President Barack Obama, please step up to federal change on cannabis.

Young Barack Obama

Young Barack Obama

As reported here and elsewhere, voter mandated state legalization of cannabis possession in US states Washington and Colorado, has brought about enormous pressure to change federal policy. Charles Pierce, writing in Esquire well expresses the quizzical drug war actions of the Obama presidency. Pierce notes, “the results in Colorado and in Washington state – and, to a lesser extent, in Massachusetts – indicate that the political salience of the “war on drugs,” as applied to marijuana, at least, almost has completely evaporated.”

So far in his presidency, Obama has brushed aside numerous questions about drug policy and marijuana decriminalization with bemused disdain. One of his first presidential acts was to renominate GW Bush appointee and marijuana hardliner Michele Leonhart to head the DEA. He chose as his vice president long time drug war villain, Joe Biden. He has watched silently while the DEA, federal attorneys and other “public safety” agencies with self-serving anti-cannabis agendas dismantle thriving, tax-paying dispensary businesses in California and subjecting southern Oregon farms to brutal federal forfeiture.

Finally, powerful and respected voices are calling him out on this key budgetary, medical and personal freedom issue:

Sir Richard Branson, one of the world’s most intelligent and wealthy men, is a passionate advocate of drug law reform and ending prohibition of cannabis. He advises that the will Washington and Colorado voters should be respected. Sir Richard is disgusted by the fact that, “The U.S. currently spends no less than $51 billion — per year — on the war on drugs. That’s double what Apple profited last year. It’s a horribly depressing number.” President Obama, you are looking for ways to cut useless federal spending, Hello, they are staring you in the face.

Politically, its, like, WTF? The 2012 election showed the overwhelming importance of the youth vote (or lack of it, in the case of Republicans). President Obama, marijuana legalization got more votes than you did in Colorado. American voters now favor marijuana legalization, overwhelmingly in the case of medical cannabis. Any action you take now to free Americans from these vicious and destructive Schedule I penalties will be leading from behind, far behind current American public opinion.

You should thank your lucky stars that you were not caught and caged when you enjoyed pot as a youth. If you had been caught, the highest White House employment you could have hoped for would have been janitor, although you would probably have been denied entrance for even that. With the simple stroke of a pen, you as president could reschedule cannabis, away from the current draconian Schedule I, hopefully away from the DEA altogether. Never could so much justice be accomplished, so easily.

Will you instead, Mr. President unleash the dogs of war, drug war,  to crush state infrastructures and private citizens? Actually, with draconian Schedule I in place, along with hardliners in power at the DEA and as federal prosecutors, the misdirected, counterproductive federal war on cannabis will continue on its own, unless specially reined in. Writing in Salon, posted on Alternet, Alex Pareene nails it, “Here’s what I know: The DEA is full of people who went to go work for the DEA, and the Justice Department is full of prosecutors. Professional drug warriors, shockingly, are drug warriors. The Pentagon, similarly, is staffed with a lot of people who like dropping bombs and firing missiles, and every postwar president has ended up doing quite a bit of both once in office, no matter what they said they’d do before they were elected. The American state’s brutal machinery of death and prosecution is difficult to slow or stop “. On this issue President Obama seems every bit as sharp as he did in the first debate. But, now he could go the other way.

Act now, Mr. President, for harm reduction. Free young men and women, black, brown and white from the crushing personal and legal blow of a useless, tragically counterproductive marijuana arrest. Reduce the drug war prison Gulag. Help balance the budget by defunding the drug war and disbanding the DEA. Gain young voters for your political party. Enter the 21st century. Soften the fiscal cliff. Strike Schedule I from cannabis and end the idiotic war on marijuana.

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!

 

2011: Another big year for idiotic war on some drugs

Seemingly, 2011 would have good year for the federal government to be engaged in increasing employment and securing the financial system from further meltdown. Unfortunately, the government did neither of these. Astoundingly, federal bureaucrats instead re-energized the idiotic and failed war on drugs, especially medical marijuana.

DEA jackboots raid a house.

DEA jackboots raid a house.

The year began dismally with a unanimous senate confirmation of Bush/Obama appointee Michele Leonhart to head the DEA.  Any hope for cannabis rescheduling, or even research, are dashed by her choke hold on medical marijuana as administrator of this bloated agency. During confirmation hearing her anti-medical cannabis ravings were praised by powerful senators, such as Senate Judiciary Leader Jeff (“I love the DEA”) Sessions, R-Alabama. The bureaucrat Leonhart is now empowered to essentially single-handedly determine US doctrine on medical marijuana, predictably hard-line. Schedule I classification of marijuana has been very, very good to the agency and to the bloated pensions of thousands of needless, useless federal employees. This erroneous Schedule I classification for cannabis is the cause of life-crushing harshness of twenty million arrests during this senseless and on-going war on marijuana.

