After 2012 election,cannabis prohibition teeters in the USA, and across the hemisphere.

“Game changer”, “tipping point”, “beginning of the end”, all the phrases this commenter wanted to use have already been used to describe the effects on cannabis prohibition of the 2012  momentous election.

The decision of Washington and Colorado voters to legalize marijuana in their states may well be a fatal blow to prohibition of cannabis in the USA. In the short time since these citizens of these states decided to end prohibition of cannabis possession, their votes have caused a major upheaval in cannabis and drug prohibition. These events may be among the most important in finally ending the moral wrong of cannabis prohibition.

The post-election realization is that now, for the first time, marijuana legalization is the will of the majority of American voters. This has to press the RESET button of politicians, as they contemplate legalization getting more votes than President Obama in Colorado. Republicans considering their unpopularity with young voters realize that repeal of cannabis prohibition is widely favored by the young.

Post election action on the state level has been impressive and encouraging. State legislators across the country have introduced legislation widening medical exemptions to state marijuana laws. Legislators in Maine and Rhode Island stepped beyond that with legislation to legalize for personal useAnd the states are pressuring the feds! In Colorado, US Representative Jared Polis (D) is clamoring for state exemption of federal cannabis law. Joining him are not just fellow democrats, but republicans too. Colorado politicians who worked against legalization now agree to work to see the will of Colorado voters respected and support Polis’ and Rep. Diana DeGette’s (D-CO)  “Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act.”

Internationally, a host of countries currently saddled with enforcing hard-line US drug policy found hearty justification for their skepticism of the drug war. Check out Colorado, Washington Marijuana Legalization: Latin American Leaders Ask For A Review Of Drug Policies on The Huffington Post.  Mexico in particular questions why it has lost 6o,000 lives and considers legalization. Uruguay is on the verge of legalizing personal use. Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras and Belize are all questioning the current war on drugs and are looking at legalization as an alternative.

A final gift of the election of 2012 was the just announced defeat of Dan Lungren, House Republican from California and one of the very worst drug war villains. For 3 decades he has  been involved in crafting and enforcing some of the most Stalinistic aspects, such as the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, targeting cannabis devotees with forfeiture and mandatory minimum sentencing. See also, “Why 1984 WAS like 1984.”  Another huge election plus was the defeat of Prohibitionist Allen West (R) Florida!

Still, even with all this political, state and international swing towards ending cannabis prohibition, hugely formidable forces will seek to prevent change. So far in his presidency, Barak Obama has been a huge disappointment on the issue, ignoring all drug war and incarceration issues and allowing zealots in the justice department to attack medical cannabis with all the cruel tools at their disposal. The House and Senate are both rife with prohibitionist dinosaurs like Lamar Smith, Mitch McConnell, Diane Feinstein, and Jeff Sessions. Texas Representative Lamar Smith (R) was able last congress to, by himself, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee  (retch) to block Ron Paul and Barney Frank’s legislation to exempt medical cannabis from federal prosecution. He was the sole decider, the House did not even get to consider. He could probably do the same again this session. And in the house, Congress has lost three of its anti-drug war patriots, Ron Paul (R-Texas), Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

Ardent anti-cannabis foe Michele Leonhart directs much of the current federal assault on medical marijuana from her post at the head of the DEA.  This zealot was given carte blanc to proceed full bore by her nominator President Obama, and unanimous senate confirmation. US Attorneys, eager to expand power and careers are attacking medical marijuana for easy forfeiture and mandatory minimum charges.

A wildcard in this upcoming battle on cannabis prohibition is the current action underway in the US Court of Appeals to strip away its insidious and evil Schedule I status. Much of the cruelty in the war against cannabis has issued from this classification, first implemented by Richard Nixon to “tear the a** out of hippies.” The draconian Schedule I status for cannabis has been a legal cancer draining the USA for 40 years. It has turned America into a vast incarceration gulag, trashed the Bill of Rights, corrupted law enforcement and forever damaged the lives of 20 million citizens burdened with a marijuana arrest. If the court allows anything like a science-based review, then the fiction of the Schedule I classification (dangerous, addictive, no medical use) will be obvious and the plant will be rescheduled.

