Schizo-fornia: Why Does California Hate Tobacco, But Love Marijuana?
Ah, California: land of contradictions. Where everything is regulated, yet, in its largest city, anarchy still reigns. Where “green” is the new black, yet public transport is a joke. Where anti-immigration demagogues proliferate, yet where an immigrant who cannot pronounce the state’s name is the governor.
And where cigarette smokers are pursued with a vigor typically reserved for terrorists (I hear the legislature is now considering giving smokers the chair), and marijuana smoking is tolerated – if not outright encouraged.
It is looking increasingly likely that California will soon legalize recreational marijuana use. Of course, the con job known as “medical” marijuana has been legal here for some time, and commercial pot growing has proliferated. But now, as the state faces a budget deficit big enough to rouse even the dullest potheads from their haze, the legislature is excitedly eying the possibility of collecting sizable tax receipts from commercial marijuana sales.
Californian cigarette smokers, meanwhile, just can’t catch a (smoke) break. In 1998, the Golden State became the first in the country to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. Taxes on tobacco are astronomical, and the state legislature is poised to raise them yet again. In the city of Los Angeles, where the smog levels are legendary, the city council is planning on banning cigarette smoking at outdoor dining areas.
Meanwhile, marijuana smoking has been defacto legalized in many California communities. In the benighted hell of Santa Cruz, the town I currently reside in, cigarette smoking is banned within 25 feet of any public building. Cigarette smoking has even been banned on the main downtown street. Yet the smell of marijuana smoke is omnipresent – even on the same streets that have banned cigarettes!
This state of affairs is incoherent. A joint of marijuana has considerably more tar than a cigarette. Chronic marijuana smoking can lead to a whole host of health problems, from memory loss to lung cancer – and, most obviously, to outright stupidity. There are dangers associated with operating a motor vehicle while stoned – not so with tobacco. I’m all for legalizing marijuana – so long as consumers are made aware of the risks associated with smoking the stuff. But to retain some semblance of sense, the anti-tobacco jihad should be called off as well.
Having kicked its tobacco habit, why is California is now going to pot?