Pot the answer to our school funding problems?

ASSOCIATED PRESS We have the answer to our school-funding problems in the palm of our hands: Legalize marijuana.
ASSOCIATED PRESS We have the answer to our school-funding problems in the palm of our hands: Legalize marijuana.
Posted: September 20, 2013

IN RECENT WEEKS, I have written about our educational crisis, taking the side of the teachers.

I did that for several reasons - gratitude to them for holding steady the ladder of education I climbed; sympathy for their plight, enduring the attack on all working people that a sluggish economy brings, and offense at how teachers are scapegoated for the ineptitude of too many parents, administrators and politicians.

What I haven't said is who should get the bill for education.

A society pays for what it values. We value freedom and democracy, so we pay a lot for defense. Too much, some say. Many of us are less willing to pay for another basic, education.

Without education, we are doomed to fall behind other parts of the world. We're already behind populous countries such as Korea and Japan, but we also have fallen behind tiny states, such as Finland and Singapore.

Well-paid teachers is not the whole answer, but it is part of the answer. But who gets the bill?

The "easiest" solution is to increase current taxes, but taxpayers are stressed out and wealthier earners can be chased out, to the suburbs.

We shouldn't victimize a class of people with additional "sin" taxes, such as the mayor's ill-advised idea to add $2 to the cost of a pack of cigarettes. That falls hardest on the poor, among whom smoking rates are the highest, and it is self-defeating. If high cost forces smokers to quit (a desirable goal) it also reduces the money that comes from taxing cigarettes. Pretty soon, we are back where we started.

We need a new stream of revenue, one that will expand rather than shrink.

As much as I don't like the idea, the time has come for Pennsylvania to legalize marijuana. Since it will become legal eventually, we can harvest a major benefit from this crop.

Weed is a growth industry. It'll make what we can get from fracking look like McNuggets.

The enabling method is to legalize "medical" marijuana, then expand it, as Washington and Colorado have done.

As the potheads have been saying for decades (when not giggling and stuffing their faces with Cheetos) pot's less harmful than cigarettes and alcohol, and will yield billions once it's government regulated and taxed.

The Philadelphia D.A. has declined to go after tokers, so pro-pot can start in Philadelphia. The U.S. government, while waggling a finger at Washington and Colorado, does not prosecute. Since grass is the (nonalcoholic) drug of choice of most Americans, legalization will deliver a huge blow to criminal drug gangs.

As much as I don't like it - because we don't need any more mentally fogged Cheeches and Chongs - America is moving toward accepting legalized pot just as it is toward gay marriage.

Politically, Democrats favor it because, well, Democrats always embrace "change." That's how they're built. Libertarians will like it because it's less government in their private practices. Republicans (from tea party to moderate) ought to like it because it doesn't affect them, because none of them toke. (Yeah, right.)

If you can envision state stores that sell booze, now envision state stores that sell pot for "medicinal purposes." Medical marijuana is already legal in 20 states.

Unlike tobacco sales, which are declining, the use of grass will climb once legalized. Receipts should be earmarked for education, and maybe infrastructure.

As I said, I don't like it, but sometimes the cold breath of harsh reality forces you to change your cherished beliefs.

So, roll 'em and smoke 'em - after you've been taxed for 'em. Enjoy your high. It's all for the kids.


Email: stubyko@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

Columns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky

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