The next years will be dynamic for cannabis prohibition reform. Hold on to your hats!

 

Give “Drug Peace” a chance. Oh, never mind.

Rarely does this site quote from Forbes, as in Steve Forbes, but Doug Bandow has performed a great service with his current piece at Forbes.com, It’s Time To Declare Peace In The War Against Drugs.

The former special assistant to Ronald Reagan elegantly catalogs the malignacies of current drug policy. Concerning cannabis policy he writes,

  • “The Drug War also interferes with treatment of the sick and dying. Cannabis and other drugs can aid people suffering from a variety of maladies. Additional research would help determine how, in what form, and for what marijuana could be best used. Yet government effectively punishes vulnerable people in great pain, even agony.”

Author Bandow notes some of the ruinous wrongs ending the war on drugs would correct:

  • “Banning drugs raises their price, creates enormous profits for criminal entrepreneurs, thrusts even casual users into an illegal marketplace, encourages heavy users to commit property crimes to acquire higher-priced drugs, leaves violence the only means for dealers to resolve disputes, forces government to spend lavishly on enforcement, corrupts public officials and institutions, and undermines a free society. All of these effects are evident today and are reminiscent of Prohibition (of alcohol) in the early 20th Century.”

Bandow must have not been responsible for Ronald Reagan’s drug policies. This ‘small-government’ president’s worst hypocrisy and mistake was to “run up the battle flag on the war on drugs.” See Why 1984 WAS like 1984.

During this “Just Say No” era, bloated bureaucracies such as the DEA had money thrown at them, the Bill of Rights was disemboweled with the drug war exception, mandatory minimums were enacted. A quintupling of the US prison population began, now burdening the USA with the world’s highest number (and percentage) of caged citizens. Many of them are totally non-violent and no risk to society, ordinary Americans entrapped by draconian laws.

In late 2011, incredibly, the USA is again on the path of ramping up the drug war yet again, especially against cannabis, a medically beneficent natural substance that should never have been illegal, much less Schedule I. As long as it is Schedule I, self-serving Feds have everything they need to promote and expand their jobs and pensions with a renewed war on marijuana. Evidence of this new heavy hand of prohibition is everywhere.

  • Obama’s pathetic renomination of Bush-appointee and arch-medical cannabis nemesis Michele Leonhart to head DEA. The president’s ill thought appointment, and her gag-inducing Senate confirmation, allows this national police force to reinvigorate its war against Americans benefiting from medical marijuana.
  • The California dispensary system, conforming with state law, is about to be broken. One of the few positive aspects of the California economy just now, the dispensary system efficiently provides Californians their medicine, while generating employment, innovation and local and state tax revenue. Now the IRS and threats of ruinous property forfeitures are being used to close down these employers and tax payers.
  • Another crushing blow to any drug peace, was the Senate’s idiotic rejection of Jim Webb’s National Criminal Justice Commission Act (S. 306).  Crucial issues, such as grotesquely counterproductive laws, prosecutions, mandatory minimums and incarcerations could have been questioned in the light of day. Not going to happen.

It is preposterous that the USA, at this challenging point in its history can reinvigorate one of its most clearly failed policies, the federal war on marijuana. The country desperately needs to not be wasting its resources and attacking the rights, medical freedoms and lives of its citizens, but it is doing just that.

Controlled Substances Act: 39 years of drug war tyranny.

Richard Nixon resigns in disgrace.

Richard Nixon resigns in disgrace, August 1974.

Thirty nine years ago this week an evil befell the USA.

President Richard Nixon, in cahoots with his fellow Watergate criminal (and Attorney General), John Mitchell, ramped up the war on drugs by prodding the misbegotten legislation, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This act crafted the schedule system for classifying the illegality of (some) drugs. In 1973 Nixon created the DEA to act as overseers of federal drug policy and enforcement.

