If prohibition ends, what will be done for the 40,000 Americans who are imprisoned because of marijuana?
When it comes to the legality of marijuana, the long struggle by advocates of drug reform is at last paying off. Colorado and Washington have legalized it. President Obama described it as “no more dangerous than alcohol.” Activists in Maine, California, Oregon, Alaska, and Massachusetts are all preparing ballot initiatives that would see the drug become available for recreational use – and given the current polling numbers, they’re very likely to succeed. After decades of effort by a small but determined pro-pot lobby, the tide is turning in favor of a rational drug policy. Now that the subject of legalization is less of a question of ‘if’ than ‘when’, there needs to be a serious discussion on the fate of the roughly 40,000 Americans who are currently imprisoned for marijuana-related offenses, and the millions more who are burdened with a permanent criminal record on the same grounds.
Looking back at American history provides context, if not encouragement. When the last great era of prohibition ended in 1933, prisons were jammed with bootleggers, rum runners, and speakeasy owners. In some states, governors went to great lengths to free those who had been imprisoned under state liquor laws – Miriam Ferguson freed 4000 in Texas alone – but federal pardons were rare. Despite a glut of alcohol-related sentencing, the war on booze had only been active ten years and the public had never completely bought into attempts to demonize drinkers; even with the Increased Penalties Act of 1929, the maximum term for alcohol-related offenses was just five years. For comparison, even a small amount of weed can lead to life imprisonment in 15 states due to the popularity of punitive “three strikes” laws.
To advocates for continued imprisonment, the fact that someone violated the law is often more important than the justness of the law itself. They point out, correctly, that half of those imprisoned for pot-related offenses are also serving time for additional charges. But if a person is carrying or growing marijuana, normally ordinary activity can suddenly lead to serious jail time. Take for example the case of Chris Williams, the medical marijuana grower who was arrested by federal authorities after they raided his state-licensed grow-op, then additionally charged for “carrying a firearm while engaged in a drug transaction” despite his license to legally carry that firearm. The contradiction between state and federal laws has lead to a situation where people are serving sentences for activities that are fully legal in their state, and then further being branded as gun-toting drug dealers because of those legal activities.
Also serving lengthy terms are political activists such as Canadian Marc Emery, who have fought publicly against marijuana prohibition and been explicitly targeted by US law enforcement because of their political activism. When Emery was arrested in 2005, DEA Administrator Karen Tandy made it clear that his politics were the problem, despite the fact that his alleged crimes had taken place in Canada:
“(The arrest) is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement.”
“Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.”
Thanks to the efforts of people like Emery, Tandy’s war on marijuana is unlikely to last out the decade. The DEA has decisively lost: science and sanity are helping to push through legalization and allowing the public to recognize that marijuana is not the boogeyman it was once portrayed as. Despite this vindication of Emery’s activism, he will be forced to remain in jail for the foreseeable future.
The question of amnesty for pot-crime is not just a moral one, as the burden of carrying a drug-related offense on one’s permanent criminal record can create extraordinary barriers to travel and employment. As numerous studies have shown, the weight of these sanctions falls disproportionately on the backs of people who are either poor or black, despite equal levels of drug use across socioeconomic and racial divides. To continue to impose economic sanctions on already disadvantaged communities, over actions that are no longer recognized as crimes, serves only to perpetuate economic inequality and further restrict social mobility.
Americans need to ask themselves if they genuinely desire a system where a person is subjected to life in prison for marijuana-related offences, while within sight of their barred windows major retailers legally carry out that same activity. Without amnesty, we are very likely to live in a nation where men and women have remained imprisoned for decades after their “crime” becomes accepted practice. Allowing sentences to run their course in the last prohibition era was more tolerable due to their short length, but the vastly disproportionate sentencing that has become the norm in drug-related cases demands that the plight of these prisoners be addressed, and that our new understanding of the role of marijuana in society be retroactively applied to their cases.
The marijuana industry is convincing Americans its substance is safer than alcohol, and booze lobbyists don't like it.
Marijuana has been giving alcohol a bad name. So contend booze lobbyists, who are getting sick of an ad campaign that makes the claim that pot is safer than their beloved beverages.
"We're not against legalization of marijuana, we just don't want to be vilified in the process," said one alcohol industry representative who didn't want to be quoted harshing his colleagues mellow. "We don't want alcohol to be thrown under the bus, and we're going to fight to defend our industry when we are demonized."
