Now, as we're desperately trying to reinvent the economy, should we consider marijuana?Jackpot! Next, much like the War on Drugs, Mumbai proves that the War on Terror is going to be a money sink hole likewise.
We've dipped a toe in those waters already in California. Sales of medical marijuana are taxable -- $11.4-million worth for 2005-2006, the most recent (though admittedly murky) figures available.
How much more might we raise from the tons of now-illegal marijuana? When we tried to tax it decades ago, it wasn't so much about raising money as about cutting the demand for dope. In 1937, a new federal tax added so much cost and red tape to purveying marijuana that even doctors were priced out of legally prescribing the stuff. Once pot was banned outright, the tax became a double-dipping opportunity for lawmen. They got you for possessing or selling and for not paying the tax too. In 1968, the feds busted a Santa Barbara couple with 600 pounds of marijuana -- and gave them a tax bill for $1,622,000.
Of course, by paying the tax, you would be confessing to breaking the law. Timothy Learywas busted for not paying a marijuana "transfer" tax, but the Supreme Court said the law amounted to self-incrimination and threw his case out.
However, if we keep charging a tax -- something above and beyond a sales tax -- but take away the criminality, we'd be win-win, right? We don't mind paying "sin" taxes, or levying them, like Schwarzenegger's plan to help beat the deficit with a new 5-cent-a-drink tax.
Marijuana is a huge component of the nation's underground economy. A couple of years ago, the legalize-it forces estimated that the U.S. marijuana crop was worth $35 billion a year. California's share of that was $13.8 billion.
If the number is even half that, any tax windfall, on top of money saved by not prosecuting marijuana crimes, would mean a bonanza, wouldn't it?
Terrorism is nearly as old as humanity itself. In the 1st century AD, the Zealots of Judea began a series of covert killings of Roman occupiers and Jewish collaborators. The word "assassin" is thought to derive from "Hashshashin," the name of a Shiite sect active during the Middle Ages whose members donned disguises to kill their victims in public places. The term "thug" is said to come from India -- from the 17th to 19th centuries, a cult engaged in "thuggee," the mass strangulation of travelers in caravans. And like modern terrorists of all ideological stripes, these ancient Zealots, assassins and thugs succeeded in part by sowing outsized fear.Amen. It's never too late to cancel a failed ideology wrought with the irons of a failed administration.
Mumbai should remind us -- again -- of the folly of the Bush administration's "war on terror." Terror is an emotion, and terrorism is a tactic. You can't make "war" against it. Even if meant as mere metaphor, "the war on terror" foolishly enhanced the terrorist's status as prime boogeyman, arguably increasing the psychological effectiveness of terrorist tactics. Worse, it effectively lumped together many different organizations motivated by many different grievances -- a surefire route to strategic error.
Like crime, terrorism will always be with us, and terrorist attacks will increase as long as we succumb to the panic they're intended to inspire. But if we resist the temptation to lash out indiscriminately, we can take sober steps to reduce terrorism through improved intelligence, carefully targeted disruptions of specific terrorist organizations and efforts to address specific grievances (such as disputes over Kashmir). With a new U.S. administration about to take office, isn't it finally time to say goodbye to the "war on terror"? After all, we already have two real wars to worry about.