Another way to balance state budget |

Another way to balance state budget

Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks on this budget business. The sure-fire way to bail us out of this mess in a hurry is to legalize marijuana in California. License it, tax it like tobacco, and watch the money roll in.

Now, before you start writing angry letters to the editor about this crazy idea, let me agree with you that there’s a downside to the use of this herb. Go to and read all about it.

The reality of the situation, though, is that even though people know it’s bad for their health – like tobacco – they keep using it, just as the native Americans did in their “peace pipes” in days of yore. Haven’t you ever wondered what made them “peaceful” after smoking the pipe?

And our forefathers weren’t frightened by Cannabis sativa. The New England colonists grew it together with their corn as hemp, used in the manufacture of rope. And it might have found its way into a pipe or two, I suppose.

Visit the Netherlands, where marijuana cultivation is legal and you see lush green plants in the windows of homes bordering canals in Amsterdam. On a visit to that city during the two-day celebration of the queen’s birthday, while walking through a smoky gathering of celebrants and inhaling deeply, I told my friend, “Vic, I’m seeing some brand new colors in the sky. How about you?” And the Dutch manage to run their business without coming apart at the seams.

Question: What’s the biggest cash crop in North San Juan?

Another question: How much money have we blown in the “War on Drugs”?

Marijuana is so prevalent in our culture that there’s an entire language revolving around it. Go to on the Internet and you’ll see some of the names that are associated with it: “Assassin of Youth,” “Broccoli” and “Catnip” are a few, with names running through the alphabet all the way to terms like “Zambi.”

Remember the fuss, back in the early ’70s, when an agricultural commissioner in the Bay Area stated in his county’s annual agricultural report that marijuana was the county’s major cash crop?

Oh, mercy! Yes, we all knew that, but you couldn’t come out and say it in print!

Destroying my chances of ever running for elected office, let me admit that I have inhaled marijuana. Strangely, on the few occasions I smoked marijuana, it never gave me the desired effect of elation, but second-hand smoke definitely did. So I got a free ride from someone else’s “joint.” It felt very pleasant, I have to admit, but on one occasion I found it hard to rise to my feet. My legs felt like they were made of concrete. Is that being “stoned”?

Unlike alcohol (the brain-cell killer which provides lots of tax revenue for the state), as far as I know there’s no lingering after-effect that’s going to make you a potential killer behind the wheel of a car. You’re up, and then you’re down.

We once unknowingly had a small marijuana crop here on the ranch. One day, when he was living all alone here, my elderly father-in-law answered the door and was politely confronted by a deputy sheriff, “We want to know about the marijuana growing here.”

“Where is this mary-anna?” Ted asked. The deputy said photos from an airplane spotted it in the middle of a blackberry patch. When asked to point it out, the deputy was unable to at first, but eventually they saw how some enterprising individual had tunneled through the thicket and cleared out the center of the patch, installing a dozen or so very healthy plants that were subsequently uprooted and destroyed.

Say what you will about that venture, it probably netted more income for the grower, with less expense, than the legal livestock Ted raised here over the years.

So, Gov. Schwarzenegger, here’s how to make up for the $4 billion you kindly gave back to the voters by repealing the car license tax increase. “No problemo,” as the Terminator would say.

Dick Tracy is The Union’s gardening columnist.

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