Roth IRA Tips and Tricks

Roth IRA
Roth IRAs are powerful tools in your retirement planning arsenal.

There’s a lot that most people don’t know about Roth IRAs, as detailed in the article “9 Surprising Facts About Roth IRAs” from the balance. Some of them may surprise you.

Roth IRA contributions can be used for emergencies. In a perfect world, no one would ever need to use retirement money for anything but retirement, but because Roth contributions are not deductible, they can be withdrawn at any time, for any reason, without taxes or penalties. A Roth IRA can serve as an emergency fund. However, it needs to be noted that the funds you can withdraw do not include amounts that were converted to a Roth IRA or investment gains. Therefore, if you put $5,000 into a Roth IRA that grew to $6,000, you may only withdraw the $5,000 without taxes and penalties.

You might be able to use a non-deductible IRA to fund a Roth. If you make over a certain limit, you can’t contribute to a Roth IRA—or can you? Some people who keep other retirement money inside qualified retirement accounts are permitted to make a non-deductible IRA contribution every year and then convert that into a Roth. This is sometimes called the “backdoor Roth.” However, you’ll need to be careful, and you may need help. In some cases, you can even roll a self-directed IRA back into a company plan, so in future years you could use the backdoor Roth strategy without having to pay taxes on the converted amount. Get a professional to help you with this: mistakes can be expensive!

You may roll after-tax 401(k) contributions into a Roth IRA. Many employer plans let you make after-tax contributions and then, at retirement, these after-tax contributions can be rolled into a Roth IRA. Any investment gain on the after-tax contributions can’t go into the Roth, but the contributions can.

Roth IRAs have no RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions). There aren’t any age requirements for when you take money out, so there are no delayed tax bombs lurking. However, non-spouse heirs will have to take required distributions from an inherited Roth. The nice thing: they will be tax free.

You can contribute to both a SIMPLE IRA and a Roth IRA. As long as your income is within the Roth IRA limits, then you can contribute to both the SIMPLE and the Roth. The contributions to the SIMPLE IRA will be deductible, the Roth contributions will not be. This dual funding strategy lets you reduce taxable income now and have funds in the Roth accumulate for tax-free benefits in retirement. For the self-employed person, who is diligent about saving for retirement, this is a good plan.

Your employer plan may allow Roth contributions. Many 401(k) plans let you make Roth contributions. They are called “designated Roth accounts.” Check with your HR department to see if their plan let you choose which type of contribution to make. Some may be all or nothing, while others let you do some of each.

Age is not the key factor in determining whether or not to use a Roth IRA. The primary deciding factor here is your income bracket, your tax rate now and your expected tax rate during retirement. If your expected tax rate during retirement will be lower, the deductible contributions may be better. If your tax rate during retirement is going to be the same or higher in retirement, which is often the case for people with large IRAs or 401(k)s, then a Roth IRA may make a lot of sense, regardless of your age.

You might be able to make a spousal Roth contribution. Even if your spouse has no earned income, as long as you have an earned income, you can make an IRA contribution on their behalf. Many couples can double their tax favored retirement account savings by doing this.

Be careful about Roth conversions. As stated previously, mistakes here can become expensive, so don’t rely on online Roth calculators to manage conversions. Talk with an experienced professional who can help make sure that your numbers and your strategy fits with your personal retirement scenario. Every person and every situation is different, so planning needs to be specific to your needs.

Reference: the balance (August 13, 2019) “9 Surprising Facts About Roth IRAs”

Other articles you may find interesting:

Avoiding the Epic Fail of a Business Succession Plan

How Do Transfer on Death Accounts Work?

Florida’s Troubled Guardianship Program

Guardianship program - DNR
Florida’s guardianship program is under scrutiny after a professional guardian signed DNRs for people who allegedly didn’t want them.