The marijuana industry has had a good couple of years: a recent poll found that 58 percent of the country thinks the product should be legal, recreational use has been legalized in two states already, and this past election saw the city of Portland, Maine, legalize 2.5 ounces of pot. Ahead of the vote in Portland—which received 70 percent support—the Marijuana Policy Project put up signs around the city with messages like "I prefer marijuana over alcohol because it doesn't make me rowdy or reckless," and "I prefer marijuana over alcohol because it's less harmful to my body."
Alcohol lobbyists believe it's a "red herring" to compare the two. "We believe it's misleading to compare marijuana to beer," said Chris Thorne of the Beer Institute. "Beer is distinctly different both as a product and an industry."
Thorne notes that the alcohol industry is regulated, studied extensively, and perhaps more importantly already an accepted part of the culture.
"Factually speaking beer has been a welcome part of American life for a long time," he said. "The vast majority drink responsibly, so having caricatures won't really influence people."
But MPP takes issue with the idea they are painting a false picture. In a recent Op-Ed for CNN, Dan Riffle, the group's director of federal policies, notes that according to the Centers for Disease Control excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death. Booze also "plays a role in a third of all emergency room visits," he says.
And as to whether it's fair to compare the two substances?
"That's like saying we shouldn't talk about relative harms of sushi to fried chicken," said Mason Tvert, who in addition to working at MPP wrote a book called Marijuana is Safer: So Why are We Driving People to Drink? "It's important that people know the relative harms of all substances, so there's no reason not to talk about the two most popular substances in the world."
Tvert says he could "appreciate their concerns if we were exaggerating or making anything up, but we aren't. We are simply pointing out the facts."
Perhaps there's a need for a booze and weed summit. Tagline: shots taken, not fired.
The Decriminalization of Marijuana
 18 states have legalized weed for some purposes. 13 states are sponsering bills that ask for the respect of state laws on the matter.
55% of Americans believe that the drug, that has never been a primary cause of death (1997-2005) should be legalized.
Many feel that the drug should be legalized, taxed, and regulated like alcohol.
How it stands now
- The law:
- 1970 controlled substances act labels marijuana as a schedule one drug
- High potential for abuse
- No currently accepted medical use
- A lack of accepted safety
- And placing Marijuana in a more dangerous drug class than cocaine
- A marijuana possession arrest is made every 37 seconds.
- Leading to 46% of drug prosecutions in the U.S. 
- You're 3.7 times likelier to be arrested for marijuana possession if black than white.
- Though both races use marijuana at the same rate
- 192/100,000= white arrests
- 716/100,000= black arrests 
- Leading to:
- $1 billion+ in yearly processing costs 
- For roughly half of our nation's inmates who are serving time for possession.
- $7.7 billion in yearly enforcement/prohibition costs.
Ad campaigns and education:
- $33 Billion spent on "Just say no," or similar campaigns since 1969 
- 12th grade usage rates have remained roughly unchanged for 40 years
In fact, teens aged 12-17 state that it's easier to get marijuana than beer or cigarettes.
- 40% of surveyed high schoolers can get weed within a day.
- 25% can get weed within an hour.
The war on drugs has failed, and with the call for greater gov efficiency, states are looking for new solutions to the drug "problem."
Self reported Marijuana use is nearly double in the U.S. than in more "liberal" marjuana system of the Netherlands.
"Globally, drug use is not distributed evenly and is not simply related to drug policy, since countries with stringent user-level illegal drug policies did not have lower levels of use than countries with liberal ones,"--Researcher Louisa Degenhardt
So what does decriminizaliton mean?...
- Marijuana is a cash crop
- #1 cash crop for 12 states
- Top 3 cash crop in 30 states(including the previous 12)
- Top 5 cash crop in 39 states(including the previous 30)
- Top Cash Crop in 12 states
- Top three cash crop in 18 states
- Top five cash crop in 21 states
Enforcement costs plummet
- The 858,000+ arrested on Marijuana charges last year don't have to be
- 758,593 (88%) of whom were prosecuted for simple posession.
- That's more than those arrested for
- forcible rape
- and aggrevated assault
Many violant crimes remained unsolved (rape, sexual assault, assault and battery, burglery). Do we really need to spend this type of money on catching potheads?
- $7.7 government expenditure on Marijuana prohibition.
- $6.2 billion dollars in tax revenue at alcohol or tobacco tax rates.
