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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Who is Responsible?

OK, so here in California, our governor decided to weigh in on the controversy regarding marijuana legalization.  He actually disclosed a type of thinking I believe is an important factor in discussing legalization:
So what is Governor Brown (who's nickname here is 'Governor Moonbeam' among his detractors due to his own hippy-like life experiences both in and out of office) really saying?  What is it that he is really hinting at here?
Well, let's go through some basics. 
The governor here is talking about the 'social cost' of too many people getting hooked on marijuana.  He is worried about economics.  That is because the governor sees himself as being responsible for the economy of California, which boils down to responsibility to provide corporations with functioning workers.
After all, the taxes on these corporations provide the budget for the programs he wants to spend money on.
Never mind the personal suffering of addicts as they destroy their families and relationships.  That's not an economic principle, so to speak.  Not in his world.
The flip side is that the government now handles more and more of what used to be personal responsibility.  What that means is that if you get yourself into a financial bind, it is up to the state (rather than you or your extended family) to bail you out.  The state is now controlling all aspects of healthcare, which addiction treatment is also folded into by extension.
That means addicts become a burden for the state.
We can see now with the gradual nationalization of healthcare, the government is going to have more and more say in our personal decisions.  It has done this with tobacco, alcohol, and some foods for quite a while.  But, as more 'costs' come to the system through 'bad' personal choices, get ready for more regulation.
Colorado is making a bet that if things get really bad, the federal government will bail them out.  Besides, healthcare is really becoming a federal responsibility, so the other 49 states can pony up if this all comes crashing down.  The problem here is the distribution of final responsibility means that no one feels particularly responsible.
Sure, Colorado is making noises about using the marijuana tax revenues to pay for treatment, but what happens if the treatment demands outpace the taxes?  Is there a mechanism to shut off the experiment?  Nope.  It is a flat permission to use and legalize the supply, and so if the situation gets out of control, the Federal government will step in and, just like the Wall Street bailouts, the guilty parties will get off with a mild warning. 
Who will be bailed out?  Why, the entire state of Colorado!  The people made a decision for this law, knowing that it is a gamble.
We live in an age where the whole idea of allowing addicts to die openly in the streets is considered abhorrent.  When we see a junkie on the curb, we demand treatment for him, forgetting the fact that treatment without willingness is largely ineffective.  You can't just give him a shot and have this bug go away.
If we want to really legalize drugs, then we have to make sure we are all willing to allow people to bear the full consequences of their actions.  This is mostly to help them understand before they 'experiment' that they will not get bailed out if this goes wrong.
After all, is it really fair for people to experiment with addictive substances, expecting the rest of the non-addict community to pay for it?  AA groups are 'self-supporting through our own contributions' because part of recovery is taking responsibility for paying for it yourself.  As a rule, we tend to appreciate the things we work for far more than the gifts we receive without a price.
In a way, this is what Gov. Brown is hinting at.  If people think, as they tend to in California, that there will always be help if they get in over their heads, then they will indeed abuse marijuana and expect all the services of the state to come to their aid.
He is seeing the bottom of the purse already, and is worried that if he has more takers than givers (i.e. workers to supply corporations with), then he won't be able to give away much of anything.  California already has 30% of the nation's welfare recipients.  While it is a complex figure, Gov. Brown knows that legalization in his state may have greater financial consequences.  If the state fails to manage the problem, the Feds will step in and he will end up losing much of his present spending discretion.
Once you lose your personal responsibility, you also lose your freedom.  They go hand-in-hand.  If you want someone to take care of you, you should expect that they will ask for something in return.  In the case of medical care, we are expected to pay for the privilege of being cared for.  Insurance companies have done that for some time (they have their rules outlined in the terms of the policy), and now the government is absorbing that.
So, the government will eventually get into regulating our highs.  They already are to some degree.  Alcohol is heavily high, but since it is so easy to make, it is regulated through inconvenience.
Marijuana is a more labor intensive and demanding than alcohol, but it has traditionally been regulated, like pornography, through social expectation.  Now that both are 'mainstream,' usage has gone up, creating more demand, which in turn is now effecting the supply.  Suppliers are stepping in and filling the void, and so you have the snowball effect of a 'War on Drugs' in the 1980s followed by today's popular acceptance.
What's going to happen?  First, I think that there will be an initial wave of abuse.  No doubt.
Second, I think that the government-corporate complex needs the highs of marijuana to relieve stress on its workers, and so they will find ways to 'manage' it through regulation (that's how we fix all our problems today, isn't it?).

Third, I would say watch out for how marijuana problems are reported.  While there will be denials at first, you will see a new corporate treatment model arise.

Finally, watch birthrates and marriage rate plummet.  That's the real target.

Thirty years ago, I read Aldous Huxley.  I've just ordered a copy of 'Brave New World' after a reader's comment triggered some old memories.  There is a connection here.


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