One possible bright ray of hope came with legislation offered by the retiring Barney Frank and presidential hopeful Ron Paul. H.R. 2306 would have repealed federal penalties for production, distribution, and possession of cannabis for medical use. This one piece of freedom-promoting legislation was quick quashed by a single powerful representative, Lamar Smith R-Texas. He simply refused to give the legislation a hearing and the desperately needed legislation died on the spot, tyranny in action.

Encouraged by this drug war zealotry, freedom-harming initiatives sprouted from seemingly every branch of the federal government.

As George W. Bush would say, “they attack us because they hate our freedoms.” But the attackers in 2011 are our own taxpayer-supported federal bureaucrats. They attack fellow citizens benefiting medically from cannabis and the health care industry that was quickly growing, to protect and expand the rosy drug-warrior careers and pensions this failed war on Americans has provided these lordly bureaucrats.

Rescheduling cannabis and drastically downsizing the counterproductive war on drugs were easy steps that Barack Obama could have taken.  He could have chosen a leader, such as Norm Stamper, rather than a drug war crazed self-server to head the DEA. Instead, as in so many ways, he has chosen to play out George W. Bush’ third term. Far more Americans support ending cannabis prohibition than support Obama’s reelection.

Sigh, 2012 does not look much better. Unless maybe Ron Paul were elected president.

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.

Who are the thought police? New law criminalizes Americans world-wide.

Eric Holder?

Incredibly, as America fights its way through an economic and political morass, one of the country’s most counterproductive and idiotic failures, the War on Drugs, is ramping up.

New congressional legislation would extend globally its icy grip by inflicting felonies on Americans any place on earth, if their behavior involves the spiritual, medical or recreational use of any drug illegal in the the USA. Or even if that behavior merely involved talking about the possibility of using drugs such as cannabis or psychoactive mushrooms. As reported by Radley Balko in The Huffington Post, “allows prosecutors to bring conspiracy charges against anyone who discusses, plans or advises someone else to engage in any activity that violates the Controlled Substance Act, the massive federal law that prohibits drugs like marijuana and strictly regulates prescription medication.”

The thought police in this case is Texas Representative Lamar Smith. Tragically, this big government conservative is head of the Judiciary Committee, perfectly placed for power to guide American drug policy further down into the dungeon. Had similar legislators been in place during the alcohol prohibition, it would have been a felony for Americans to drink wine in France. Or to have discussed drinking wine in France. The legislation will doubtless pass the “small government” House of Representative and quite possibly the Senate. Drug-war criminal Lamar Smith recently single-handedly crushed legislation by Ron Paul and Barney Frank that would have excepted medical cannabis from federal prosecution.

The founding fathers must be writhing in their graves, as the all powerful federal government lays total claim to the lives, minds and behaviors of Americans anywhere on the planet.

Read the Constitution. End Prohibition. Defund the war on drugs.

The US Constitution is being read by the new House of Representatives. This is probably a good idea. I just hope they are listening carefully, especially when they get to the first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights. Most of the new crop of conservatives are nearly (even actually) religiously respectful of the 2nd Amendment. Tragically, though, the same group usually proves curiously disinterested in the other Bill of Rights amendments, most of which have been severely frittered away by the war on drugs.

US Representatives, please listen carefully to Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and People. Ratified 12/15/1791.

  • The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Remember, a constitutional amendment was necessary to federally outlaw alcohol. Another amendment rescinded this prohibition and removed federal criminal control over possession and use of alcohol. In the case of other drugs, however, the federal government has been able, with no constitutional amendment, to exert iron control over what substances the entire American citizenry can possess.  One result of this war on drugs had bloated American prisons with the world’s highest number and proportion of prisoners. So much for land of the free. The unconstitutional war on drugs supports tens of billions of dollars yearly of federal expenditure in a totally non-productive, actually hugely counterproductive, enterprise. What the war on drugs has not done is make a hint of difference in the drug taking behavior of the American citizenry.

The war on drugs is constitutionally insupportable. Prohibition of the rights of citizens in the American states to drink alcohol or use other drugs as they see fit is not the business of the federal government. If the new house of representatives truly means to use the Constitution as a guide, the newly conservative congress could achieve its goals of:

  • smaller government,
  • expanding individual freedoms and
  • saving tens of billions of dollars a year.