- $10.5 billion pumped into the economy (est. for what Americans spent on weed in 2000).
- =$24.4 billion in savings and recirculated money.
It's time to end the institutional hypocrisy
Political pot smokers
- George W. Bush
- Barack Obama
- Bill Clinton
- Mayor Bloomberg
- Al Gore
- Newt Gingrich
- John Edwards
- Gary Johnson
- Sarah Palin
- Arnold SChwarzenegger
- Clarence Thomas
- Ed Koch
It took some mind expansion to even get this place started
- Benjamin Franklin
- Andrew Jackson
- Thomas Jefferson
- James Madison
- James Monroe
- Franklin Pierce
- Zachary Taylor
- George Washington
It's obviously the thing to do.
by Tom Angell
Project SAM’s Kevin Sabet and other prohibition advocates have seized on a new Wall Street Journal op-ed rehashing claims that marijuana use may be correlated with schizophrenia:
Why isn’t this getting more play? Doc at Yale School of Medicine: Pot-Smoking & the Schizophrenia Connection...
— Kevin Sabet (@KevinSabet)
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, in a piece titled, “A Really Good Reason Not to Legalize Pot,” claims that “the move toward legalization of marijuana is premised on the assumption that it is ‘safe.’”
The argument that marijuana should be legalized because it is safe or safer than other substances like alcohol is an argument that some reformers often make, but it’s not an argument you’ll ever see me making, and it’s certainly not the only reason people in our movement want to end prohibition.
In my view, getting sucked into a debate over whether marijuana is good or bad is an unhelpful distraction from the core issues we need people to understand about prohibition.
Even if some people think that marijuana is the most dangerous thing in the world and refuse to change their minds about that, advocates can still convince them to support legalization by detailing how prohibition only increases any harms associated with the drug compared to how those harms could be lessened and better managed under legal regulation.
When you make marijuana illegal, you make it impossible to test and label it for potency and purity. You make it impossible to enact age restrictions, thereby increasing access to teens. You make it so that all decisions about where, when, how and to whom marijuana is sold are made by drug dealers instead of by lawmakers and regulators with input from public health advocates. You make it so that marijuana use is criminalized and stigmatized, often making people who develop dependency issues afraid to seek help. You make it so that scarce public resources are wasted on arresting, prosecuting and locking people up instead of funding treatment and prevention programs.
And so on. Every possible harm associated with marijuana is clearly made much, much worse by prohibition.
While reformers are right that science shows marijuana to be a safer alternative to alcohol and other legal substances, I fear that my colleagues who lead with this argument are missing an opportunity to get as many new people as possible onto our side. Sure, it makes marijuana users who already support reform feel justified in their beliefs, but focusing on trying to get people to change their minds about marijuana the drug as opposed to marijuana laws can easily lead those people we still need to convince to incorrectly believe that supporting legalization is only for those who love marijuana or want to use it. And it can give people the impression that marijuana use is going to become much more widespread after prohibition ends.
At best, I fear that these arguments are a distraction from the real issues. At worst, they can make people who are on the fence go over to the other side.
Now, I’m aware that polls show a correlation between being aware that marijuana is safer than alcohol and support for marijuana legalization. I just think it’s much harder to actually get people to change their minds about marijuana the drug than it is to get them to understand the practical case for marijuana policy reform.
So, while I’m sure some of my colleagues in the movement will rightfully pick apart the holes in the above-mentioned prohibitionist screeds about schizophrenia – and for the sake of science I’m glad they will – I’d rather see more movement resources devoted to getting people to understand the mental health impact of being handcuffed and tossed in the back of a police cruiser than the mental health impact of marijuana itself.
I think the former is a much easier argument to win.
The Fallacy of the DEA: Why the Agency Needs to Concede to Legal Marijuana
There's no denying the pressure that the Drug Enforcement Administration must be feeling lately. The popularity behind the marijuana legalization movement is at an all-time high, and prohibitionists are jumping ship at record rates to support cannabis reform. The drug agency has never been without opposition in its near 40 year history, but it's hard remembering a time when there's ever been this much heat on the narc outfit. The DEA is obviously still alive and well at present, but government bureaucracies are in no way immune from having to evolve with the times for lasting survival.