Legislators and officials from Governor DeSantis’ administration met with judges, guardian trade groups, state attorneys and representatives from the Elder Law section of the Florida Bar to discuss how to protect seniors from exploitive and neglectful guardians, as reported in the article “DeSantis, Florida lawmakers consider changes in troubled guardianship program” from the Orlando Sentinel.

The Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom said that more must be done to enhance the accountability of guardians and be sure they are acting in the best interest of their wards. He added that the matter extends beyond the Department of Elder Affairs, and that families, communities, and public officials need to work together.

This past summer, reports surfaced about a professional guardian who was responsible for more than 400 wards. She reportedly signed “Do Not Resuscitate” orders for clients against their wishes. She also double-billed a healthcare company for nearly $4 million over a ten-year period.

Florida has 550 registered guardians.

Some of the suggestions made included capping the number of wards a person could take on and requiring a judge to approve a DNR order. Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland said that increased standards for guardians and more thorough monitoring was called for.

More stringent penalties for guardians who violate the law may be in the works. However, judges would have to approve the removal of any guardian from the state registry, and that action could be appealed.

Lawmakers said that more money to address the caseload isn’t the issue. Monitoring of guardians needs to be increased, said Passidomo.

As yet, there is no concrete plan in place to address this issue.

The Department of Elder Affairs houses the Office of Public and Professional Guardians, which currently has four employees. Prudom took charge of the department when the agency’s director, who was in charge when the guardian mentioned above was asked to resign.

The governor’s administration will publish a budget request for the Department of Elder Affairs, which could include more funds for investigators to review complaints.

Reference: Orlando Sentinel (September 16, 2019) “DeSantis, Florida lawmakers consider changes in troubled guardianship program”

Other articles you might find interesting:

Expressing Your End-of-Life Wishes

Grandparents Lose Millions to Fake Grandchildren

What Happens to Eddie Money’s Money?

Eddie Money
Eddie Money’s money – what happens to it now?

“The Money Family regrets to announce that Eddie passed away peacefully early this morning,” his family said in a statement (via Variety). “It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to our loving husband and father. We cannot imagine our world without him. We are grateful that he will live on forever through his music.”

Wealth Advisor’s recent article, “How Much Is Eddie Money’s Estate Worth?” said that earlier this year, Money revealed on his Real Money reality TV show that he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer.

“I thought I was just going in to get a checkup, and he told me I got cancer,” he said. “Am I gonna live a long time? Who knows, it’s in God’s hands,” he continued. “But you know what? I’ll take every day I can get. Every day above ground is a good day.”

However, TMZ reported that Money died of complications from a heart valve procedure that he underwent a few months ago.

Eddie Money’s road to rock stardom was a strange one. He was the son of an NYPD police officer and originally wanted to stay in the family business. Money served on the force for two years, before quitting and pursuing his rock and roll dreams.

“I would have been a very lenient cop,” he told Rolling Stone in 2018.

Money struggled with drug addiction during his career, and in the early ’80s, his life almost ended. According to People, Money overdosed on fentanyl in 1981. This led to him badly damaging his sciatic nerve. His 1982 album, “No Control,” was written about the experience.

Money had eleven Top 30 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 and earned a Grammy nomination for his hit “Take Me Home Tonight.” According to Celebrity Net Worth, he may have been worth about $20 million at the time of his death.

Money is survived by his wife and five children. However, the terms of his Will are not yet clear. As a California resident since 1968, his family won’t be subject to a state inheritance or estate tax because the state doesn’t have these taxes. Depending on what form his fortune takes, his estate could liable for several million dollars in federal estate taxes. It’s not known who owns the rights to his music catalog.

While his success peaked in the mid-’80s, he still had a strong fan base and made several concert appearances each year, in the years before his death.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (September 17, 2019) “How Much Is Eddie Money’s Estate Worth?”