Congress, end these misguided and illegal federal prohibitions and then defund the bloated agencies that enforce them, such as the DEA.

As the 112th House of Representatives reads the Constitution, let them also read a little quotation by a truly great American president, Abraham Lincoln:

  • Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it 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. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.
    – Speech in the Illinois House of Representatives, Dec 18, 1840.

Diane Feinstein’s feeble-minded war(s) on drugs

Diana Feinstein

Senator Diane Feinstein

California Democrat and Senator Dianne Feinstein is advocating truly idiotic drug war policies. During her long senate career her neo-con leanings have been a disappointment. She was an enthusiastic participant in crafting punitive, ruinous drug war legislation and signed on to George W. Bush’s tragic international war recklessness. Two recent offenses to clear thinking and responsible legislation again show her to be dishonest and authoritarian, and unfit to be a US senator.

Doing Away With the Drugs in Afghanistan

Now, with Afghanistan becoming America’s longest war and its prospects dimming daily, Feinstein is ready to double up and forget about Obama’s promise to begin ending the war in 2011.  Senator Feinstein’s most ludicrous comments concerned the drug situation in Afghanistan. The last time this situation was favorable, from an anti-drug viewpoint, was when the Taliban were in power, prior to late 2001. This fundamentalist movement in 2000 banned the growing of opium and by 9/11 had greatly reduced the acreage of Afghanistan growing opium. UN drug office functionary Bernard Frahi, was amazed. “This is the first time that a country has decided to eliminate in one go – not gradually – these crops on its territory,” and called it “one of the most remarkable successes ever” in the UN drug fight.” As it turned out, these “successes” caused huge social turmoil by beggaring farmers and disrupting the credit system. Innumerable daughters were sold to pay off debts.

After the US invasion swept the Taliban out of control, opium growing boomed, expanded by 40-fold,  and easily makes Afghanistan the world’s largest producer of this heroin precursor. Interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News she said this:

  • WALLACE: And let me just quickly follow up on that. If Petraeus comes to the president in the spring of 2011 and says, “You know, this July deadline – I need six more months,” should that…
  • FEINSTEIN: I would say give it to him, absolutely. Now, let’s talk about the deadline. This is a transition point toward the beginning of a withdrawal or a draw down, as Petraeus said in his transcript before the armed services. And I think he has flexibility, realistically. Ten years is a long time to fight a war, particularly with what happened before the 10 years. And so we need to understand that to get the military trained, get the government online, secure and stabilize and, I think, do away with the drugs to a great extent – because the drugs are now fueling the Taliban.

Not only are her ramblings grammatically incorrect, but also logically ridiculous. Senator Feinstein sees doing away with drugs in Afghanistan as a doable, short-term goal. To achieve this simple task she advocates a major new drug war in Afghanistan. With her senate seniority she is unfortunately the chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control,chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. Despite the fact that the Taliban nearly successfully eradicated opium production a decade ago, she tells us that now, “”The Taliban has morphed into one-part terrorist organization, one-part drug cartel,” and that their profits from the drug trade help finance their war against the NATO forces occupying the country. Her solution? A robust drug war in Afghanistan, including more drug agents, more helicopters, more eradication and more SWAT-style paramilitary training. Above all, her Senate report seeks to conflate terrorism with drug trade, and invokes 2006 revisions to the Patriot Act giving the DEA a free hand around the globe. I guess we will have to wait and see if the Senator’s new effort do away with drugs in Afghanistan in a year. On the tiny chance her new Afghan drug war proves to be anywhere near as effective as that of the Taliban, it will earn the enmity of the people. Well, at least those few Afghans who don’t already hate what they see as NATO invaders.

Maintaining Prohibition in the USA

Not content with extending drug war stupidity on the other side of the planet, Senator Feinstein seeks to reinvigorate the putrefying drug war back in the USA. She is actually campaigning for the continuation of cannabis prohibition and has signed up as co-chair (with a sheriff, of course) on the No on 19 against legalizing the herb in California. Rather than allow Californians the freedom of choice for a substance far safer than alcohol, she urges the continuation of the fatally flawed war on marijuana, including yearly CAMP eradication raids. Feinstein continues to promote legislation aimed at persecuting the tens of millions of Americans who find medical or other benefit from cannabis.

Southern Oregon sheriffs wallow in tax-payer anti-marijuana money.