Looking back, 1973 was an epic year in the United States. The Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in January, the Watergate hearings began in May, the legendary thoroughbred Secretariat won the Triple Crown in June, and then a month later in July, the world was introduced to the biggest narcotics police conglomerate ever known to man: The United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
I say conglomerate because the DEA wasn't created from thin air. Instead, several existing agencies gelled together to form the inaugural drug enforcement monopoly. The main forerunners to the Justice Department's newest play-toy were the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the Office for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE), the Office for National Narcotic Intelligence, and many of the enforcement components from the U.S. Customs Service. These agencies ceased to exist entirely once the DEA came onto the scene, excluding Customs of course, which only relinquished some of its arsenal to the new kid on the block.
Coincidentally, the U.S. Customs Service was the first federal law enforcement agency I worked for, though it was several years later and towards the end of the organization's historic span when I was employed. I bring this up because the fate of U.S. Customs, as it was under the Treasury Department, is a perfect example of the government evolution I alluded to earlier. Ultimately, neither the Customs Service nor the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) could stand the test of time as standalone entities post-9/11, thus the merging of their authorities under the newly formed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003.
Going back to the DEA's similar rocky formation, President Richard Nixon's purpose for establishing the agency was to have a single and streamlined unit at the federal level to combat the nation's growing problem of drug consumption. Leading up to that point, the feds had no real teeth to combat the illicit narcotics industry. Actually, it's not that the feds didn't have the teeth, it's more that they weren't chewing and operating in sync with one another (as is still the case today with the constant red-tape and rivaling between certain agencies).
The concept of having a centralized narcotics bureau might have been admirable in the early seventies. However, we're now witnessing the long-term flaws associated with creating such a robust agency with the sole purpose of drug enforcement, especially considering one of the DEA's biggest targets is marijuana (which is obviously a commodity becoming more and more acceptable every day).
The growing tolerance towards cannabis poses a huge risk for the DEA, or at least the agency seems concerned with pot going mainstream. If this weren't the case, they wouldn't be so relentless in their fight against the medical marijuana industry. Polls consistently show that the use of cannabis via doctor recommendation is welcomed by almost eighty percent of the population. Yet, the DEA refuses to throw in the towel when it comes to this costly and unpopular crusade, even if it means trampling all over the rights of state and local governments in the process. Common sense should tell the DEA to give up on marijuana entirely at this point, including policing against recreational usage, which a majority of Americans now believe should be legally on par with alcohol consumption.
Many long-term factors were neglected when the DEA was formed in 1973. For example, what if public perception changed over time and people later determined that drug abuse and addiction should be treated as health issues rather than law enforcement ones? Or what if society came to agree that prohibition's caustic side effects weren't worth fronting a fruitless multi-billion dollar drug war each year? Or what if citizens deemed that one illicit substance in particular, the one realistically funding more of the DEA's annual enforcement budget than any other, was a plant that could generate a taxable fortune for a country in need of financial aid more than ever?
Unfortunately for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the organization is single minded for the most part, meaning there's no backup plan should Americans one day decide to do away with prohibition altogether. As a result, the agency has a vested interest in maintaining the Controlled Substances Act as it now stands. This is why the agency fights tooth and nail over losing its grip on any banned substance, let alone the most popular and abundant one.
Other agencies (i.e. FBI, ICE, ATF, etc.) have wider scopes, broader authorities, and more mission flexibility. If the threat from terrorism ended tomorrow, the FBI would certainly survive due to the agency's array of enforceable statutes. Likewise with ICE's investigative division, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), as this DHS component actually has the broadest statutory authority of all federal investigative agencies.
One factor often overlooked regarding the futility of drug policing is the fact that the relationship between drug suppliers and drug users is essentially victimless. It's not as if Chapo Guzman and company are down in Mexico with their guns drawn to the heads of Americans, forcing their products into the mouths and noses of Yankee gringos. Rather, it is Americans seeking out the services of the cartels, and ironically and unfairly for Mexico, drug traffickers south of the border have American guns drawn amongst themselves as they compete over U.S. business.
The horrific bloodshed below the Rio Grande is reason enough to legalize marijuana entirely and immediately at this point, and for Americans who still don't get it, our shared boundary with Mexico is 1,969 miles long and unsecured. It's obvious the violence can't remain isolated to only Mexico if it's allowed to foster long enough. Indeed, the Department of Justice reports that Mexican cartels have already set up shop in more than 1,000 U.S. cities.