Other articles you may find interesting:

Billionaire Conrad Prebys’s Son Gets $15M after Being Disinherited

Prince’s Estate Battle Drags On

Titling Property Correctly for Your Estate Plan

Titling assets is like putting together a puzzle.
Titling assets properly is an important part of the estate planning puzzle.

The way you title your real and personal property and who you name as your beneficiaries is just as important in your estate planning as your Will or Trust, says The Black Hills Pioneer’s recent article, “Titling of property is just as important as your Will or Trust.”

There are some kinds of property that, depending on how they’re titled or who’s the named beneficiary, will flow outside your Will or Trust.

For instance, if you designate a beneficiary on your life insurance policy or on your retirement account, that money goes directly to the named beneficiary at your death—not in accordance with your Will or Trust (provided you haven’t named your estate or Trust as the beneficiary).

In addition, you could designate another person as payable on death (POD) designee or transfer on death (TOD) designee on your investment account or your bank account. These types of accounts also transfer automatically to the named designee and not with any regard to your Will or Trust (unless you named your estate or Trust as the designee).

Jointly owned real estate, bank accounts, or investment accounts will typically flow to the surviving joint owner, not pursuant to your Will or Trust. However, the fact that two people own one piece of real estate doesn’t mean the property will flow automatically to the survivor. It depends on how the property is titled. For example, in many states, language needs to be included in the deed conveying that real estate to both individuals as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship.”

So, you can see how critical it is that you discuss these issues with your estate planning attorney. In addition to questions about Wills and Trusts, you should also be discussing the titling of your property and the beneficiaries you’ve named on your life insurance and retirement accounts, along with any POD and TOD designees you’ve named on your investment accounts or bank accounts.

If you don’t, you could create unintended consequences for your loved ones.

Reference: Black Hills Pioneer (August 5, 2019) “Titling of property is just as important as your Will or Trust”

Other articles you may find interesting:

How Do Transfer on Death Accounts Work?

Change Your Life Insurance Beneficiary After Divorce

Estate Plan Like George Washington

George Washington's Will
George Washington’s Will was very detailed and personal.

Estate planning for those you love can dramatically change your family for generations. Did you know that in his Last Will and Testament of 1799, George Washington detailed his vision for his legacy? He bequeathed the “use, profit, and benefit” of his whole estate to his “dearly beloved wife Martha Washington.” In addition, he forgave the debts of many of his family members, financed the establishment of a school for orphans, set aside stock for what’s now Washington and Lee University, and made arrangements for the care of other loved ones.

Kiplinger’s recent article, “Smart Tips for Estate Planning: Write Your Will Like George Washington Did” reports that Washington’s estate plan was more than 5,500 words—the equivalent of nine single-spaced pages.

While your estate planning may not require the same degree of detail, there’s an important lesson to be learned from Washington: his writing was personal and captured his exact situation at the time and laid out his future vision. Hopefully, your own estate plan will have the same personalization. However, remember that today’s estate planning isn’t limited to a single legal document.

It’s imperative for both spouses to have a good working knowledge of a family’s intentions. Both spouses should participate in drafting the documents to avoid unforeseen complications during stressful times. It’s also good for both spouses to be comfortable with the family’s financial adviser, attorney, and accountant. In addition, communicating the plan to the couple’s children is essential.

Of course, not every spouse will take an eager interest in estate planning, and not every child will want to see the detailed disposition of assets. If this happens to you, put in place a basic protocol, such as “call our estate planning attorney.”

In addition to your Last Will and Testament, you may want to think about a “personal statement of intent” or a “letter of wishes” within your own legacy design. This document works in concert with your Will to provide your heirs with a deeper level of personalization and explanation of your rationales. This document is non-binding and typically is accessible only to the people you stipulate, such as your executor, trustee, and heirs.

As you consider your estate plan, think of George and remember the foundational values of communication, clarity and customization.

Reference: Kiplinger (August 9, 2019) “Smart Tips for Estate Planning: Write Your Will Like George Washington Did”

Other articles you may find interesting:

New Income Tax Form Designed for Seniors

What Happens When Real Estate Is Inherited?

