Will Health Care Go To Pot?

Both health care and illicit drugs are driven, priced and delivered based upon the laws of supply and demand.  Sixty years of employer based health insurance has not solved the social policy problem of how to insure unemployed or the uninsured without progressively driving up the cost for those who are insured stuck covering the unreimbursed through higher prices for health care services.  Concerns over the rising cost of health care and its effect limiting access to millions of Americans gave rise to ObamaCare, but health costs are expected to continue to rise.

The “War on Drugs” has been spending money for more than thirty years to reduce drug demand without success.  Last year California made more than 78,000 drug arrests most of which were misdemeanors.  Along the US border with Mexico concerns are rising over violence between competing drug cartels for control of market access to buyers in the US and drug routes through Mexico. In California alone, the state estimates that growing pot is an estimated $14 billion a year business.[1] If the state collected sales and use taxes on pot sales it might generate $1.4 billion in taxes from an industry estimated to gross about $18 billion per year in California alone.[2]

What do these two stories have to do with each other?  You see this coming don’t you.  The State needs money and Californians are going to smoke pot anyway, Sacramento reasons, so why not legalize it and tax it to help close our budget deficit.

FAR OUT, Dude!  Welcome to the progressive California Bear Republic!

So on the November 2, 2010 ballot, Californians will vote on the Marijuana Legalization Initiative and decide just that question.  Separately, State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced AB390 in the 2009 session to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. AB390 passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee and was reintroduced as AB2254 in 2010, but the TaxCannibis2010 initiative campaign easily raised enough signatures to put the measure on the November ballot, and the Legislature was happy to let the people have their way on the measure without putting their own fingerprints on such a loaded question.

But before you file this as one more crazy idea from the left coast, consider this.  There is growing opposition to the Tax Cannabis 2010 measure in the three far north coastal counties in California.  This area is prime pot growing country and the local growers don’t want the competition. Listen to this radio story from the KCBS station in the San Francisco Bay area.  http://www.kcbs.com/topic/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=4601417.

It turns out that when California legalized medical marijuana dispensaries several years back the retail price of marijuana fell from $6,000 per pound to $4,000 per pound and it keeps falling as more of these “wink, wink” medical facilities are licensed by cities.  The North Coast growers cooperative does not want to lose its profits which are higher than anything the health care lobby has been able to impose on us to date.

Competition works to drive down prices and effectively manage supply and demand!

So let’s make a deal, we here in California will all vote FOR Tax Cannabis 2010 if the ballot measure is amended to allow for the same full competition for the rest of the health care market.  If the North Coast hippies have it right we should expect health care to follow pot prices down making it too cheap for gangs to fight over, and there will be plenty of providers to deliver it, and the drug cartels—I mean insurers— will have to fight each other to INCLUDE Medicare patients instead of throwing them under the bus.

Peace, Brothers and Sisters!

[1] Time Magazine, “Is Marijuana the Answer to California’s Budget Woes?”, July 24, 2009

[2] Contra Costa Times, “Golden State’s green future”, October 31, 2009