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Keystoned XL

Shortly after he announced his retirement, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank did an appearance on ABC’s This Week With Christian Amanpour when the topic turned to the possible legalization of marijuana. Staunch über conservative George Will was against the suggestion even though it would create a ton of jobs, cut down on the need for prisons, and create a huge surplus of sales tax revenue. Mr. Will tried to stress that he isn’t totally against the idea of some legalization of marijuana, but the subject needed more study before he would be comfortable enough to endorse such a move. Mr. Frank was incredulous. It’s been studied for nearly a century. How much further study does it need?

Mr. Will said he wanted to understand the exact ramifications of legal marijuana usage and the potential for it to be used as a gateway drug. He wanted a unanimous scientific approval without a single dissenting opinion before he could even think about ignoring his own personal dissention. Mr. Frank countered that everything is a gateway drug. Alcohol is a gateway drug but nobody is advocating a return to prohibition. Tons of legal prescription drugs as well as over the counter pharmaceuticals are used as a precursor before people look for something stronger for a high. Where are the demands to outlaw these drugs until we know for a fact that they don’t serve as a gateway for something else? Ms. Amanpour interrupted the debate to move the show onto a commercial break. The subject was closed without anything really being discussed.

United States drug policy has operated on the assumption that marijuana increases the probability that users will eventually move to stronger drugs since World War II. This assumption has been the number one reason for the heavy handed approach to keep marijuana an illegal substance even though studies have shown that tobacco smoking is a much better predictor of illicit hard drug use. No widely accepted study has ever demonstrated a cause and effect relationship between marijuana and more dangerous drugs. And it has been studied for more than sixty years. But people like Mr. Will say that they need more study. We have to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned in our search to get to the root of understanding the effects, if there are any, of marijuana using every test known to man and other tests that have yet to be invented. In other words, despite the potential for jobs and other real benefits to the country’s economy, the legalization of marijuana it’s not going to happen anytime soon, if ever.

The Keystone XL is a seventeen hundred mile long pipeline system that is intended to transport synthetic crude oil from Alberta, Canada to multiple destinations in the United States such as refineries in Illinois, distribution hubs in Oklahoma, and various refineries along the gulf coast of Texas. Although it was originally proposed way back in 2005, the pipeline has encountered a great deal of resistance from environmentalists, economist, business competitors, and members of Congress. In November, 2011, President Barack Obama postponed the decision to allow the pipeline to be built until 2013. It is believed Mr. Obama made this choice to avoid the pipeline becoming a campaign issue in the 2012 presidential election. But the following December, Senate Republicans were able to tie the Keystone project to the approval of the payroll tax cut extension that was set to expire at the end of the year. Mr. Obama had promised to veto the legislation. But with a clear path to getting the extension, Mr. Obama signed the legislation into law. The plan was to force Mr. Obama to approve Keystone within sixty days unless it was determined that the project was not in the best interest of the country.

Sixty days to study what’s best for the country. That’s a lot of ground to cover. How many jobs would it really create? The estimate ranges from as little as fifteen hundred to as many as thirty thousand. Transcanada, the energy giant bidding to build the pipeline, admitted that the vast majority of jobs the pipeline would create would be temporary construction jobs and that the project would likely yield only a few hundred permanent positions. What would be the potential impact of a catastrophic pipeline failure? After the fiasco with British Petroleum and the gulf coast disaster that took months to resolve, people need to show a little more prudence before stamping a project approved and setting people up for disaster, especially when plans call for the pipe to pass right through a major aquifer that supplies drinking water for a good chunk of the population in a few states. What are the disaster recovery plans in case the worse happens? Who will be held accountable? And the Obama administration had just sixty days to review the plans and approve the project.

If the Keystone pipeline was meant to transport marijuana, a lot of people who are gung ho in their support of the project for the transportation of oil wouldn’t hesitate to derail this train. We’d have to study the effects of marijuana every which way for the next hundred years before we would even entertain the idea of building a transportation network for it. But if it’s oil, who cares? Jobs are at stake and the future of the economy hangs in the balance and the President doesn’t understand what he’s doing and nobody in the Obama administration gives a damn about hardworking Americans.

Sixty days is plenty of time to railroad this project down the country’s throat. It serves them right. If people would just let some of us take a toke or two we wouldn’t have all this drama in our politics. If nothing else, marijuana would’ve helped ease some of our anxiety over the fear that the dream of even more oil turns into our worst nightmare whenever something goes wrong.

Friday, January 20, 2012 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts

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