Amy Winehouse’s Ex Filing a $1 Million Claim

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse (Image may be subject to copyright)

Amy Winehouse’s ex-husband, thirty-seven-year-old Blake Fielder-Civil – the man who admitted that he started Amy on heroin – is asking for a lump sum payout plus a monthly allowance from her estate.

Fox News’ recent article, “Amy Winehouse’s ex files $1 million claim on late singer’s estate,” reports that one family member was quoted as saying, “To say that it would be inappropriate for him to benefit from her estate would be an understatement.”

Amy Winehouse died at aged 27 of alcohol poisoning in 2011. She didn’t leave a Will, and her after-tax assets of $3.64 million went to her parents. Since her death, the value of her estate is thought to have grown considerably from song royalties.

Fielder-Civil has told Amy’s family his legal counsel believes that he has a valid claim, because he was with her for six years when she released some of her best-selling material. The two were married for two years and split in July 2009.

Amy gave Blake a $309,000 payoff, but attorneys say the details of that settlement will be critical in Fielder-Civil’s legal claim. If it was designated as a “clean-break,” then he has no real argument for demanding more money. However, if it didn’t, he may have a case.

Fielder-Civil, the inspiration for the late Grammy winner’s heartbreaking hit single “Back to Black,” was in prison from July 2008 to February 2009.

Amy’s parents created the Amy Winehouse Foundation to help young musicians and people with addiction problems. The family inked a deal to make a biopic about her life. The proceeds will go to the foundation.

Amy’s friends and family are upset that any successful claim by Fielder-Civil could take money from the charity.

Reference: Fox News (July 28, 2019) “Amy Winehouse’s ex files $1 million claim on late singer’s estate”

Other articles you may find interesting:

Angelina Jolie Leaving Her Estate to One Child?

Actor Robert De Niro’s Bad Prenup

Avoiding the Epic Fail of a Business Succession Plan

Business succession
A business succession plan should be part of every business owner’s estate plan.

For a business owner, the success of our business impacts our daily lives. The success of our business succession plans (say that five times fast!) is inexorably linked to having a well-conceived and properly prepared plan which is coordinated with our estate plan. Both plans need to be built to withstand challenges, which are outlined in the article “Five events that can ruin a succession plan” from Kenosha News.

Let’s take a closer look at the “Five D’s of Succession Planning.”

Death. Believe it or not, businesses can succeed in the face of the owner’s death. However, this is only if all of the right steps are taken, and the right people are prepared to lead. If the business owner has named a successor, created a plan, and purchased business interruption insurance and/or life insurance, the business has a shot at continuing. However, in most cases, the estate plan fails to address leadership succession, liquidity, and leadership.

Disability or Disease. Sometimes disability and disease can be worse than death to a business. If the right advisors and plan are in place for death, the business may survive. However, a sick or disabled business owner, especially one who has been making all the key decisions, makes it less likely that the business will survive. If a disabled business owner has lost some cognitive function and isn’t able to make the best decisions on behalf of their business and their employees, the business may lose value.

Divorce. Nothing destroys a business like extended litigation. This often happens when a business owner divorces. A smart couple will work together, despite their personal acrimony, to protect the value of the business and their joint assets. Tearing each other apart harms their children and their business. The best approach is to have a plan created that includes what would happen to the business if the owner divorced. Think of it as a prenup for the business.

Drama. Our tendencies toward drama impact our businesses. If there’s a business succession plan and those plans are communicated to the leaders, and those leaders make clear to middle management and the employees that there are plans in place to continue the business, the company can remain stable. In the absence of communication, rumors will impact everyone – from key employees to management to vendors. Nothing hurts a business more than other companies in the same business gossiping about its impending demise. The shining stars of the company will flee for more stable opportunities, vendors may refuse credit, and it spirals downward.

