America's First Marijuana Stores Open in Colorado; Record Opium Crop in Afghanistan; Six Beneficiaries of "War on Drugs"

Colorado ushers in the new year a the first US state to allow retail cannabis sales.

Marijuana users celebrated as Colorado became the first US state to allow retail cannabis sales, putting it in the vanguard of efforts across the country to legalize the drug.

The western state famous for its ski resorts and breathtaking mountain vistas has issued 348 retail licenses -- including for small pot shops -- that can sell up to 28 grams of pot to people aged 21 or older, starting Wednesday.

Washington state on the Pacific Coast will follow Colorado several months from now, when it also allows stores to begin selling cannabis.

Iraq war veteran Sean Azzariti was the first person to legally purchase cannabis for recreational use in the United States.

State officials here anticipate that marijuana sales will generate some $67 million in annual tax revenue.

Colorado and Washington are creating a recreational market in which local authorities will oversee growing, distribution and marketing -- all of it legal -- for people to get high just for the fun of it.

The market is huge: from $1.4 billion in medical marijuana in 2013, it will grow by 64 percent to $2.34 billion in 2014 with recreational pot added in Colorado and Washington, according to ArcView Market Research, which tracks and publishes data on the cannabis industry.

Washington state is expected to open more than 300 pot shops in June.

Record Opium Crop in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, despite US presence for 13 years, Record opium output boosts Afghan warlords’ power base.
Afghanistan, long the world’s main heroin supplier, has seen its total area of poppy seed plantations explode to 516,000 acres - a 36 percent increase from 2012, according to the report, released on Wednesday.

Last year, the war-torn Central Asian country accounted for 75 percent of the world’s opium supplies; Jean-Luc Lemahieu, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Afghanistan, has said in the past that supplies may reach 90 percent of the global total this year.

The new data surpasses the previous record set in 2007, when 477,000 acres were cultivated, according to the UN drug watchdog. Total opium output is estimated at 5,500 tons, up 49 percent from 3,700 tons in 2012.

At the same time, efforts to eradicate poppy fields have waned, with the total area targeted down 24 percent from last year.

With profits from opium cultivation nearing $1 billion, or 4 percent of gross domestic product, insurgency groups like the Taliban will only benefit from the cash crop.

The US-led coalition has rejected any crop eradication operations by its soldiers for fear of bankrupting farmers and forcing them to join the insurgency.
Time to End War on Drugs

It's time to admit the war on drugs was a miserable failure. The move in Colorado and Washington is a welcome start.

Prices would collapse overnight all drugs were legal. And by taking out all of the profit, all of the drug addicts who steal to get their fix would no longer need to do so.

Moreover, there would be no pushers attempting to get people hooked for the sole purpose of gaining customers.

Finally, states could save massive amounts of money by freeing all the people sitting in prison for drug-related crimes. States would also get tax revenues whereas profits now go to smugglers.

Beneficiaries of War on Drugs

  1. Smugglers who benefit from high prices
  2. Cops on the take
  3. Those employed fighting the war on drugs
  4. Prison guards and unions who benefit from every person incarcerated
  5. Warlords in Afghanistan 
  6. Du Pont 
Background on Hemp Ban

Here is a section on "hemp and the environment" from my post on The Politics of Ethanol. It will explain point number 6 above on Du Pont.

Unfortunately, the link below no longer works. It was to an MIT article.

Inquiring minds are asking about Hemp and the Environment.
An acre of hemp produces four times as much paper as an acre of trees. Every pot-smoking hippy in the country knows that. The problem is, why doesn’t anyone else? In this short article, I will attempt to educate you, the reader, of the many ways in which hemp can Save The Planet. No kidding.

Herbicides are also virtually unnecessary as the plants grow 6 to 16 feet tall in only 110 days. The complex root structure prevents erosion and decays quickly after harvest.

That’s all well and good, but what do you do with the hemp? Well, as I mentioned above, its great for making paper. That’s most of the reason that industrial hemp is illegal in the U.S. See, in the mid-1930’s, there were two industries that had just made breakthrough machines that would make paper productions much more cost-effective. One was the hemp industry, the other was DuPont. Coincidentally, the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was passed, effectively making hemp illegal by charging transfers $1/ounce or, for unregistered dealers, $100/ounce, even for industrial grade hemp.

So, with hemp out of the way, DuPont was free to become the giant corporation that it is today, and to produce the great majority of the toxic sludge that contaminates our Northwestern and Southeastern rivers. Had hemp become our primary paper source, this pollution would have been vastly reduced, and here is why: Hemp means no deforestation, which results in less topsoil erosion, more oxygen, less carbon dioxide, less destruction of natural habitats, etc. Hemp paper is much easier to bleach, and does not require chlorine, which means no more thousands of tons of toxic sludge pouring into the water. Scientists in Sweden have developed a hemp-bleaching process that uses only natural enzymes and some pounding of the pulp.

Cotton, the other big evil, is grown on 3% of the world’s arable land and uses 26% (wow!) of the world’s pesticides and 7% of the world’s fertilizer annually. It requires heavy irrigation, depleting the water supply even as it poisons it. Many developing countries grow cotton as a cash crop, trying desperately to pay off foreign debt. While the country’s land and water is being destroyed, food crops are neglected, so the people go hungry.

Hemp can be used to make clothing that is, if treated properly, soft like cotton and far more durable, thus rendering cotton unnecessary. Adidas and Ralph Lauren already have hemp products, and Calvin Klein insists that hemp will hit the fashion industry full-force in the years to come.

While an acre of trees is about 60% cellulose, and acre of hemp is nearly 75%. How much hemp is necessary to meet current US energy needs? Somewhere between 10 million and 90 million acres, depending on how efficient the production is. Every year, the US government pays farmers (in cash or “kind”) to *not* farm what they call the “soil bank”, which happens to be about 90 million acres of farmland. The math is pretty simple.

Hemp seed oil is very similar to petroleum diesel fuel, and produces full engine power with reduced carbon monoxide and 75% less soot and particulates. Hemp stalk (different than the part that can make paper and textiles) can be converted into 500 gallons of methanol/acre.

It seems so simple, you must be saying. If this is true, why are we still using petroleum and paper and cotton? Well, there are corporations who sponsor politicians that have a reason to keep hemp down, like, the oil industry, etc.
"War on Drugs" or "War for Drugs"

Our policy is so stupid one has to wonder if it's a "war on drugs" or a "war for drugs" and against the environment, specifically  for the benefit of the above groups.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

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