Cannabis Prohibition: Schedule I idiocy extended 20 years ago today.

20 years ago today, an unelected bureaucrat extended the restrictive Schedule I status of cannabis. On December 30, 1989, DEA administrator Jack Lawn overlooked the evidence from every valid investigation of cannabis and decreed that it would remain on the DEA’s Schedule I, the most restricted status. Despite ample evidence for its medical value, the DEA left it in the only category declared without medical use.

In making his decision, the DEA administrator had the recent opinion of his own DEA law Judge Francis L. Young. Judge Young had investigated the scheduling of marijuana by the DEA. His extensive study reached remarkable conclusions:

  • The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision.
  • Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.
  • Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.
  • It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.

Twenty years ago the DEA administrator acted in just such an unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious manner and refused to down-schedule marijuana, retaining total control of all medical research and quashing any industrial hemp applications. For this next 20 years, cannabis has retained its erroneous federal status as a dangerous drug without medical use.

Millions of Americans had their lives damaged, their property confiscated and their selves imprisoned by unjust laws based on this Schedule I falsehood. For the DEA as a bureaucracy, though, the ruse has been effective. The agency has grown cancerously as law-makers threw money at what they perceived a political asset, the war on drugs. Ten million marijuana arrests in those two decades fueled an enormous drug war industrial complex.

Cannabis remains Schedule I today. President Obama seems unwilling to lift a finger to change this great injustice. Indeed, Obama seems paralyzed in taking even the smallest steps for reform of this cruel and counterproductive policy. He has even failed to replace the current DEA administrator, leaving in place an authoritarian neo-con appointed by George Bush.

Either Barack Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder could begin to right this historic evil by ordering the down regulation of cannabis and all cannabinoids. A Schedule V rating would free cannabis from the DEA boot on its neck. So too, it would free the American people from criminalization and repression by drug war bureaucrats and allow medical cannabis research to flourish.

By the way, a second drug war evil took place on this day. On December 30, 1996, President Bill Clinton authorized a federal attack on recent gains by medical marijuana proponents, specifically California’s Proposition 215, voted in a month and a half earlier. Already overseer of a hugely expanded Justice Department with big jumps in marijuana arrests, prosecutions and jailings, Bill Clinton now sought to specifically override the choice of California voters and prepared an attack on American medical rights that culminated in one of the most egregious modern attacks on the American Freedom of Speech.

Specifically, Clinton and henchmen Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey and representative Rahm Emanuel sought to deny the rights of physicians to speak of the possible utility of medical marijuana. Doctors were threatened with denial to pharmaceutical drugs if they counseled glaucoma victims about the eye pressure-lowering power of marijuana. They were told they might lose their right to practice medicine if they mentioned to the retching patients undergoing chemotherapy that some find nausea relief with cannabis.

Fortunately the courts saw the grievous unconstitutionality of such restrictions and ended this government thought control for doctors and their patients. Despite this setback, every government bureaucracy benefiting from the drug war has continued this attack on the medical rights of their fellow American citizens, rights about which medication they choose with their doctors.

Thanks to StopTheDrugWar.org ‘s Drug War Chronicle’s This Week in History for noting the dates of the above misdeeds.

Barack Obama’s 1st 100 Days: Drug Policy grade = D

As Barack Obama’s 1st 100 Days in office looms, many are assigning grades. In several aspects of his presidency he get high grades. But this blog is about drug policy. Obama’s drug policy grade = D. Not exactly the change we had hoped for.

Just a couple of bright spots elevate Obama’s grade:

  • The other main hopeful sign is the appointment of a drug czar with a very different and refreshing mindset from any we have had before. Of course, that is a pretty low bar. Gil Kerlikowske, expected to be confirmed as drug czar next month is more friendly to some harm reduction approaches to drug use.

Despite great hope, many of Obama’s appointments and policies are big drug policy reform disappointments. Hope for change dimmed with each of these appointments:

  1. Joe Biden. The vice president is one of the very worst drug war mongers in congress, with a history of supporting authoritarian drug war policies since the Reagan administration. Biden virtually invented the Drug Czar office. He has enthusiastically supported the bare-knuckle enforcement of draconian laws that has done much to quintuple the American prison population into the largest gulag on the planet. See No, Joe Biden, we don’t “know we needed tough laws.”
  2. Rahm Emanuel. Chief of Staff. Pugnacious anti-cannabis zealot. Helped engineer the short-lived policy in the Clinton administration to penalize California doctors who recommended cannabis after Prop 215 legalized its medical use in California in 1996. Luckily the courts would have none of the federal censoring of free speech of physicians. See Rahm Emanuel: Free Speech Hall of Shame.
  3. Eric Holder. A prosecutor with an icy heart, he encouraged the mandatory imprisonment of black youths for minor drug crimes when he served in Washington DC as US Attorney for Bill Clinton. Some of his comments about not persecuting medical cannabis dispensaries in California were encouraging. Other actions, though, show a darkly authoritarian streak.
  4. A telling non-appointment, DEA head. 100 days in office and no new DEA director. 100 days into his presidency, Barack Obama has left control and direction of the DEA in the hands of the lying Bush apparatchiks. They should have been frog-marched from the building by US marshals in the first hours of the new administration. The White House dog is firmly in place for weeks now, but these same thugs are still paid to commit drug war on their fellow Americans.