Drive. Most business owners are self-driven individuals who love to see their inspiration, ideas, and energy grow into successful businesses. But when it’s time to get into the weeds of managing details or people, they’re generally not that interested. Or, they dig into the details and then the company is depending on one person to succeed—rarely a good idea. When that drive is lost and there’s no plan to hand things over to the next generation or key employees, the business can slump, lose value, and eventually, close its doors.

A strong business succession plan does more than protect a business owner. It protects the owner’s family, the employees, and their families and communities. An estate planning attorney who routinely works with business owners will be familiar with the strategies available to ensure that all the pieces are in place to continue the business and protect the family.

Reference: Kenosha News (August 25, 2019) “Five events that can ruin a succession plan”

Other articles that may interest you:

Time to Review Your Estate Plan?

Planning for the Unexpected

Help Your Elderly Parent Without Ruining Your Relationship

Elderly parent
Even if your  family was like the Cleavers in “Leave it to Beaver,” providing care to an elderly parent can sometimes be difficult for the parent and the child.

If you have elderly parents, you might have to step in at some point and provide caregiving services. Whether that concept means hands-on personal assistance with things like bathing, dressing, grooming, and feeding, or handling their finances and making decisions for them, this change in your roles can be challenging for you and your parent. Here are some issues to consider about how to help your elderly parent without ruining your relationship.

It’s Usually Not “Leave It to Beaver”

Many people grow up seeing fictional families on television and wish their parents and siblings got along like those families. But very few families measure up to the fictional ones. You and your parent may not have had the kind of relationship in which you would regularly get together for coffee or shopping. That’s not unusual; many people have strained interactions with their parents.

Relationships carry the baggage of the past. Your parent is the same person with whom you have had conflict, which means he or she will continue to do things that upset you. And you will do things to upset him or her. If your parent was extremely authoritarian or independent, it’ll be very difficult for him or her to accept someone telling them what to do – especially a child.

Patience versus Doormat

You should try to be understanding of what your parent is going through – losing independence and feeling less valuable and weak can be very difficult. Forgetfulness can also be an issue. Dad might get confused and forget you already did things – which he now accuses you of not doing. He might also be dealing with chronic pain and other health issues.

However, you should set boundaries. Getting old does not give your parent a right to be physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive. Be firm with your parent if any of these things happen. Being a dutiful son or daughter does not include being a doormat. Calmly inform your parent that the behavior is not acceptable. You might want to consider having someone in social services arrange for counseling to help your parent adjust to the realities of aging and of needing assistance.

The Silver Lining

For some people, this stage of life is a time to deal with unfinished business. You may be able to talk out problems or get answers to questions. You might be able to resolve conflicts that could have caused you regrets down the road. But the best approach for this goal is to tread lightly. Just because your parent is frail doesn’t give you the right to beat her up verbally with a long list of criticisms and complaints.

Address just one piece of a small issue during a visit, and don’t dredge up unpleasant topics on every visit. You don’t want your parent to dread seeing you. Be the kind of person you might wish your parent had been when you were a child – kind, compassionate, and nurturing.

For those of you who have enjoyed a happy, healthy relationship with your parents, this time together can deepen your mutual affection and interaction. Since your parent is no longer rushing around to work and raise a family, you can have uninterrupted conversations and create memories to treasure. Even children and parents who had strained relationships in the past may end up having pleasant times with each other.

References:

A Place for Mom. “Parenting the Parent: Caring for Elderly Parents.” (accessed August 21, 2019 ) https://www.aplaceformom.com/planning-and-advice/articles/caring-for-elderly-parents

Other articles you may find interesting:

Having the “Someday” Talk with Parents

Understanding Palliative Care

Grandparents Lose Millions to Fake Grandchildren

Senior woman giving credit card information over the phone.
Grandparents are being scammed out of millions of dollars by people convincing them their grandchild needs help.

