The war on drugs has sunk to a new low.
Last Sunday, Sept. 28, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office filed charges against Aaron Paradiso, who lives outside of Stockton. Aaron is a quadriplegic. He has a permit to grow an unspecified number of plants and to process and use marijuana, which family and friends help him to bake into foods, in order to ease his pain and help control muscle spasms. Charges have also been filed against his mother and his caregiver.
Police believe that Aaron has far too many plants for personal consumption and accuse him of illegally distributing his marijuana.
Surprisingly, Aaron admits to this accusation. He had been giving some extra marijuana to area cannabis clubs, which provide marijuana to permit-bearing medical users.
This is where everything gets sticky: with legal users and producers of marijuana, it is exceedingly difficult to make sure that the vast number of illegal users in California don’t get any of it.
There’s a government task force, the Campaign Against Marijuana Production, or CAMP, aimed at, well, you get it. This organization works with local police forces to hunt down large, well-hidden cannabis farms. Equipped with helicopters and automatic weapons, this group is using increasingly sophisticated technology to eradicate multi-million dollar growing operations, which oftentimes have their own guards with automatic weapons.
Seems like a lot of violence, money, trouble and time to spend ridding the state of a plant that has never once caused an overdose-related death, unlike our national intoxicant, alcohol.
This escalation in the persecution of pot growers and users is getting costly. But not nearly as costly as imprisoning these offenders.
As of June, 1999, there were 1,906 people in California prisons for sales and cultivation of marijuana – a 12 percent increase since the medical marijuana initiative passed. It has continued to rise in the three years since.
These prisons spend 6 percent of the state’s general fund, and accounted for only 0.1 percent of the recent budget cuts that sent UC fees soaring this year.
Were marijuana legalized for recreational use, the violence – both from the police and the dealers – associated with the black market trade of this plant would disappear, California’s prisons would be less obscenely costly to taxpayers and the state could tax the sale and production of it.
Not only saving money, but making money as well. I’m no Arnold Schwarzenegger, but extra sources of income and fewer costs seem like a fairly effective way of dealing with a budget crisis.
Daily Nexus opinion editor Cory Anthony doesn’t want to go to jail.