Books | Thank you for smoking

A review of Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Economic Revolution, by Doug Fine.
Written by Jenna Marotta, Columnist (Books) on

"Some people are just gonna be carried into the future kicking and screaming."

This comment could describe anyone who recoiled in June upon hearing the Supreme Court's recent opinions on DOMA and Proposition 8, the most historic ruling since Bush V. Gore. But the speaker actually managed a cannabis collective, and was referring to marijuana legalization, not gay marriage.

Here's the thing. While 13 states have legalized same-sex marriage18 have laws legalizing medical marijuana.

"Should Pot be Legal?" was even one of the moderated debates earlier this week at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Author Doug Fine favors liberty and justice for all; he'd just like Congress to decriminalize marijuana first.

"Marijuana prohibition has resulted in the arrest of over 20 million Americans since 1965, countless lives ruined, and hundreds of billions of tax dollars squandered and yet this policy has still failed to achieve its stated goals of lowering use rates, limiting the drug's access, and creating safer communities," he writes in Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Economic Revolution (Gotham, $16, now in paperback.)

Fine -- a Stanford-educated journalist, environmentalist, and gun-owning goat rancher -- remains fairly optimistic about ending the ongoing War on Drugs, which has won the United States nothing but the "Most Incarcerated Society in History" laurel (there is a marijuana-related arrest every 37 seconds. Click here for a War on Drugs expense clock). His positive attitude is the result of spending the 2011 growing season in Mendocino County, California, "the one place on the map where the 40-year drug war was over."

Beginning in November 2008, the 9.31 ordinance in Mendocino allowed cannabis collectives that registered with the county to raise up to 99 medical plants -- out in the open and safe from arrest -- so long as the grower cooperated by paying fees, obtaining permits, consenting to property inspections, and verifying that the end product was patient-bound.

"Smoke it 'til your head caves in -- who cares," says Sheriff Thomas Allman in Too High to Fail's book trailer. He's no pothead, just a law enforcer wise to the ways of his jurisdiction.

"Easily 85 percent of Mendocino County's economy is generated by cannabis -- a conservative figure of $8.1 billion annually," Fine writes. "It is far and away my nation's number-one cash crop, with almost none of its revenue taxed in a time of debt crisis."

Too High to Fail could be branded as at least three different books:

1) The Process Piece following a single plant from earthbound to exhaled.

2) An Accidental Time Capsule narrating the end of a pioneering program. In March 2012, the potential economic boon from 9.31 was slashed: the 99-plant allotment was reduced to just 25, and the sheriff's department was released from the responsibility of issuing permits.

3) A Presidential Call to Arms, taking the commander-in-chief to task before his re-election. Some eager Northern Californians voted for Obama in 2008 due in part to his autobiographical toking admissions, and this sound byte from his senate days: "The War on Drugs has been an utter failure. I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our medical marijuana laws." (Seen here on YouTube; Obama continued on to say that he endorsed state sovereignty -- not federal legalization -- when it came to cannabis). By 2011, President Obama had embraced a more centrist agenda. "Am I willing to pursue decriminalization as an approach? No."

Fine might have also wanted to publish a position paper proving the effectiveness of cannabis as a medicant. Anecdotal evidence can't achieve this, however, and the author explains in detail why he's strapped for meaningful statistics focusing on cancer patients and others who may be prescribed marijuana.

Vouching for the sort of "anarchic" behavior Michael Brooks wrote about in the last book I reviewed, Free Radicals, Fine writes, "To obtain cannabis samples or funding for research, some researchers have resorted to applying for grants with negative-sounding hypotheses."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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