A tax-payer funded boondoggle is underway at the Jackson Country, Oregon sheriff’s office. The sheriff is adept at exploiting huge sources of federal money targeted at eradicating marijuana. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, a gravy train of (borrowed) federal dollars awaits local law enforcement willing to focus on marijuana eradication, an easy sell. Even hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars were allocated to warp police incentives towards focusing on cannabis rather than crime.

The DEA plays sugar daddy with federal money borrowed from the Chinese. In the case of Jackson County and surrounding counties such money provides for the funding of a permanent marijuana eradication task force, greatly expanding the providence of local law enforcement. In a state totally broke, in good part from expensive public employee pensions and benefits, the specter of generating more expensive and militant bureaucracy is alarming, especially when this eradication armada provides exactly no public benefit. With agreements between counties, Jackson County deputies can spend their days in SWAT gear eradicating marijuana crops in other counties, instead of providing police services in their own county. Such an agreement allows for paramilitary forces permanently porking on the public dole.

Instead of doing real police work, the sheriffs, deputies and personnel from multiple agencies play in the woods in SWAT costumes driving their machine-gun turreted assault vehicle.  They commonly lease $1,000/hour helicopters. Instead of solving crimes with victims, marijuana eradicators accomplish nothing except for providing price support for the crops they don’t find. That, and building towards their own bloated pensions.

To better harness this flow of federal tax dollars into his SWAT bureaucracy, the Jackson County sheriff has actually hired has own PR flack, paid by tax payers, a former local news anchor adept at gaining favorable reporting of the multi-county task force. And it worked. Even though it is only mid-summer, already the sheriff and the flack has had a PR day.  The local newspaper headlined, “Counties take aim at pot menace.

All three local TV news stations were present and each was given the opportunity to do a customized story. The content of the stories reflected exactly the propaganda intent of the sheriff’s PR office. Unfortunately, these talking points to which the news organizations so blindingly conformed are false,  actually propaganda lies with the goal of justifying plant eradication as a key law enforcement priority:

  • Lie # 1: The marijuana grows are the work of Mexican drug cartels. This is a favorite if unsupported assertion and portrays the brave SWAT teams meeting a grave foreign threat. Each of the “news” organizations was quick to recite and repeat this cartel assertion. Actually there is no proof of any involvement of so-called cartels, except that some of the garden keepers were Hispanic. News flash, Hispanics do most of the agricultural work in the USA. Perhaps the sheriff should be searching out Mexican cartel involvement in spinach growing.
  • Lie # 2: The grows represent a source of danger to hikers and people in the woods. This fallacy is always repeated. The reality is otherwise; no hikers have ever been killed when stumbling upon a marijuana grow. Statistically, Americans are far more likely to be shot to death by SWAT teams than marijuana gardeners.
  • Lie # 3: Counties must band together in marijuana enforcement because eradication in one county forces into other counties. Of course this whack-a-mole syndrome is a fatal flaw to all drug enforcement, but the real reason for this marijuana eradication bureaucracy cartel is to protect and expand the job security, benefits and pensions of the participants.
  • Lie # 4: Marijuana eradication is dangerous and requires SWAT style intervention. This is another totally bogus assertion, common in the war on drugs. In truth, eradication could be done with unskilled laborers and perhaps a couple of cops. Instead, large teams of highly paid cops don jack boots and automatic rifles. Oh, that’ s right, they get paid even more taxpayer dollars when clad in SWAT costumes.
  • Lie # 5: The litter left by growers and harm to natural areas is a function of marijuana agriculture. Again, any such damage is a function of prohibition. When prohibition ends, pot will no longer need to be grown hidden away in the wilderness.
  • Lie # 6: Marijuana is a menace. Actually, this plant provides powerful medical benefits, including pain relief, anti-inflammation and anti-oxidant action. It is among the safest of all medications, is non-toxic, has no lethal dose and has never killed anyone. It is a safer pain reliever than aspirin, which kills several hundred Americans each year. Indeed, it may become the aspirin of the 21st century, if its prohibition can be wrested away from the law enforcement special interests and its blatantly false Schedule I status changed.

The entire county PR effort tries to reinforce the idea that somehow cutting down medicinal plants, even in other counties, should be the highest priority for Jackson County’s chief law enforcement officer. Too bad the local media only breathlessly repeat the talking points of the sheriff’s PR flack, rather than doing any real reporting.