The southwest border will never be fully secured as long as much of the trade between South and Central America crosses America's southern border. However, there's no denying we'd be much safer if it weren't for the constant criminalization of our neighbors to the south. Illicit marijuana revenues make up around sixty percent of cartel profits per the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and it's the earning potential from this substance alone that tempts and lures most recruits into the narco game. Maintaining marijuana's illegality is only producing, enriching, and weaponizing more and more psychopath killers in Mexico, while simultaneously wasting valuable and scarce resources here in the United States.
Just recently, the DEA's administrator, Michele Leonhart, only reaffirmed her agency's stubborn position on marijuana. She was questioned in front of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, and it's intriguing to me that a congressman from Tennessee, Steve Cohen, was the one who grilled Leonhart the most on the DEA's outdated stance towards cannabis. Not because Tennessee ranks second to only California when it comes to the domestic production of marijuana, but mostly because I imagine the DEA feels confident hedging its bet on "indefinite marijuana prohibition" with southern conservative mindsets. However, as a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), who is tasked with giving presentations in some of the bible belt's deepest parts imaginable, I feel confident stating that I don't think the south will be the DEA's saving grace when it comes to deterring pot legalization.
Obviously the Drug Enforcement Administration is at a crossroads right now, and in no way am I implying the organization should be eliminated or disbanded. However, when it comes to marijuana the ballgame is over, and resources need to be drastically and quickly shifted. The agency needs to bow down gracefully to cannabis's legitimacy at this point, instead of continuing to prolong the inevitable. The government was set up to be run by the people for the people, and it's time for the DEA to recognize this. It might've been in 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse to be public enemy number one, but it's nearly half a century later today, and prohibition itself has now become a much bigger nuisance to society (especially concerning marijuana).
Jamie Haase, a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.
Marijuana Prohibition's Legal Insanity Continues
Chris Weigant businessinsider.com
Like many other Americans, I thoroughly enjoyed watching historical documentarian Ken Burns' recent Prohibition series, on PBS. But I was disappointed by its abrupt end. Burns took the easy way out and didn't point out that right around the same time the legal federal prohibition on alcohol ended, the prohibition of marijuana was ramping up in a big way. And, while the alcohol-targeted Prohibition ended, this prohibition remains. In, fact, it is getting worse, as the Obama administration is continuing a crackdown on anyone who is approaching the problem in any sort of sane or rational manner -- including local and state government officials.
The most enjoyable thing about watching a Burns series is learning historical information that you weren't previously aware of, while being entertained at the same time. This combination of education and entertainment is a tough sell to America, and Burns never seems to disappoint. For instance, I learned that all during Prohibition, there was a medical loophole. You could go to your doctor and get a prescription for "medicinal" alcohol, and then legally buy some whiskey or brandy or whatever else you fancied. Also, there was a "home brew" exception for making your own wine at home. The other interesting things were the details on the lengths which both the federal law enforcers and the bootleggers themselves were willing to go through in their years-long game of cat and mouse.
Fast-forward to today. The Obama administration came into office promising a "science-based" drug policy. Within months, the Justice Department put out a memo which seemed to interject some common sense into the war on marijuana. The feds (said this memo, now known as "the Ogden Memo") wouldn't waste a whole lot of time or money going after people who were following their state's laws when it came to the subject of "medicinal marijuana" (or "medical marijuana").
This, while signifying a big step in the right direction, fell far short of a "science-based drug policy." Or even, for that matter, a "fact-based drug policy." As of this writing, 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized (in some form or another) medicinal marijuana. That is 17 out of a possible 51 jurisdictions -- precisely one-third of the country, to put it another way. One-third of our governments have decided that sick people are allowed to use marijuana. In other words, that marijuana has a valid medical use. If Attorney General Eric Holder were following any sort of science-based (or even fact-based) drug policy, he would admit this reality. He refuses to, in a fundamental way that (if addressed) could solve the entire federal/state legal problem.
Marijuana is what is known as a "Schedule I dangerous controlled substance." Drugs are classified as to how harmful they are, both medically and socially, on this scale. I've written about this before, in an article written when the Ogden memo was made public:
Schedule I -- which includes marijuana -- differs from Schedule II in only one regard. From the Schedule I language: "The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." Schedule II drugs are just as illegal as Schedule I, but have "a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions." Schedule II drugs include: cocaine, opium, amphetamine, methamphetamine, PCP, and secobarbital. Possessing any of these without a prescription will get you locked up, but the possibility for a doctor to prescribe them exists within the law. Marijuana is not included in this list.