Con artists steal an average of $9,000 per person from older victims, by convincing the seniors that their grandchild is in a crisis. These imposters stole over $41 million from Americans in 2018. Learning how grandparents lose millions to people pretending to be their grandkids could help you or a loved one avoid becoming a victim.

The losses from this scam are skyrocketing, from $26 million in 2017 to $41 million in 2018. In 2017, only one out of fourteen people age 70 and older who reported the scam paid money to the fraudsters. However, in 2018, one out of every four of the people in this group handed money over to the con artists.

The scam usually starts with a telephone call to the grandparent. Here are some of the common tactics the fraudsters use to steal from grandparents:

  • The caller pretends to be injured and fakes uncontrolled sobbing to disguise the caller’s voice. Most grandparents would recognize the voice of a grandchild, so the pretend crying masks the difference in the caller’s voice and that of the grandchild.
  • The caller pretends to be a friend of a grandchild and says their grandchild has been arrested or is in some other form of legal trouble. The con artist says the grandchild went on a quick trip to another country and got into trouble there. This tactic makes it less likely the grandparent will travel to where the grandchild supposedly is to render help in person. About half of the incidents in which grandparents send cash payments involves a claim of legal trouble.
  • The con artist claims the grandchild was in a car accident and needs money for the hospital or doctor. Sometimes the crook will claim the grandchild was at least partly at fault, or had been drinking, to motivate the grandparent to keep the matter private.
  • The crook says the grandchild told him the grandparent is the only person who can help or the only one whom the grandkid trusts. Another common allegation is the grandchild is embarrassed about the situation and does not want anyone to know. The purpose of these claims is to decrease the likelihood the grandparent will check with any other relatives to see if the story is true.
  • The scammer provides some personal information about you or your family in an attempt to verify the call is legitimate. You cannot trust this information, because the con artist probably got the details about you and your family from social media postings.

What to Do If You Get a Family or Friend Emergency Phone Call

Security experts say if you get a phone call like this, it is almost certainly a scam. You should pause and think before acting. Write down the information from the caller, but don’t provide any of your information over the telephone. Absolutely do not provide your address, date of birth, credit card number, bank account information or any other personal data.

Contact family members to verify whether your grandchild is indeed traveling or has gotten into trouble with the law. If you suspect the call was a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

References:

AARP. “Family Emergency Scams Cost Victims $41M.” (accessed August 1, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2018/cash-grandparent.html

Other articles you may find interesting:

IRS Scams: What You Need to Know

Financial Advisors Try to Prevent Financial Exploitation

You Can’t Have Your THC-Infused Cupcake and Eat it Too

Marijuana THC cupcake
Should marijuana-laced edibles be available in bars? Airplanes? Publix and Walmart? By prescription only? Or should they remain federally illegal?

Guns and marijuana are hot-button topics right now.

Most gun owners know by now that marijuana and guns don’t play well together. Federal law prohibits anyone who uses medical or recreational marijuana from possessing or buying guns – even if their state laws allow the use of medicinal marijuana. And, here in FL, our concealed carry statute says that a concealed carry license “shall be issued” unless the applicant is prohibited by the conditions enumerated in the statute, or is “prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm by any other provision of Florida or federal law.” Yes, I know our current Dept. of Agriculture Commissioner and her office are flagrantly violating our state and federal laws by ignoring that pesky little detail, but that’s another story.

Our U.S. Representative Greg Steube (R – 17th District) has always been a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and gun rights. He recently introduced the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act of 2019, which would move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. (Before 1970, drugs were regulated by the states).

Schedule I drugs were deemed to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and were unsafe to use even under under medical supervision. Drugs on this list, in addition to marijuana, include heroin, LSD, mescaline (peyote), ecstasy, quaaludes, bath salts, etc. These drugs are illegal under any circumstance and cannot be prescribed by doctors.

