As the Federal government undoubtedly prepares to pounce on Colorado and Washington after voters in each State opted to legalize recreational marijuana use, it seems the Feds are fighting a losing battle with the American psyche.
Antiquated Federal prohibition on marijuana brought forth when “Reefer Madness” was considered an acceptable argument against recreational or medical use of the drug will drive the Drug Enforcement Agency to come down hard on States that, through populist vote, accept the drug for recreational purposes. And sporadic prosecution will likely continue against States that have allowed forbidden medical marijuana initiatives to pass against the will of the Federal government.
The problem with the Federal War on Drugs and the government’s obstinacy in admitting it may have been wrong about marijuana (and other drug) policy is that it is making unwitting hypocrites of nearly everyone involved.
Conservative who hold general disdain for a burgeoning police state and champion self-responsibility in making choices in the American spirit of liberty also champion a Federal drug war against marijuana because of archaic societal views and junk science from the early 20th century.
Fiscal conservatives who argue that drug users are a sap on society’s resources have no qualms about spending thousands of dollars per nonviolent drug offender to fill overcrowded prisons and providing untold thousands of dollars more to law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation to round up the offenders.
A Presidential Administration that claims to understand the benefits of marijuana as a medical product hides behind Federal laws to quash States that allow and regulate its use. And a Congress — listen up, Republicans — that claims to hold in high regard the rights of States to operate with as little Federal meddling as possible rolls over each time the criminal Department of Justice tramples the will of State residents.
Looking at the numbers, it isn’t hard to understand why — despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — the criminals in charge throughout government have such a hard time admitting that they were probably wrong about marijuana back in the day. According to drugsense.org, between State and Federal government the United States has spent almost $36 billion on the War on Drugs this year. That money has led to some 1.5 million drug-related arrests and about 9,500 drug-related incarcerations.
That’s a lot of fines, court costs and jobs for judges, prison employees, police and lawyers. Likewise, there is an entire industry that thrives (simply because certain drugs remain illicit) by selling drug tests as well as kits to help users mask drugs in the very same tests.
With the explosion of methamphetamine across the United States and the horrific destruction the drug causes, the drug war remains defensible by law enforcement and communities that don’t want a criminal class of doped up zombies roaming the streets. The same argument has been used for the drug war at the height of crack and heroin epidemics in the Nation.
But the people citing meth, crack and heroin to embolden support for the drug war often leave out a key fact: Marijuana arrests continually make up nearly half of drug-related arrests throughout the Nation.
“As in past years, the so-called ‘drug war’ remains fueled by the arrests of minor marijuana possession offenders,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a recent press release. “Cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes upon legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color. It’s time to stop stigmatizing and criminalizing tens of millions of Americans for choosing to consume a substance that is safer than either tobacco or alcohol.”
Indeed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 37,000 annual U.S. deaths, including more than 1,400 in Colorado, are attributed to alcohol use alone (this figure does not include accidental deaths). But the CDC does not even have a category for deaths caused by the use of marijuana. The argument that marijuana-related car accidents would compete with drunk driving figures do not apply to these statistics; as mentioned before, they do not include accidental deaths.
What the figures do explain, however, is why the alcohol industry frequently lobbies against State initiatives to legalize marijuana.
There is another key player in the fight against American marijuana reform, perhaps the most evil and well-funded of all: the pharmaceutical industry.
The included chart, taken from a 2010 paper entitled “Medical Marijuana: Therapeutic Uses and Legal Status” from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, lists some of the medical conditions that independent medical experts in a number of States have said marijuana could be used to treat.
Imagine the sheer number of pharmaceutical drugs that would find competition from an easily grown plant in treating the conditions and the financial implications that would result for a number of big-name drug makers.
The decision made by voters in Colorado and Washington last week to lighten up on recreational marijuana laws and the decisions made by a handful of other States in recent years to allow the drug for medical benefit are not going to stop the prosecution from the Federal government (paid for by police unions, private prison corporations, alcohol manufacturers, Big Pharma and prison guard unions) anytime soon.
What is coming to an end, however, is the willingness of the American public to believe that Federal officials are working in the citizenry’s best interest when it comes to marijuana prohibition. Oftentimes, lawmakers appear to be simply doing what keeps the money flowing to their coffers from monied special interests. A Rasmussen telephone poll conducted just yesterday relates the following:
- Only 7 percent of American adults think the United States is winning the war on drugs.
- Fifty-one percent of respondents said alcohol is more dangerous than pot, while 24 percent said pot is more dangerous and 24 percent aren’t sure.
- Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they had not smoked marijuana in the past year.
- Sixty percent said State governments “should decide whether marijuana is legal in a state,” while 27 percent said that responsibility belongs to the Federal government.
- Thirty-four percent said that the United States spends too much on the drug war; 23 percent of respondents said we don’t spend enough; and 24 percent said drug war spending is “about right.”
As with so many other issues, Americans defining themselves as both conservatives and as liberals have a common gripe against the Federal government when it comes to the marijuana debate as it relates to personal liberty and States rights. The issue, it seems, is yet another pushing the Nation dangerously close to the realization that, for decades, “government for the people, by the people” could be more accurately described as government against the people to the benefit of a few.