I've also written before about how easy this would be to change. In fact, Eric Holder can make it happen all by himself. The Controlled Substances Act also states: "the Attorney General may by rule ... transfer between such schedules any drug or other substance...." Transferring marijuana to Schedule II would solve a lot of legal headaches, that much should be obvious to everyone. And since a third of the country has legalized its medical use, it is legally impossible to justify the fiction that marijuana "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."
I don't expect Attorney General Holder to start admitting this inconvenient truth any time soon, however. A few months back, the Justice Department released another memo which represents almost a complete 180-degree turn in policy. Here are the relevant paragraphs:
The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. The Ogden Memorandum provides guidance to you in deploying your resources to enforce the CSA as part of the exercise of the broad discretion you are given to address federal criminal matters within your districts.
A number of states have enacted some form of legislation relating to the medical use of marijuana. Accordingly, the Ogden Memo reiterated to you that prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, remains a core priority, but advised that it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers. The term "caregiver" as used in the memorandum meant just that: individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana.
The Department's view of the efficient use of limited federal resources as articulated in the Ogden Memorandum has not changed. There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes. For example, within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.
The Ogden Memorandum was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law. Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. Consistent with resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA. Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws.
We are now seeing the impact of this new direction in policy, in three major (and majorly disturbing) ways. Federal prosecutors in California just sent letters out to landlords who are renting any space for any marijuana-related business, threatening them with federal seizure of their property if they don't kick their tenants out within 45 days. State and local officials are also being threatened with federal prosecution for conspiracy to commit drug trafficking -- for attempting to write some sane and workable rules and regulations on medical marijuana. And one of the bigger operations in Oakland, California, was just told by the Internal Revenue Service that he owes over two million dollars in back taxes. He owes this, the feds say, because he won't be allowed to deduct the normal costs of doing business which every other business in America is entitled to -- simply because of the nature of his business.
Taken together, this quite obviously represents a new phase of the Obama administration's drug policy. It is not science-based, and it is not fact-based. It is escalating a needless war between state and federal law.
What it does appear to be based upon is further Drug War insanity. The feds will look the other way if you set up a small-scale operation providing people with their legal medicine, but if you are successful at this legal activity, then we will target you for some high-profile headlines.
Two key phrases from the recent memo show the extent of this insanity. As it points out, over the past year "several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers." It goes on to state (emphasis added): "Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law." Translated, what this means is any local or state official that writes any rule or regulation which doesn't comply with the Controlled Substances Act, can be federally prosecuted, under the most stringent anti-drug laws available. This is not paranoid supposition, it is already happening in many places.
The PBS show Frontline recently aired a report (titled "Pot Republic") where they interviewed Tommy Lanier, the National Marijuana Policy Coordinator (who "helps coordinate national marijuana strategy with the office of the White House drug czar). When asked specifically about "warning letters from their local U.S. attorneys, and now from Washington," Lanier replied:
I think what the U.S. attorney's done is an extremely great way to send a message to everybody that this is the position of the Department of Justice. And it doesn't matter if you're in California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, this is the standard.
When asked further whether a local sheriff in California who has been working with medical marijuana growers (to come up with regulations for monitoring legal growers) could be under some kind of legal threat from the feds, Lanier answered:
Yes. Whether it's a permit program, regulation or something like that, they're against federal law. And yes, they could be a target.
In other words, threatening any state or local official who attempts to interject some sanity in this legal war over marijuana between the states and the federal government is the official White House policy right now. States, rather than being "laboratories of democracy" are being told instead that they cannot experiment with different medical marijuana laws at all -- if such laws (passed by voter intuitive, for instance) are vague and have no real guidelines, that is one thing; but if states attempt to create specific rules, anyone involved in this effort will be threatened with 20 years in federal prison, or worse. That is, to put it mildly, insane.
There's one other disturbing thing contained within that recent memo: "State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law...." This means, quite literally, exactly what it says. If you are a state attorney general and you attempt to draft medical marijuana regulations for your state (after it legalizes medical marijuana), not only will the federal government prosecute you as a conspirator and a major drug trafficker, but during your trial you will not be able to use the state law in your defense. That's right -- you won't even be allowed to mention the fact that medical marijuana is legal in your state, during your trial. It's called a "gag rule" and it should, indeed, provoke a gagging reflex in any sane American citizen who believes the Justice Department should be fair to a defendant's ability to make his case to a jury. The feds instituted this gag rule to prevent "jury nullification", which is what happens when a jury refuses to convict someone who technically broke a law -- because the law itself is insane.