For example, in a state strapped by public employee pension costs, the reporters could examine the PERS retirement benefits for the sheriff, his PR flack, and team of eradication agents. The sheriff’s retirement check from Oregon taxpayers will be higher than $10,000, perhaps closer to $20,000 each month. The squads of eradication agents, along with the propaganda officer, will all get their own generous benefits, including health insurance for life, all on the tab of Oregon state taxpayers. Should not they actually do useful police work for the time they are actually employed?

In these end days of cannabis prohibition, so called ‘public servants’ are milking the system, wasting desperately needed resources and personally benefiting with tax-payer financed lavish retirements. Such excess is nauseating in a state facing a severe economic crisis and cutting desperately needed human services to the bone. Programs such as those helping Oregon’s aging citizens stay at home instead of nursing home are cut, while huge squads of cops waste borrowed dollars on extravagantly expensive eradication raids.

The war on drugs, especially on cannabis, has been an obscene failure, devastating the constitution and bloating the budget deficit as collateral damage.

Instead of wasting billions of dollars each year in its war on cannabis, the Obama administration should focus divert this funding to research in the exploding medical marijuana industry and to exploring the uses of hemp as food, fuel and fiber. The anti-carcinogenic properties of cannabis alone more than justify such an investment. Meanwhile, local Oregon sheriffs should stop milking the federal government of borrowed funds for expensive and useless marijuana eradication boondoggles.

Dispensary closures are bureaucratic anti-business blunders.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Los Angeles recently ordered closed all but 70 medical cannabis clinics. Upwards of 1,000 medical cannabis dispensaries had filled storefronts and opened in malls across the county, a flurry of business activity in these times of recession.

Although these clinics did not in any way contribute to crime and provided legal access to their medicine by state legal medical consumers, dispensaries ran afoul of the special interests of police, prosecutors and prisons. A cadre of tax-paid parasites has apparently succeeded in most of goal of getting dispensaries closed, and resuming the arrest-prosecute-imprison regimen that has so boosted their careers and pensions.

California is in recession and is totally broke, in desperate need of every job and tax dollar. And yet in this environment, tax-paid bureaucrats like city attorneys are making policy that severely restricts closes down storefronts, puts working people into unemployment lines and ends a lucrative sales tax revenue stream. Go figure.

Most dispensaries will close; the 70 or so remaining will be relegated to “industrial areas” and must be farm from schools and churches. While this may serve as an economic stimulus to the industrial areas, such restrictions present difficulties to medical users in getting their medicine. Such harassing zoning also creates additional car trips and increases carbon footprint. Does LA really need more cars on its roads? Why should medical cannabis consumers have to drive to a remote area instead of picking up their medicine by walking to the corner dispensary operated by their neighbor?

Whether LA needed nearly 1,000 dispensaries is unclear. As in normal competition, the number would probably sort itself out through the law of supply and demand, consumer choice and the management of the dispensaries. What is clear is the the proliferation of dispensaries hurt or injured no one and caused no increase in crime. Indeed, the crime rate in LA Country was at historic lows as the clinics grew. The only cost or injury was the giant crack in the wall of marijuana prohibition the clinics represent. The stakeholders in the present system of arrest-prosecute-imprison include police, prosecutors, prison guards, narcotics officers, and urine testers. Other winners in this harm-maximization prohibitionist policy include dug dealers, street gangs, Mexican cartels and various other criminals.

The clinic closures come just months after bureaucrats profiting from marijuana prohibition planned their demise. The group sponsoring the action to subvert the will of California voters was the California Narcotics Officer’s Association. Obviously the drug war has been very good for narcotics officers as law enforcement has become mainly drug enforcement. Consider the career of New York City narcotics officer Bernard Kerik. He rode from obscurity on his narcotic’s cop cred to appointment by Rudolph Giuliani as New York’s top cop.  He came just a few lies away from being appointed George W. Bush’s Chief of Homeland Security. That was shortly before being indicted and then convicted as a felon by the feds, and now serving 4 years in federal prison. The California Narcotics Officers seek to continue the hard line on marijuana prohibition that so expanded their own careers and pensions.

