I've spent much my life around people with strong opinions about drugs and most of those opinions have been wrong if not lies.
The more certain they were, the more laughable the outcomes. We've all had friends and acquaintances look us in the eye and tell us drugs were a source of enlightenment and a path to wisdom. Today those people are dead, homeless or quit doing drugs 40 years ago.
What they never were was enlightened. Wisdom? Ha.
Drugs were a pet project for a generation that scorned middle class values and rolled its eyes when warned about dope. Take marijuana. Please.
Recall what smart people were saying about marijuana in the 1970s. Weed being illegal in the Age of Nixon, they said, showed how repressive and short-sighted the American establishment was. Just as stupid as the war in Vietnam.
Drug laws were the new Prohibition, and they asked if we hadn't learned the lesson of making alcohol illegal. There was no justification for marijuana to be illegal since it was less harmful than a Martini. (Possibly true, yet truly irrelevant.)
Marijuana was considered harmless by the smart people in the country, meaning every college professor and all the media. (It took the legal system decades to catch up.) It was easy to compare marijuana to Martinis, but the step beyond them are different, and worse.
What the smart people missed was this: Beyond Chardonnay, a Vodka Tonic or a six-pack of beer — the next step is simply more alcohol. Tequila maybe, or bourbon.
But a step beyond marijuana opens different doors altogether. In the world of drugs there are lots of options, most of them bad and a few that will kill you. Or, more likely, kill your nephew or niece or the unemployed guy down the street.
Legalizing weed opened that door and Pandora's box erupted with new brain-cracking, life destroying drugs.
Methamphetamine was among the first our pothead friends turned to once the thrill was gone from inhaling cannabis. Meth is now everywhere. Tell me the last time someone said you can learn a lot by using meth, unless they were talking about lessons in dental procedures, jail, ruined careers, broken families and an early rendezvous with the coroner.
Or was it cocaine? Cocaine was a popular playtoy for rockstars, Hollywooders and pretentious kids who wanted in on the celebrity scene. Then it was heroin, hash oil, honey oil, banana peels, Vicodin, opium. All aboard, ye seekers of wisdom.
Next stop oxycontin, fentanyl and more American deaths per year than all American soldiers lost during the entire Vietnam war. Noticing any problems yet?
Back at Juicer's Saloon, drinkers are experimenting with Harvey Wallbangers and Pina Coladas. Some will wake up with hangovers tomorrow and others might try rehab. No one says booze can't ruin your life and the lives around you, or that getting sober isn't a difficult fight. But drugs are a lot of fights on a lot of fronts.
Now let's talk about all the promised tax benefits we've been told will bring a bright new day. For decades smart people have been explaining how the miracle of legalization will soon pay for anything and everything because that's how taxes work.
Today pot is as legal as potatoes and Mendocino County can't make a nickel on either. It's costing too much to hire consultants and county workers to process applicant cannabis paperwork, buy more county cars to inspect distant gardens and deal with the Sheriff's ballooning budget from spikes in crime.
Why didn't any of the smart people warn us that cartels would move in?
Profits? Mendocino County won't make money from marijuana until it lures big nationwide industrial operations (think RJ Reynolds) to process weed efficiently, distribute it nationally, sell it profitably and pay big taxes routinely.
It's the smart way forward. Big corporate marijuana machines will employ hundreds in farms, factories and front offices doing everything from acquiring, growing and grading to marketing, packaging and shipping.
A hundred mom 'n' pop growers means failure and tax evasion for most. It's a lesson every industry learns either quickly or slowly.
There aren't a hundred small car makers still fighting it out, and there aren't scores of national cigarette companies. MendoCo can sit spinning its wheels or embrace the inevitable and get the big boys in.
Small growers will wail and shriek and write letters. So what? These are the same outlaws who've spent decades hauling in huge profits from illegal weed and never paying a dime in taxes, while blithely using the roads, schools, libraries and legal system their neighbors paid for.
To hell with 'em. They can go get jobs like the rest of us. I hear RJ Reynolds is hiring.