Looking back at the era of alcohol Prohibition is like examining a society that went crazy for a decade, in more ways than one. Unfortunately, looking at the Obama administration's renewed vigor in denying the reality that one-third of the country has approved of medical use of marijuana is reminiscent of such a crazy period. This is not science. This is not medicine. This is not even admitting the legal doublethink which is required to classify a state attorney general -- trying to thread the needle of writing sane regulations (on a policy the federal government refuses to be sane about) -- with a major drug lord. That, right there, is insane. After all, even during Prohibition alcohol was available for medicinal uses.
Maybe it's all about politics -- although it is hard to see how this does any good for Obama politically. Cynics have suggested that this push to crack down on medical marijuana is a giant distraction of the problems Eric Holder (and, by extension, Obama) face on the stupidity of the "Fast And Furious" program, which allowed guns to cross the border to Mexico for unfathomable reasons. Holder is facing tough questions right now about this program, but it is more likely just coincidental. The recent memo was published back in June, for instance, and the Obama administration's marijuana crackdown has been more of a gradual increase than a sudden surge.
Even separating the new Obama policy from any external coincidences, however, still doesn't explain how this helps him politically. As Tom Angell, media spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition put it:
The administration clearly understood the political value in being perceived as pro-medical marijuana when the put out the October 2009 memo on respecting states' rights to enact these laws. They even leaked it to the Associated Press on a Sunday night to ensure maximum exposure. I really don't know what is behind the reversal of late. Perhaps it's a case of career drug war zealots in the Department of Justice undermining a boss who is too busy to concern himself with medical marijuana issues. In any case, this isn't going to play well politically for the administration in a contentious re-election fight at a time when 80 percent of Americans support medical marijuana. If the president knows what's good for him, he'll put a stop to the federal interference in states with medical marijuana laws.
This is a question I'd like to see answered by the White House: exactly what are you guys doing on this issue? What, to be blunt, have you guys been smoking?
This Drug War insanity occasionally crosses over into laughable irony. Also in the marijuana news from the past few weeks was the story of a 72-year-old woman in a car (as a passenger) who was pulled over by the cops in Oregon. The police found marijuana on the woman, but they had to let her go. The reason? She could prove she is one of the remaining four people who get their marijuana directly from the federal government -- as medicine. She has glaucoma, and she qualified under an extremely narrow loophole (only a dozen or so people ever qualified for this program) in federal drug law which reaches back to the 1970s. She receives federal marijuana to treat her illness, and she brags about how well it works: "They won't acknowledge the fact that I do not have even one aspirin in this house." So the federal government legally provides medical marijuana to her and three others (100 pounds of it, since 2005), while at the same time insisting that marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use," and while threatening to treat state and local governmental officials as the worst criminals possible for trying to unravel this massive federal legal doublethink. If the Department of Justice's legal reasoning is correct -- anyone facilitating such activities as distributing marijuana should be federally prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law -- then the entire federal government is a drug trafficker, too.
Which is why I truly wish Ken Burns had dedicated at least a paragraph at the end of Prohibition to point out the much-longer insanity of marijuana prohibition that doesn't just continue to this day, but is actually getting worse. The ultimate irony is that Barack Obama has admitted he used marijuana himself, back in the day. The question I keep hoping some intrepid reporter will ask him is: "Mister President, if you had been caught for your illegal drug use and prosecuted the same way your own Justice Department is now trying to prosecute medical marijuana providers, how would your life have turned out differently? If you had been forced to 'pay for your crime' back then, do you think it would have improved your life, or changed it radically for the worse?" And a followup question, as well: "Then how can you justify what Eric Holder is currently doing?"
Big Alcohol’s Anti-Marijuana Spokesman on the Hill
By: Mason Tvert Wednesday September 22, 2010 my.firedoglake.com
Do some googling.....Check out his proposed 'conspiracy to possess' this guy is a whacko....why do we elect these people? -UA
p.s........'liking' this article doesn't mean you 'Like' Lamar Smith.....it means you are supporting the spread of information........PEACE
At first glance, some might think Smith is genuinely concerned about marijuana use and its impact on public safety. Yet it’s hard to take him at his word when he is in fact receiving money from the alcohol industry, which produces, distributes and promotes a far more harmful substance.