  • A good example of the benefit of harsh marijuana laws to law enforcement is CAMP, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting. Astonishingly, CAMP’s own website brags: “With more than 110 agencies having participated, CAMP is the largest law enforcement task force in the United States.” It would seem that the largest law enforcement task force in the United States would have something better to do than persecute a harmless, medicinal plant. Perhaps this 110 agency task force should be investigating crimes of violence and crimes with victims rather than wasting their time and our money with military SWAT raids on hapless farmers. Any plants destroyed in this vast operation only serve as price stabilization for the cannabis crops they miss. As with all marijuana law enforcement, it is a waste of resources causing huge collateral damage without benefit to society, except to the job security of the enforcers.
  • The California prison guards union is one of the main groups sponsoring the continuation of repressive and draconian laws against cannabis. Union membership and benefits have grown explosively during the decades of the drug war. In 1980 the state imprisoned just 22,500 people and a prison guard’s salary was $14,400. Today the state imprisons 170,000 Californians, guarded by some of the best paid public employees in the state. Eligible to early retirements (at 75% of salary), the guards enjoy lush benefits and a bloated overtime system that pays many over $100,000 tax dollars per year. The union is one of the most powerful political groups in the state and effectively fights tooth and nail against any drug law reform that might result in fewer prisoners.

The California Narcotic’s Officers event was entitled “The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County.” As reported by Americans for Safe Access, both LA city attorney and Los Angeles District Attorney were in attendance at the event and soon afterward both began claiming dispensaries were illegal and working for their closure. Regrettably, they have succeeded in closing most of the dispensaries.

If city bureaucrats and the DA really wanted to improve the health of their city and its citizens by imposing business restrictions, they would clamp down on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes. Cannabis is far SAFER; unlike alcohol, it cannot cause death and does not cause violence or domestic abuse.

Most of the dwindling number of Americans who support more drug war are, paradoxically, supporters of private enterprise and supposedly abhor big government. Hopefully they will come to see that the drug war is a perversion of market-oriented free enterprise, a war against the law of supply and demand, destined to fail. The war on drugs is itself a bloated and parasitic expansion of big government run amuck. The specter of city attorneys and district attorneys interfering with the personal health care decisions of Los Angelenos is almost Stalinistic.

George Will gets drug war right, mostly.

Columnist George Will

Columnist George Will

Conservative writer George Will addressed the war on drugs, especially marijuana, in his Oct. 29 column. True conservatives, as believers in small government, abhor the drug war with its big government meddling in the lives of Americans. But many “conservatives,” especially neo-cons, still support support the bureaucratic persecution and incarceration of fellow citizens.

Will quotes drug czar Gil Kerlikowske as saying, “not many people think the drug war is a success.”  George Will makes a great many good points to back this up.

  • Furthermore, the recession’s toll on state budgets has concentrated minds on the costs of drug offense incarcerations — costs that in some states are larger than expenditures on secondary education.
  • He quotes the Economist, “The annual U.S. bill for attempting to diminish the supply of drugs is $40 billion. Of the 1.5 million Americans arrested each year on drug offenses, half a million are incarcerated. “Tougher drug laws are the main reason why one in five black American men spend some time behind bars,” the Economist said in March.”

Will’s most important quotation from the Economist is a key truth unrealized by most law makers, presidents and drug czars:

  • “There is no correlation between the harshness of drug laws and the incidence of drug-taking: citizens living under tough regimes (notably America but also Britain) take more drugs, not fewer.” Do cultural differences explain this? Evidently not: “Even in fairly similar countries tough rules make little difference to the number of addicts: harsh Sweden and more liberal Norway have precisely the same addiction rates.” (emphasis mine)

This last point underscores the basic futility and corruption of the failed, decade’s-long war on drugs. It is doubly troubling that the drug war has been allowed to take it most savage form in the USA and transform the land of the free into the world’s largest incarceration of human beings. Drug warriors like to think that only their efforts stand between the populace and drug catastrophe; in truth, their activities are essentially irrelevant to the amount of drug use.

Will does allow Kerlikowske to make a couple of dumb points. The drug czar says, “”You don’t find many heroin users who didn’t start with marijuana.” Hey, Gil, try reading the drug czar-commissioned 1999 Institute of Medicine report that debunked this gateway propaganda, supposedly for once and for all.

Importantly, Will contrasted the failed war on drugs with the very successful American experience with the deadliest drug, tobacco cigarettes. “The good news is the progress America has made against tobacco, which is more addictive than most illegal drugs.” He continues with a discussion of historic alcohol use in the USA.

Will ended his column vaguely. He began with a suggestion to the drug czar, “With his first report to the president early next year, he could increase the quotient of realism.” But apparently George F. Will is unaware that the drug czar cannot, by the laws of his office, be truthful. He must, by law, disavow any validity to medical marijuana, a position puts him at odds with science and will prevent him from telling his boss the truth in the upcoming report.

Overall, George Will provided a refreshing account of several important truths about America’s failed war on drugs.