis user, long proponent of legalization, and supporter of logical discussion on all of this.

      While I think that regulation and taxation at a state level is really the way to go with regards to cannabis in America, and at the same time I do think there will be some serious windfalls from such measures. However, one scenario has been scratching at the back of my head, which is hypothetically: how much of the tax gain will be offset by having to re-invest in regulation. States spend a LOT of money regulating alcohol (granted in part to how dangerous it is, but hear me out), we are currently arguing that we as a society should apply the same standards to legal cannabis as we do to legal alcohol. So that means we would have a major shift of policing to preventing under 21 use, driving, non-acceptable use, etc etc.

      The point being: how much will the statewide costs of legal pot cut into tax figures they are projecting? Are the final figures adjusted already? What are the thoughts on this potential “hurdle” we could face?

      On the flip-side, this could be used to assuage police unions they won’t be losing as much money as they think they would. I am excited for the day when I can legally enjoy this substance, but realistically I think there’s some serious debate that covers all the bases on how we will go about executing this in the future.

      [Russ responds: Good questions, ones I’ve been thinking about a lot. Sure, one cop job is eliminated for not locking up illegal potheads, but isn’t another cop job opened up to ensure ID check compliance at the new legal pot store, or a bureaucrat job handling license applications, or an undercover job finding pot-tax scofflaws, or a youth resource officer job keeping kids off pot? Detractors often say that the Mexican drug gangs won’t just give up being criminals if we take pot revenues away; they’ll just switch to committing other crimes. I say flip it and show that police bureaucracies won’t give up drug war budgets if we legalize pot; they’ll just switch to policing other crimes… and in a world of re-legalized cannabis, there will still be plenty of laws to enforce.]

    7. Theserf says:

      People also need to consider the jobs this creates. Who led the forefront in Hydroponics? Im going to go out on a limb but I believe many of the growing pot communities online contributed greatly to where hydroponics currently stands. From the multiple systems used to the preference of nutrients. Pot heads LOVE growing not only pot but just about anything, why not allow these people to get respectable jobs helping people around the world by providing hemp, pot, and of course fruit and vegetables by hydroponic growing?

      As far as the health benefits, its nonsense, if you are concerned about my health than make cigarettes & alcohol illegal both of which have far more factual data of doing harm than that of marijuana. Its hypocrisy to still say pot is harmful meanwhile we prescription drug overdose at record highs, alcohol deaths are near record highs, as well cigarettes have a long track record of death, so do they really care about us?

      As far as locking pot heads up, id really like to see data on whether those same pot heads quit smoking after released or do they simply go back to smoking?

      Jail & Prison are currently completely useless for pot heads, they turn people into worse criminals then when they first went into the system. Taking a pot head and throwing him in with more serious criminals could have an adverse affect on that pot head. He/She is now surrounded by REAL criminals hearing all their “war stories” and its inevitable that they will get influenced by them.

      If they want to see some real numbers how about they ask the DEA where all the money they have been given went? Its in the trillions, what have they done with it? How many innocent people have they killed in the process of raids? How many innocent pets have they killed? Id like to see the DEA held accountable for 1% of the actions they do. I wish America would flip the script and ask the DEA some questions. I bet you would find a lot more crime then than of a typical pot head. Pot heads get held accountable for their actions so maybe its time our law enforcement did as well.

      I will tune in and support any news channel that airs anything related to Cannabis as long as its well put together and not mindless propaganda.

    8. General-Jake says:

      All i gotta say is finally some evidence of common sence in our media. I hope its not hype and they keep puttin stuff on that discusses fair legalization until its legal. And what the hell is up that propaganda pic? Ive seen abunch of em but never that one. How the HELL do you shoot up herb?

    9. Chris says:

      Great article, will definitely spread this around 🙂

    10. Jon says:

      Is it just me – or are videos 2 and 3 the same?

      [Russ responds: No, you’re just really really high. Kidding… I must be really really high! Accidentally posted the same embed code twice. It’s fixed now.]