“I have been on the side of law enforcement for a long time, and you can be sure that we will be together on this November ballot,” said the once and future governor Jeffy Brown. He was referring to his anticipated NO vote on California’s bid to end the state’s legal prohibition of the use and possession of marijuana. More correctly he should have said, “I have been on the pay of the California prison guards union for a long time, and you can be sure that I will do as they tell me to do on this November ballot.”
Being “on side of law enforcement” means to Jerry Brown fully signing on to the prohibition industry’s tax-paid jackpot of police, prosecution, and prison personnel benefits and perks. Brown, and most other California politicians, including current governor Schwarzenegger, never fail to vote, legislate and decide in ways favorable to the California lobby heavy weight, the California Correctional Peace Officer’s Association. Benefiting enormously from drug war, the prison guard’s association has grown explosively in membership, pay, benefits, pensions and political power. The tens of thousands of California prison guards suckle at the public teat some of the most generous benefits of any public employees. The guards and their union lobby relentlessly to maintain the draconian drug laws that turn so many Californians into prisoners, the raw material of the prison industry.
As Mary O’Grady wrote in the Wall Street Journal Online last week, “The drug-warrior industry, which includes both the private-sector and a massive government bureaucracy devoted to “enforcement,” has an enormous economic incentive to keep the war raging.”
Another aspect of this California bureaucracy is CAMP, California Against Marijuana Planting, a cartel of 110 law enforcement agencies, the country’s largest law enforcement task force. Bizarrely, as California Attorney General, Brown yearly leads this army on its Sisyphean uprooting of cannabis plants. Huge amounts of expensive but useless effort are wasted in this gigantic public works undertaking.
Every years for a quarter century CAMP destroyed ever more plants. Simultaneously, the price of marijuana increased yearly until it was worth more than its weight in gold. Essentially, CAMP has been price-fixing (one of the definitions of cartel) marijuana while simultaneously doing huge collateral damage to the lives of Californians and the financial stability of the state.
The price of cannabis has dropped recently in California, from fear that legalization will reduce the need for illegal, price-fixed CAMP era cannabis.
California’s next governor will inherit a financial quagmire. Both Republican candidates have taken tired, predictable, just-say-no stances on ending cannabis prohibition. So California’s next governor, be it Jerry Brown or Republicans Meg Whitman or Steve Poizner, has already precluded looking at the huge income that would be generated by the cannabis tax.
Hopefully, Californians will this fall vote to end cannabis prohibition and persecution with a higher percentage than they give to whichever of the candidates wins the governorship. Then, whether he or she likes it or not, the new governor will have a huge new revenue source and mammoth reduction in costs of marijuana prosecution, policing and imprisonment.
In the mean time, Jerry Brown should hang his head in shame. From his own personal experience, he knows cannabis is not evil, that it is far safer than alcohol and that no one should go to jail for using or possessing the plant. Yet he chooses to align himself, for political power, with the regressive, expensive and self-damaging war on cannabis.