Schedule III drugs were deemed to be not as dangerous and are available by prescription only. The potential for abuse is less than the drugs in Schedules I and II, the drug has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and abuse of the drug may lead to low or moderate physical dependence or high psychological dependence. Drugs on this list include forms of testosterone and estrogen, and drugs containing codeine (such as Tylenol with Codeine).

When I read Greg’s bill, I thought “That’s a good start. It would get rid of the federal gun possession prohibition and all doctors would be able to prescribe it for various conditions, which could certainly be a boon for our veterans and people undergoing chemo. It would also spur legitimate medical research on the effects of marijuana and THC – how it interacts with other drugs, its effect on the brain (especially of minors), its effect on babies in utero, etc. Win-win.”

Well, others didn’t see it that way. They say it doesn’t go far enough. They want marijuana to “be legalized.” But what exactly do they mean by that? Lots of things are legal – tomatoes, tobacco, machine guns, vodka, vitamins, prescription drugs, Twinkies, etc., but they’re all regulated differently. If you ask three different people what should happen with marijuana, you’ll get four different answers. Everyone seems to want to have their THC-infused cupcake and eat it, too.

Here are various proposals I’ve heard:

  1. Only medical marijuana should be legal. These folks believe marijuana has legitimate medical uses and should only be available from any doctor by prescription. Okay, Greg’s bill would do that and it would remove the gun possession prohibition. A medical marijuana user would have the same constitutional rights as an opioid user. But, let’s think about this further. Will insurance cover it? Will it only cover some forms of it? Medicare costs are already out of control – what would this do? The minute third party insurers get involved, the price of prescription pot will skyrocket, just like every prescription drug out there. Also, is there a reliable instant marijuana test for employees whose jobs require they not be impaired? And you thought Big Pharma was a problem? Wait until you meet its incestuous cousin, Big Weed.
  2. Recreational marijuana should be sold and regulated like rum. Okay, so unlike the people supporting #1, these people are saying there is NO legitimate medical use, and it’s a purely recreational drug like alcohol. It would remove the federal gun possession prohibition, which is a plus. To get to this point, marijuana would have to be removed from the DEA Schedules completely and brought under the auspices of the BATFE. (Because they’re so good and efficient at what they do, let’s give them even more power over our lives). And, of course, to sell pot legally, someone would have to obtain a state license, like a liquor license. More regulation. And where would pot be sold? In existing liquor stores or in dedicated privately owned pot shops? Or in government-owned pot shops like socialist Canada has? Or both? Would you be able to buy an edible at a bar?  On an airplane? There are no federal regulations banning alcohol advertising on TV – the industry has been self-regulating for decades – but will a newly-minted weed industry be willing to hamstring itself? Or will the feds use it as another reason to step in and regulate all alcohol and weed advertising? All this regulation and taxes (yes, there will be confiscatory taxes imposed to raise revenue and to “raise awareness of” or “to fight” something) will drive the prices up and contribute to a thriving illegal black market. We already have an illegal street trade, and medical marijuana pushers…I mean doctors…who will write a medical marijuana recommendation for anyone for any reason, so it seems the only people who would really benefit from this would be gun owners who don’t like buying their recreational pot on the street.
  3. Marijuana should be sold as a supplement, like vitamins. Because it’s “natural.” LOL. Yeah, I suppose if you chewed a leaf or flower directly from the plant you have growing in your organic home garden, you could say it was natural. There’s nothing natural about the commercial processing of THC and pot – the chemicals used are as bad as those used in tobacco, and growers use all kinds of toxins to keep bugs and animals from eating the plants. But, let’s go with the premise. It would certainly remove the federal gun possession prohibition. Pot would be loosely regulated by the FDA just to make sure it wasn’t pure poison and wasn’t marketed using pure lies, and it could be advertised on the radio, TV, and billboards, and sold in Walmart’s vitamin section, near the condoms and makeup. See anything wrong with that plan?
  4. Split the baby – regulate marijuana like beer and rum. These folks also don’t believe there’s any medical use for pot, that it’s purely recreational. But they think marijuana should be regulated by THC content, with the lower THC pot regulated like beer and the higher THC pot regulated like liquor. Yes, it would remove the federal gun possession prohibition. But we’d have all of the same problems I mentioned in #2, plus now we’d have pot being sold in Publix and advertised on TV.
  5. Split the baby lite – regulate marijuana like alcohol and supplements. Again, these people obviously don’t believe there’s any legitimate medical use for pot. This “solution” is similar to #4 except that the higher THC pot would be regulated like either beer or rum, and the lower THC pot would be sold like a supplement. All of the problems I mentioned in #2, #3, and #4 would apply.
  6. Marijuana should be sold like tobacco. Well, this seems to make some sense if you believe there’s no medicinal value in THC. It would remove the federal gun possession prohibition, and, in theory, only people over a certain age could buy it. Of course, we know that’s false as we currently have way too many minors using tobacco and vaping products. Of course, the FDA and BATFE would be in charge of regulating it, which shouldn’t give anyone the warm and fuzzies. Interestingly, during my research for this article, I discovered that the FDA’s rules about what constitutes a tobacco product are as broad as the BATFE’s rules regarding what constitutes a machine gun. Which explains why the FDA regulates rolling papers and e-cig coils just as the BATFE regulates things it deems as “machine gun parts” (even things that definitively aren’t). The FDA also has rules about “manufacturing” that are eerily similar the BATFE’s “manufacturing” rules.
  7. Marijuana should be sold like veggies. The thought here is that marijuana is just a plant, like an onion or broccoli, and should be sold the same way. Pot could be bought at grocery stores and farmers markets by people of any age. It would certainly remove the gun possession prohibition, but I somehow doubt that our society is ready to go that far. And, there’s a very important case, Wickard v. Filburn, that has allowed the national government to say that pretty much everything – even purely intrastate commerce – affects interstate commerce, and, thus, the national government can regulate it. So, we’d be right back where we started with the national government regulating marijuana.
  8. The all-over-the-map “solution”. These people don’t know what they want done. They vaguely think some pot should be designated for medicinal use, but are unclear as to whether it should be available by prescription or OTC. They don’t have any idea how some versions of pot would be selected for this treatment, but they’re sure that other versions of pot should be available recreationally. Somehow.