In addition to these appointments, other actions bring down Obama’s drug policy score:

  • In response to solicited ideas from citizens on how to improve government and the country, Barack Obama twice downplayed the obvious public support for changing marijuana laws. Looking for economic ideas, he dissed the popularity of the questions and said their is no place for cannabis reform in his economy. In reality, cannabis and drug policy could save the American economy tens of billions of dollars a year and provide for whole new areas of innovation that would grow the economy, such as basic materials, food, fuel and medications from hemp.
  • Although Obama promised during the campaign that federal laws would not be enforced against state legal medical marijuana operations, he has equivocated on the issue. The latest bad news was the apparent direction given to federal prosecutors in the case of Charles C. Lynch, the California medical dispensary operator who will be sentenced June 11. The trial judge had asked the justice department for direction in sentencing; by the demeanor of federal prosecutors in court last week a hard-line approach is apparently being taken by the attorney general.
  • Inclusion of the Byrne grants into the stimulus package. These so-called Justice Assistance Grants ramrod through more of the same get-tough drug war policies that have created our prison gulag. Instead of creating positive social capital, as in education or health, they create negative social capital, more Americans behind bars, more felons and ex-felons, more SWAT teams eager to war on their communities. One of George W. Bush’s best policies was to discourage this wasteful spending.
  • Michigan v. Jackson. Just last week, the Obama Solicitor General urged the supreme court to decide in a way that the AP report on the move describes it as “another stark example of the White House seeking to limit rather than expand rights.” The Obama administration policy on this case is nearly exactly what could have been expected from his predecessor Bush administration and attorney general Alberto Gonzales. As it turns out, the behest for initiating the Obama directive came from Bush-appointee neocon supreme court justice Sam Alito. Nauseating!

Although Barack Obama gets only a D grade in drug policy reform, most former drug war presidents fare worse.

  • George W. Bush also gets a D in drug policy. He did hideous things, like appoint mad-dog John Walters as head of the NODCP, the Drug Czar, given free reign and hundred of millions of taxpayer dollars to wage his personal war on cannabis. All to very little effect, thankfully. But George W. Bush pretty much ignored the drug issue. He had other wars to fight. In one of his few acts of controlling wasteful spending, he discouraged the Byrne grants which Obama has embraced.
  • The Bill Clinton administration also get a D, a D – actually, as the growth of the Justice Department, drug war arrests,  prosecutions and incarcerations rose at their highest rate.
  • The George W. H. Bush administration also gets a D-, probably should be an F. Focused on the war on drugs with specials from the White House where he fondled a bag of crack cocaine supposedly purchased near his residence. Expanded drug war by Invading Panama and arresting its leader.
  • Ronald Reagan gets an F. After espousing that big government is part of the problem with America, Reagan pushed through authoritarian, intrusive drug war policies that still have supposedly “freedom loving” Americans lining up to urinate into bottles, just to get or keep a job.

Barack Obama, raise 1st 100 days drug policy grade! Appoint a new DEA director now. Let his name be Norm Stamper.

Rahm Emanuel – Free Speech Hall of Shame

For a man that likes to curse a great deal, Barack Obama’s Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel does not much believe in the free speech rights of his fellow Americans. Indeed Rahm Emanuel committed an act so in conflict with his Constitution’s Bill of Rights he should be denied any government position. Yet, despite his egregious attack on the First Amendment Right of Free Speech, he is now “the second most powerful man” in the American government.

What was Emanuel’s great crime? In the 1990s the Chicago democrat was a key Clinton administration drug policy adviser. This was a time of rapid rise in drug arrests, especially cannabis arrests, driven by all the new laws and huge funding of the “war on drugs.”  After Californians voted in 1996 to legalize the medical use of cannabis, Emanuel, and fellow drug war mongers Joe Biden and Barry McCaffrey sought to deny these voters their rights by threatening cannabis-prescribing California physicians. In just this one policy, then, Emanuel and company worked to deny state voters their elected choice and also deny doctors the right of free speech in making their medical recommendations. Californians suffering from medical need such as glaucoma and nerve pain would be denied medical information by these bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

So much for democracy. The actions of Rham Emanuel and the drug czar McCaffrey show total disdain for voter rights, states rights, and medical rights. Their coercive policies reek of tyranny. In just about the only US Supreme Court decision favorable to these rights in the last 40 years, the high court said such over-bearing federal meddling violated the free speech rights of the physicians and their patients. Such arrogance and disregard for the US Constitution and the rights of fellow Americans should preclude Emanuel from any important goverment job.

President Obama professes to view Abraham Lincoln as a role model. Good idea. Perhaps, you Mr. President and your zealous chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel should revisit the earlier president from Illinois opinions on prohibition. Abraham Lincoln said,

A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded… Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man´s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes.

Too bad now we are stuck with a presidential chief-of-staff who views medical cannabis in the most reactionary possible way.  Rahm Emanuel is no Abraham Lincoln. Regrettably, neither is Barack Obama.