By Stephen C. Webster on January 08, 2014

Colorado's 37 newly-legal marijuana dispensaries got a bit of headrush during their first week of business, taking in a combined total of about $5 million in sales, according to early figures provided to The Huffington Post.

If the state's projections prove accurate, that number is going to get a lot higher before the year's out. Lawmakers expect the newly legal industry to generate more than $578 million in sales its first year, garnering the state $67 million in new tax revenues. Colorado's marijuana law imposes a 15 percent sales tax on every purchase, with revenues slated to fund public schools. An additional 10 percent levy on dispensary profits will finance industry-wide regulations.

Despite the massive influx of money, all of it has been paid in cash thanks to the banking industry's hesitance to work with marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized the drug. Because the federal government still considers it to be a Schedule 1 substance -- on the same level as LSD and heroin -- pot purveyors are also barred from taking advantage of tax breaks that would otherwise apply to business expenses.

The U.S. Department of Justice is taking a largely hands-off approach to the budding trade and allowing the states to experiment with regulations similar to those applied to alcohol. A memo sent to U.S. attorneys last August (PDF) explained that the DOJ is "committed to using its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent, and rational way." It adds that states with strict regulatory schemes that protect public safety and keep drugs away from minors would be allowed to proceed without legal challenge to the law on federal supremacy grounds.

The DOJ's position is also consistent with the wishes of a majority of Americans, if recent polls are to be believed. About 55 percent of respondents told CNN this week that marijuana should be legalized and regulated like alcohol. Nearly three-fourths said that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, and a further 64 percent said they believe that tobacco is more dangerous than marijuana.

The majority's opinion is not ill-informed, either: The British medical journal Lancet ranked alcohol in 2010 as the most dangerous recreational drug available today, even more harmful than heroin and crack cocaine.

The state of Washington is expected to join Colorado in allowing adults to legally purchase marijuana this June.

Photo: "Marijuana joint," via Shutterstock.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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