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11 Enemies of Marijuana Legalization

From President Obama to NYC Mayor Bloomberg, the authorities are still bent on keeping pot illegal.

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3. California Narcotic Officers Association and its chief lobbyist, John Lovell, who also represents the California Police Chiefs Association

One leading California activist calls them “the most powerful obstacles to marijuana-law reform.” In 2010, when he campaigned against the Proposition 19 legalization initiative, John Lovell collected almost $400,000 from police groups. 

The CNOA opposes any relaxation of marijuana laws. Its position paper on medical marijuana declares that “There is no justification for using marijuana as a medicine” and anyone who believes otherwise has “been misled, by the well-financed and organized pro-drug legalization lobby.” It also opposes efforts to regulate dispensaries, with Lovell denouncing a bill to set statewide standards as “not regulation, this is open-ended permissiveness.”

In 2010, CNOA executive director Joe Stewart said that if Proposition 19 passed, “even inmates in prisons and county jails will be permitted to possess marijuana.”

4. Coalition For a Drug-Free California, headed by Paul Chabot

Based in Los Angeles’ Inland Empire suburbs, this is not the most powerful prohibitionist group, but it’s one of the looniest. Last April 20, Chabot told Current TV’s Cenk Uygur that alcohol “Prohibition actually worked. Drug usage decreased significantly.” He calls legalizing pot part of the “all-out far-left agenda.” 

In February, Chabot urged Californians to report dispensaries to the IRS, saying that the maximum reward of 30 percent of taxes collected had “better odds than hitting the lottery.” In 2011, he accused state Attorney General Kamala Harris of consorting with “drug money” and letting “our state fall to domestic marijuana cartels.” Apparently Harris had met with pro-legalization groups to discuss how the state should regulate medical marijuana.

One activist calls Chabot “by far the most colorfully extreme” prohibitionist in California. He claims to have “spent a lifetime battling evil and devising strategies to tear it apart.” A self-described former alcoholic and “marijuana addict” who was in rehab at 12, he runs a “leadership strategies” company that advises law-enforcement and security groups. In one report, it claimed that elements within Occupy Wall Street, “if not carefully monitored and mitigated… pose a significant threat to modern democracies.”

5. Drug Free America Foundation

The Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF) might be the nation’s most mean-spirited prohibitionist outfit. In 2004, when California medical-marijuana user Angel Raich was telling a press conference outside the Supreme Court about her brain tumor and other ailments, DFAF hecklers shouted “Druggie!” at her. In October 2011, when the California Medical Association endorsed legalizing pot, DFAF said, “they have transitioned from a medical group into a lapdog of the drug legalization lobby.”

Based in St. Petersburg, Florida, DFAF is headed by Calvina Fay and was founded by Betty Sembler and her husband, Mel, a rich strip-mall developer and a prominent fundraiser for Republicans from Ronald Reagan to Mitt Romney. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife are on its advisory board.

An affiliate, the National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance, sells drug-testing programs to small businesses. Think being forced to pee in a jar violates your privacy? DFAF says other people’s right to a drug-free world is more important, and “if you don’t use illegal drugs, you have nothing to worry about.” DFAF is descended from Straight, Inc., a chain of “rehab” centers the Semblers opened in 1976. It claims that Straight “successfully treated more than 12,000 young people with drug addiction in eight cities nationally from Dallas to Boston.” 

Straight survivors tell different stories. A 15-year-old boy confined there from 1983-'85 for “occasional pot-smoking with my friends” called it “a destructive mind-control cult masquerading as a drug rehab,” where anyone resisting or even not enthusiastic enough “would be slammed to the floor and sat on for hours.” A 14-year-old girl who escaped was punished by being locked in a closet for two weeks and not allowed to go to the bathroom—so she had to sit in her “humble pants,” soiled with urine, feces and menstrual blood.