Cannabis had actually been legal since a 1969 Supreme Court decision. Instigated by no less than Timothy Leary, the high court declared as unconstitutional the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 ended this short period of freedom, instituting a repressive, punishment-oriented approach. Because of Nixon’s direct actions, cannabis was classified as a Schedule I drug, the most restricted, illegal and penalized.

This draconian schedule for cannabis was purported to be just temporary, until a commission studied the question. This became the famous Shafer Commission. Kevin Zeese reported on the commission and Nixon’s attempts to declare marijuana dangerous. As Zeese reported, the commission took its task seriously and ended up having to conclude that marijuana is not very dangerous and does not justify harsh legal treatment of its users.

Nixon blew up, ranting (on tape) instead for laws that “tears the ass” out of marijuana users. He got his way. Even though Nixon had to resign in disgrace, the drug war he promoted has lived on. In the intervening 40 years, 20 million Americans have had their lives torn asunder in the form of needless and wasteful arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations for victimless cannabis “crimes.”

The CSA is is unconstitutional. An amendment to the US Constitution was required to prohibit alcohol. The same is true for marijuana and other drugs. Richard Nixon and the US congress ignored his requirement in passing the CSA. The courts, of course, should have quickly flagged this flagrant unconstitutionality. Instead the judiciary gave it a free pass under the “drug war exemption” to the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Subsequent generations of congressional drug warriors such as Joe Biden found even this legislation too timid and schemed at “enhanced penalties” and evils such as asset forfeiture.  Mandatory minimums were reinstated again in the drug war-crazed 1980s. See Why 1984 WAS like 1984. Member of both political parties fought to out-do each other with ever more repressive legislation, including the Controlled Substance Penalties Amendment Act of 1984 and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.

International legislation, the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances soon codified schedules and penalties world wide.

Under the 39 year-old CSA the DEA is given authority to classify substances. It can at will, stubbornly stick to obviously incorrect schedules, e.g. Schedule I for cannabis. The classification of various drugs by the DEA is not based whatsoever upon the actual dangers of the drugs, but is based on bureaucratic and turf reasons.

  • The most dangerous drug, cigarettes, for example is not even under DEA enforcement. Nor was it regulated even by FDA, until a few months ago. But cannabis, a far safer drug, is degraded by the most draconian Schedule I classification and brutally enforced by the DEA.

Constitutionally the  US government has no business in the prohibition business. Practically such prohibitions have become an incarceration nightmare. We need to drug war collateral damage. Harsh penalties conceived to “tear the ass out” of hippies 40 years ago should not be mandating continuation of prison state and police state policies.

Pawlenty plenty pathetic: His medical marijuana veto is big government at its worst.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Republican, just vetoed a bill that would have allowed dying Minnesotans to relieve their pain and nausea with medical cannabis. The medical opinions informing the Governor came from mainly from law enforcement.

  • Pawlenty found it necessary to veto this bill even though it was restrictive to only the dying. He would not have to worry that Minnesotans who needed cannabis to prevent blindness from glaucoma, for example, would get access to the plant substance. As they are not dying, only going blind, they would not be eligible even in the bill Pawlenty vetoed.
  • Luckily now with the veto, those battling cancer with chemotherapy will not be allowed to recklessly relieve their nausea and pain with cannabis. Such allowance of personal medical freedom by state government, according to Pawlenty and his law enforcement advisers, could cause a wave “expanded drug use” in the state.

As Governor Tim Pawlenty is a conservative Republican, this must be an example of compassionate conservatism?  The Governor assures us he is , “very sympathetic to those dealing with end-of-life illnesses and accompanying pain.”

  • Gee, Tim in what way are you being sympathetic? With the stroke of your pen, you deny dying Minnesotans medical treatment they, and their doctors so choose? Is this supposed to be Republican “small government” dogma or is it big government run amok, 1984 style, with the police and bureaucrats deciding the most personal medical choices, even at the end of our lives?

