Has Earl Jones lost his mind?
Rep. Earl Jones, who oversees the 60 th District for the NC House of Representatives — one of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation, by the way — is either the most innovative, forward-thinking politician in the NC General Assembly… or he has completely lost his mind. It was just a couple weeks ago that we knocked him around a bit in this space for the International Civil Rights Center and Museum that he and Guilford County Commission Chairman Skip Alston have been dragging along for the last 15 years like a wagon with the wheels cut off. And in May he sponsored House Bill 1623, which is ostensibly intended to honor Ronald McNair, a graduate of NC A&T University and the first African- American astronaut who died in the Challenger explosion, but which actually is something much crazier. The NC A&T McNair Center Funds bill proposes to take $1.7 million from the state General Fund in order to “secure land, to conduct a feasibility/market study, and to develop a master plan for the construction of a state-of-the-art technology research and development building complex known as the Star Fleet Academy Complex.” Yes, like “Star Trek.” If Earl Jones has his way, the United Federation of Planets will have ties here in Greensboro… pending approval by CBS, which owns the rights to the franchise, of course. But then we look at some other examples of Jones’ outside-the-boxness, and are wondering if maybe he doesn’t have the right idea after all. Last week Jones made headlines in the News & Record for his continuing support for video poker, which the state banned in 2005 but which is still active in Indian casinos and in the form of video sweepstakes machines in truck stops and convenience stores from Murphy to Manteo. Jones says that since it has already twice thwarted legal efforts to ban it, we should go ahead and allow video poker and tax it at the rate of 20 percent, which he says could bring $500 million annually to our depleted state coffers. And you know what? He’s right.
Jones takes a similar tack with HB 1380, titled, “An Actto Enact the Medical Marijuana Act.” The bill reasons that we alreadyhave medical marijuana in North Carolina, as the Research TriangleInstitute already processes and distributes weed grown at theUniversity of Mississippi for people with genuine medical reasons foringesting it. Crazy? We don’t think so. In fact we’ve made the argumentin this space that legalized medical marijuana, properly taxed, wouldbe a boon to state revenue and would give disenfranchised tobaccofarmers a new, highly valuable crop — though they’d probably have tospend more on security for their fields. It’s an idea that hastaken off in California, where last month in Oakland legal marijuanadispensaries assumed the burden of being taxed (and recognized) by thecity in a voter referendum that passed with about 80 percent support.Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that a statewide marijuana tax mayinvigorate the stagnating economy and address budget woes in the GoldenState. But then, Schwarzenegger might be crazy too.
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