Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Just the Facts

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"Just the facts, Ma'am." The Information Age is clearly upon us. Never have so many had such easy access to so much information. Now that so many of us have ready access to the cold, hard facts of a given matter we are much more likely to form our opinions and policies, in the public as well as well as private spheres, from documented reality and not our personal prejudices and sticky, convoluted emotions.

The paragraph above is 99.9% unadulterated bonkercokie.

The Information Age is wonderful for weirdos like me. I'm thinking of starting a narrowly focused support group for dilettantes and current events junkies that have no interest in celebrity journalism. Keep an eye out for our micro-niche website. Also, the internet can be a Godsend to anyone in need of the cold, hard facts necessary to deal with cold, hard objects or processes. For example, recalcitrant lawnmowers, or, how to make sunny side up eggs without breaking the yolks long before the dipping toast is ready, and the yolks turn into cold, hard objects.

However...

The inexhaustible high-pressure firehose of information available in real time often as not leaves us on our butts, gasping for air. If highly respected, highly educated economists, after 20 years or more of formal education can draw radically different conclusions as to what works best for the most, how are we mere mortals to decide? If I want to purchase a particular product through Amazon and the reviews of previous purchasers are wildly contradictory, what should I do? My second example is even more complicated than it seems because I've strolled around the block often enough to know that something even most folks seem to agree on may lead me to conclude most folks are nuts.

This brings us to Weed and the Buckeye State. The good citizens of Ohio will shortly be voting on whether or not to end the prohibition of Cannabis. Sort of. When the USA passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of alcohol for consciousness altering purposes that occasionally lead to unconsciousness, it caused such a chaotic kerfuffle (somebody stop me) that it led to a capitalization. It wasn't an era of prohibition, it was the Prohibition era. Ken Burns thought it worth a documentary.

Cannabis prohibition does and will continue to merit the attention of scholars, the media, The Gubmint etc, but it's not been Prohibition II. Mainstream Americans were not suddenly deprived of a socially acceptable (within limits) practice. White collar types have never been (in)famous for three joint lunches, (most) blue collar types for a quick joint and a beer after work before heading home for dinner with Marge and the kids. Dad must've worked hard today, look at him eat! Though cannabis prohibition has needlessly trashed no shortage of our fellow citizens lives the worst damage has occurred south of the border, courtesy of those zany drug cartels that get so much press.

That's why cannabis prohibition has remained the law of the land for roughly a century in spite of the inherent difficulties involved in trying to stop folks from growing, selling and/or smoking a weed. But this is the Information Age, and having easy access to all that information enables us to repeal or amend goofy laws and get on with our lives -- after jacking everything up.

Several of the states have either effectively legalized weed or are working on it. The federal law that prohibits this remains in place. When it comes to laws The Gubmint (the Feds) trumps the gubmint (state and local). The folks currently in charge of The Gubmint are too busy screwing  up foreign policy and working hard to make sure we have a slow growth, politically correct economy to care about weed. But what if the next administration has different priorities?

In Ohio, ten groups of crony capitalists put up money to pay for a petition drive and bought themselves a motion that will appear on the ballot next month. The motion proposes that the state legalizes weed and helpfully supplies a slate of Rules & Regs for legal weed, to be added to the state's constitution. These Rules & Regs give the ten groups the exclusive right to grow the weed that will eventually be purchased  by Ohio consumers. They're now paying for commercials to promote its passage. The commercials reassure the folks that a monopoly will not be created, that the ten authorized growers will compete with each other -- honest, we swear -- so that consumers will get the best possible prices. They're technically correct. What they're proposing is a cartel, not a monopoly. Well, why not? We've certainly been well served by the world's most well-known cartel, OPEC. The motion, if passed, will enshrine the right of these guys to be the only ones in Ohio to legally grow weed to sell, in the Ohio constitution. Citizens will be permitted to cultivate their own plants and maintain a stash as long as they don't exceed explicitly specified quantities -- and if they buy a $50 permit so the gubmint can keep an eye on them. The cronies will permit you to grow your own as long as you're not trying to compete with their non-monopoly.

The Ohio legislature, no doubt miffed that a group of would be oligopolists is trying to have their oligopoly embedded the state's constitution, could've just passed a law that said weed is legal for everyone over 21, if you sell it you have to pay sales tax, and we're going to let the free market figure out the details. We can always step in later if the market messes it up.

Instead, they've placed their own measure on the ballot. This one forbids building a business monopoly into Ohio's constitution. Sounds good. Also, it gets them out of having to vote yes or no on weed. Unfortunately, it allows for placing motions on the ballot that would let voters decide that a given monopoly can become part of the constitution. Huh?

It gets worse. Both motions could pass. One that sets up a monopoly, and one that says you can't do that in Ohio -- except for when you can. Let the litigation begin!

But thanks to the fact we're living in the Information Age you now know what's up and it all makes perfect sense, right?

Have an OK day.                                                                                        

©Mark Mehlmauer 2015


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