Perhaps the Governor should visit a dying Minnesotan to whom he is denying their personal right to choose their own medical treatment, if that includes cannabis. He could explain to them how their unrelieved pain and nausea is their contribution to keeping Minnesota safe from this new wave of drug abuse among those near death. The governor could expound his Republican philosophy of small goverment, perhaps providing some solace to the dying.

Why 1984 WAS like 1984

April 4, 1984

So begins George Orwell’s nightmarish novel of future totalitarianism. That date is now long gone, 25 years past.

When Apple first released the Mac computer in 1984, they promised in an innovative Super Bowl ad that 1984 (the year) won’t be like 1984 as in the dark, well, Orwellian vision. Apple Computer 1984 ad introducing Macintosh

An excellent movie made from the book (in 1984, of course) is also available at YouTube – Movie Trailer – 1984. The book and movie portray a cruel society where police helicopters lurk overhead and children watch adults for report of possible “thought crimes” to authorities. Squads of government goons terrorize the citizens with no-knock raids followed by mass incarceration.

Although Apple’s new computer might have been liberating in 1984 (it even offered a new appendage, the mouse), other parts of America were lurching towards big government, intrusive and punitive.

  • Ronald Reagan ruled from the White House and eagerly pressed a cultural crusade. The drug war fit perfectly with his tough talking and authoritarian impulses.
  • Congress also found in the drug war an excellent way to express outrage, pass legislation, gain votes and take permission to spend more of the taxpayer’s money. In many cases, Democrats were the most enthusiastic in wishing to appear, “tough on drugs.”
  • The Supreme Court was underway rewriting the US Constitution with the “war on drugs” exemptions that would steadily whittle away the rights of Americans formerly guaranteed under their Bill of Rights.

In 1984, one of the worst new drug war laws issued from this time of congressional zealotry was the Omnibus Crime Bill. Basic provisions of this vindictive legislation took away property rights extending back to the Magna Carta.

  • The Omnibus Crime Bill greatly expanded the power of government to forfeit away the land and possession of its citizenry. Citizen property rights secure for centuries were usurped.
  • Proceeds of such government seizures of private property could go to the enforcers, from DEA to the local police. Thus policing incentives were warped from enforcing crimes with actual victims, such as rapes, to drug offenses, crimes far more lucrative to the police.
  • Even when police arrests could not secure convictions, many times the police could keep, and sell,  the  private property and land of the American citizen.
  • In some cases police took property without even making an arrest. Under this 1984 legislation, property itself could be “arrested” and confiscated by the police.

The assault on American property rights in the Omnibus Crime Bill was matched by diminished personal rights. Drug possession had now been deemed a far more serious crime, much more commonly a felony.

  • Mandatory minimum sentences befell those for petty possession “crimes.”
  • Sentencing guidelines were “enhanced,” dooming hundred of thousands of future prisoner to millenniums of person-in-prison years.
  • In the intervening 25 years, the number of Americans incarcerated has quadrupled, from 580,000 to 2,300,000, chart below.

One generation after legislation hatched in the drug war zealotry of 1984, the USA, land of the free, finds itself a bloated prison gulag, far out jailing any other country on earth. In the words of Senator Jim Webb,

  • “With so many of our of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something different-and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter.

As Senator Webb points out, in his introduction to pioneering legislation, the National Criminal Justice Act of 2009, Americans, in the last 25 years, have not become 4 times more evil nor in need of 4 times the rate of incarceration.

Ironically, neither have Americans become less likely to use drugs, the purported “purpose” of draconian legislation like that passed in 1984.

With nearly two and a half million prisoners in federal and state gulags, the USA 2009 is in some ways very much like 1984. If Senator Webb and brave colleagues joining him on development of the new criminal justice act succeed, perhaps 2014 will be less like 1984.

The year 1984 shared some cultural trends with another year, this one 1484, 500 years earlier. These will be covered in a future post, Why 1984 was like 1484.