California has a major budget problem. Balancing the budget in a recession like we are experiencing is causing politicians everywhere to look for new sources of Tax Revenue.  It is in this kind of climate that we find out what our values really are.  What is our price?  We also find out what our real principals are.  In the past ten years we have seen a proliferation of Casinos in California.  The social cost of large scale organized gambling is well known and was resisted for years, but the foundation of that resistance was largely religious and as our culture becomes more secular the command to “love our neighbor as our self” is displaced by balancing the budget as a core value.  The new great commandment is “Live and Let Live” and tax it!

In San Jose we have had Card Rooms for years.  Card Rooms are not casinos, but are regulated and taxed places of gambling. Mostly they are poker rooms.  They are limited to a certain number of tables and have a maximum bet.  These regulations were established to limit the social damage.  But we have a budget problem and so Measure K was placed on this spring’s ballot. Measure K increased both the wager cap, number of tables, and number of games available. Measure K overwhelmingly passed despite opposition from the police.

Gambling as a source of revenue is now happily ensconced in our culture.  The next taboo is Marijuana. There may be good reasons to decriminalize Mary-J, but I don’t think “balancing the budget” is a good one.  For as long as I can remember, Marijuana has been California’s Number 1 cash crop.  And it is untaxed.  So the temptation has been to legalize and tax it.  The feeding frenzy is now fully in process.  “Pot Clubs” or Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are popping up in strip malls throughout California.  They are not legal, and yet they are not being shut down.  Regulations are being drafted, business models are being crafted, and the opportunity to laugh or cry at our culture’s mores is increasing exponentially.  Lets have a look as some of the possibilities.

Recently in San Jose a Medical Marijuana dispensary opened up a few doors away from a Preschool.  This has hurt the Preschool’s business rather dramatically.  Regulations governing these clinics are still being drafted.  So one of the business models being proposed is Free Home Delivery! People formerly called pushers now have websites offering free muffins with a delivery. Now it is true that you must have a prescription to buy Marijuana from a delivery service or a clinic.  This is a joke of course, as it is widely known how easy it is to get one.  The “Clinics” will of course help you get a prescription so that you can buy your legal herbal remedy.

Now someone is going to have to actually grow the herb for the clinics and we have a new urban farming industry taking off.  It is no longer necessary to go farm plants in a redwood forest.  You can do it in your garage. GrowOp Enterprises manufactures self contained hydroponic growing rooms.  These are trailers.  They currently offer three…insert drum roll…The Big Bud…The Little Bud…and The Bud Light! The Little Bud is a Trailer you can pull into your garage, plug into a 220 outlet and start growing. Now I don’t know how long a cycle is but The Little Bud will produce 20lbs of Marijuana every cycle. This is not a joke friends.  This is a company in California catering to urban farmers of medicinal herbs.  I won’t link to the website as I do not want to help their SEO.

There is an obvious problem with legalizing Marijuana to raise taxes.  It simply will not work.  Especially in California it won’t work.  It won’t work for two reasons.  First the price of Marijuana is now estimated to drop from $375 an once to as little as $38 an once.  In order for this to work for tax purposes the number of people smoking Marijuana will have to grow exponentially.  No one is questioning whether there will be an increase is usage.  The real question is whether there will be a big or small increase.  The second reason it won’t work is that it will also be legal for people to have a pot garden at home.  It could be in the side yard or in the garage.  This is California.  People will grow their own and give it to their friends the way we currently share our extra fruit.  You can already buy seeds by mail and in a few months I imagine we will see seedlings at the local green houses.  How long before we have annual awards for Cannabis the way we have awards for Roses?

My concern isn’t about whether Marijuana should be legalized.  I don’t think it should be, but I am not informed enough to comment on the question.  My concern is about the basis on which we make decisions in our culture.  As a Christian I am more concerned about the Great Commandment than I am about balancing state and city budgets. Increasing the footprint of card rooms and legalizing a drug to balance a budget and knowing at the same time that a very human price will be paid for those tax dollars bothers me.  It bothers me a lot.