My point is that there’s no simple solution to this complex problem, and anyone who just says “legalize it” hasn’t thought things through. And, every single “solution” expands the role of the government in our lives and constricts liberty.

And what do I think should be done? That’s a tough question. First, as a small government/free trade/constitutional republic Libertarian, it find it appalling that the national government has any control over drugs at all. For nearly 200 years, drugs, like alcohol and guns, had been regulated by the states. I look at the history of Prohibition and the violence caused by that law, which led to the expansion of the national government and the creation of the ATF (now BATFE). And then I see how the violence decreased substantially when Prohibition was repealed. But we didn’t learn our lesson, and we repeated history with this losing political battle called the War on Drugs, and we’re now living with the violence caused by those laws tearing our cities apart.

Unfortunately, I can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and it’s likely the national government will just continue to grow in power as we continue to lose our individual rights to self-determination – all under the false flag of safety. If we lived in a truly free society, I’d support removing marijuana from all Schedules and letting it be sold like rum (which, in my world, wouldn’t be regulated by the national government, either). Let adults decide whether they want to use recreational drugs or not, and let them suffer the dire consequences of abuse.

But we don’t live in a free society. We’ve created a vast, suffocating web of government safety nets to “protect” people from themselves. More laws and regulations would be chained to our necks no matter what choice we make. So, given our current socialist-leaning reality, and since I think marijuana may have some valid medicinal value and should be studied further so adults can make educated decisions about using it, I think moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III is a very reasonable first step.

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***