Rich Thesken

Well, just when you think that our dear Congressman Kevin McCarthy couldn't possibly misrepresent and hurt his constituents of Kern County any more than he already has, he manages to muck things up even more.

If voting against the Affordable Care Act and stripping health care from tens of millions of Americans and a large percentage of his own constituents in one of the poorest and neediest counties in California wasn't enough, now he is in favor of limiting access to legal, medicinal cannabis in Kern County. Beyond that, he is also in favor of retaining the classification of cannabis as a federally illegal Schedule 1 substance along with the most dangerous of drugs (heroin, LSD, etc.).

The reasons that McCarthy supports this absolutely absurd and insane policy was well-articulated by Mr. Kris Craig in a Californian article ("Tell McCarthy it's time to end government's failed war on pot," Oct. 30). In that Opinion piece, he also lays out both the harmless effects and the many medicinal benefits of cannabis. Without repeating much of his excellent article, he describes some of the history of the prohibition of cannabis, the reasons for it, and the principals behind it.

He also lays out a strong prosecution of McCarthy's anti-cannabis policy as evidence that McCarthy is in the "back pocket" of the alcohol, tobacco and Big-Pharma industries, as well as the Prison Industrial Complex, which all heavily fund his campaigns and lobbying activities.

The prohibition of cannabis in this country began fairly recently in this nation's history and was driven by anti-immigrant sentiments during the Great Depression. It was first named "marijuana" by William Randolph Hearst in order to associate it with the immigration of Mexicans into this country and the claim that they were bringing this "evil" drug with them, while at the same time taking American jobs (sound familiar?).

It was named a Schedule 1 substance in 1970 by President Nixon, pending review, and thanks to President Reagan's failed "War on Drugs" in the 1980s, it has been cemented into that classification ever since. Although the efforts to outlaw cannabis began with misguided, anti-immigrant fervor, it was then fueled by the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies to eliminate any competition, and by racist motivations to lock up a disproportionately large black and brown population.

And just as the failed alcohol prohibition had earlier given rise to the Mafia and corruption in government, this cannabis prohibition has given rise to the many drug cartels in Latin America and the ensuing violence that spills over onto our streets.

Outlawing cannabis both at the federal level and in many states makes no sense, and never did. Legalizing it, as some states already have, has the multiple benefits of: 1) eliminating the criminal element/violence, 2) not incarcerating people for no reason, 3) the ability to regulate it and keep it safe and 4) generating a massive source of tax revenue that many jurisdictions have greatly benefited from.

That brings me to Bakersfield/Kern County. Our city and county leaders, in their infinite wisdom, recently banned cannabis dispensaries. So, in other words, these two jurisdictions, among the poorest in the state, are depriving themselves and their residences of much-needed tax revenues and resources at a time when their oil property tax base continues to shrink and their budget woes worsen.

And if that's not self-defeating enough, cannabis users have only to travel to adjacent counties and spend their money there and bring it back here for use. A recent article in The Californian details that the City of Arvin is considering permitting dispensaries there in order to bring in much-needed revenues to a cash-strapped community ("Cash-strapped Arvin considers allowing commercial cannabis," Nov. 2). Evidently, little ol' Arvin has more sense and wisdom than our city and county leaders.

Additionally, the city and county are inviting massive lawsuits from individuals who rely on medicinal cannabis for the many proven health benefits, including for those suffering from cancer, epilepsy, chronic pain, opioid abuse, migraines, anxiety and PTSD. These suits would accuse the city and county of limiting access to these legal, life-saving treatments, and lawyers could appropriately use the analogy of the city/county outlawing all drug stores, for instance. Legal fees incurred would cost the city/county even more. Resist the insanity!

Rich Thesken is a semi-retired geologist who has lived and worked for the California DOGGR in Bakersfield for 29 years.