In a turn of events that sounds like a headline out of The Onion, the Berkeley, California City Council has ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries must allocate at least 2% of their product to give to low-income patients. According to the ruling, the dispensaries must not only provide this free weed but must also make sure that the marijuana given to these patients is as high in quality as the stuff they sell for premium prices.
“Very low income,” according to the City Council’s definition, is anyone earning $32,000 a year or less. While it goes without saying that Berkeley’s standard of living is higher-priced than most places in the country, it still defies imagination that they would set the bar so low. In fact, it defies credulity that they would make this ruling at all.
Let’s make it clear that welfare, as a concept, is not necessarily a great evil. The idea of helping those in a bad situation get enough money to pay for food, clothing, and shelter while they get back on their feet is a good one. A country as rich as the United States should not have poor children starving in the streets due to bad decisions or unfortunate circumstances. That said, the concept of welfare in the late 20th century went from one of a helping hand to something completely different.
Think what you will about the marijuana movement in this country, but it’s hard to imagine many supporters going as far as to approve of the Berkeley City Council’s ruling. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if this proved to be a setback for the fledgling culture. While things in Colorado seem to be swimming along nicely, bringing in millions of dollars in revenue and diverting police attention to more important matters, a large percentage of the country is still hotly debating whether or not to follow their lead.
A movement that seemed to have all the traction in the world just a few months ago could be brought to a grinding halt if voters expect to have marijuana allowances taken out of the their taxes. To even think of such a thing is a sign of just how far the country – especially California – has fallen away from traditional small-government ideals.
The problem among many Republican columnists, voters, and fundraisers is that they place the blame for welfare abuse on the abusers themselves. This is as ridiculous as blaming a snake for biting a dog. People without morals are going to do exactly what people without morals are expected to do. Thieves are going to steal. Lazy people are going to look for a way not to work. It’s that simple! By bringing condemnation down on them, you’re only making yourself look foolish. Human nature is human nature.
The root of the problem is in policies that allow for this kind of abuse to continue. It is in the discount stores like Wal-Mart who fail to enforce their own food stamp regulations because they know they’ll be reimbursed on the back side. It is in politicians who are afraid to take a tough stance against the welfare state. Until the voters realize that some people are going to look for every loophole in the world – and all of the screaming and proselytizing in the world isn’t going to change that – we are going to keep in place a system that rewards those very people.