When it comes to shedding light on the hypocrisy of federal marijuana policies, many pot backers bring up a legal substance they consider to be far more dangerous on many fronts: alcohol. People who drink far too often get behind the wheel, occasionally causing death and destruction. Some drinkers even become violent, resulting in fights, domestic abuse and even murder.
Marijuana, on the other hand, can cause unexplainable cravings for Totino’s Pizza Rolls and lead to consecutive viewings of “Half Baked.” You don’t often hear about people erupting in a violent rage after taking a few too many hits, the argument goes.
But there might be a better comparison out there to bolster the case for medical marijuana, at least when talking about it from a business perspective: cigarettes. Scott Shane, a professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western Reserve University, takes that position in this Bloomberg BusinessWeek column. And I must say, from a business standpoint it is quite persuasive. He highlights the fact that dispensary owners can’t claim tax breaks intended for businesses or – in many cases – open bank accounts, yet cigarette makers can.
If you zoom out and look at this from 30,000 feet, it does seem completely silly that a company making a product that kills an estimated 443,000 people a year can operate like any other business while one providing a drug that helps ease pain can’t. Of course, on closer inspection it makes a bit more sense, given the fact that medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Still, it does seem a bit absurd.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the Bloomberg piece does a good job of highlighting how dysfunctional the laws are right now.
If the government seriously considers marijuana a threat, it should strongly clarify its position on states that pass medical pot laws. Officials have indicated that such a clarification is on the way, but for now dispensary owners have to find a way to continue operating in a confusing regulatory landscape where they can’t even claim the most basic business tax deductions.
Maybe that’s been the government’s intention all along. Dispensary owners I’ve spoken with say they likely won’t be able to operate in the long run if they can’t claim deductions – which some observers say is exactly what the government wants to happen so it doesn’t have to take an official stance on medical marijuana.