If Smith is so concerned about public safety he should be thrilled that more Americans are making the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol when they relax and recreate. Unlike marijuana, alcohol use contributes to domestic violence, sexual assaults, and other serious problems. If promoting public safety is his motive, it’s time he explained his reason for preferring adults use alcohol — a substance whose use alone kills more than 30,000 Americans per year — instead of marijuana, which has never resulted in a single death in history.
Another explanation for Smith’s anti-marijuana action could be his ties to the booze industry, which appears to be working to keep marijuana illegal and protect its status as the nation’s sole legal intoxicant. Late last week it was discovered that the alcohol industry is financing a campaign to defeat a marijuana legalization initiative in California, resulting in headlines nationwide and sparking outrage andaction amongst supporters of marijuana policy reform.
According to OpenSecrets.org, Smith has received at least $20,000 from the beer, wine, and liquor industry this campaign cycle, including a $10,000 donation from the National Beer Wholesalers Association, a $5,000 contribution from the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, and $5,000 from Constellation Brands Premium Wine and Spirits Company.
With marijuana legalization becoming increasingly popular, it appears the alcohol industry and its good friends in Washington are beginning to recognize that marijuana legalization is imminent. So it would make sense for them to protect their turf by bashing marijuana and those who support making it legal, and working to scare the public into thinking marijuana is just too dangerous to make legal. (It should also be noted that some alcohol companies are speaking out to ensure consumers know they are NOT part of the anti-marijuana efforts.)
If that’s the fight Big Alcohol wants to pick, so be it. It has an increasingly uphill battle, but the industry has every right to take on the growing movement to reform marijuana laws. But as for Lamar Smith, he should come clean and explain what his motivation is for attacking marijuana policy reform and calling for increased enforcement. If it’s his concern for public safety, he’s a hypocrite who needs to stop and think about the impact of laws that drive Americans to drink by outlawing a safer alternative. And if it’s his ties to booze money, it’s simply unethical.
MT medical marijuana overhaul on brink of collapse
By STEPHEN DOCKERY businessweek.com
Senators scrambled for the two-thirds majority now needed to pass the measure after lengthy last-minute rewrites forced lawmakers to miss procedural deadlines.
This latest hurdle is one of many that could cause the regulation in Senate Bill 423 to go up in smoke. Even if the measure clears the Senate, House Republican leaders have said they don't support the Senate's overhaul attempt and remain ardent supporters of banning the medical marijuana altogether.
Medical marijuana was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2004 and remained a mostly small homegrown operation until two years ago, when an explosion of high-profile businesses and cardholders prompted worries in communities across the state. Lawmakers from both parties entered the session promising to do something about industry, which has been targeted in recent federal raids.
But the House's measure to repeal the medical marijuana law has stalled in the Senate. And the House, where Republicans leaders were focused on repeal from the start, never advanced a regulation bill that was two years in the making and initially had the blessing of both law enforcement and the medical marijuana industry.
Lawmakers are now facing the prospect of deadlock and inaction -- raising the specter that the medical marijuana industry could continue to grow with few regulations even though leaders from both parties have said the status quo is unacceptable.
Adding to the uncertainty is a series of raids on medical marijuana businesses earlier this month as part of an 18-month federal investigation into drug trafficking and tax evasion. No charges have been filed, but federal and state authorities executed 26 search warrants and four civil seizure warrants across the state.
The supermajority vote required Wednesday prompted minority Democrats -- on the losing end of many votes this session -- to bargain for concessions. Republicans supporting the overhaul will need around 10 votes from across the aisle to advance the measure.
Early in the day Wednesday, Democrats successfully advanced an amendment to make the Department of Agriculture the marijuana regulatory authority instead of the Public Service Commission. Supporters argued putting the elected PSC in dramatically change the politics of the commission.
Sen. Steve Gallus, D-Butte, said he also wanted to see Republicans compromise on other unrelated issues -- such as school funding -- before Democrats would give their support to the Republican-backed measure at day's end.
"The right thing to do for the people that we represent and for our constituents and for Montana families is to use this as a lever to get what we need and deliver what we have to, to the people who voted for us," Gallus said.
Senate President Carol Williams said such a deal is in the works with Republican leadership and encouraged Democrats to trust her leadership.
And some Democrats said they won't support the stringent regulation at all, arguing it is too restrictive and will deny legitimate patients access to the drug.