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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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Despite numerous lawsuits and abuse complaints, the Semblers were politically connected enough to keep Straight open until 1993. However, they were never prosecuted. Instead, President George W. Bush named Mel Sembler ambassador to Italy. The $21 million he raised for Bush in 2000 trumped his inability to speak Italian. 

6. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette

Since taking office in January 2011, Scheutte has done his best to undermine Michigan’s 2008 medical-marijuana law. He has “frequently and publicly disparaged” the law and “has used his office to push for the most narrow, restrictive, and contrived interpretations possible,” the Rev. Steven B. Thompson of Michigan NORML wrote in September 2011.

Scheutte’s first move upon taking office was agreeing to give the DEA the medical records of seven patients from dispensaries in Lansing. State health-department workers had refused to turn them over, as the medical-marijuana law makes it a misdemeanor to release confidential patient records, but Scheutte agreed to go along if the workers were immunized against prosecution. 

In August 2011, he won a state court ruling that banned the sale of medical marijuana. Almost all of the state’s dispensaries closed after that. That November, he issued an opinion stating that despite state law, police who seized medical marijuana from registered patients or caregivers did not have to return it, because pot was illegal under federal law. He also prosecuted four Lansing dispensary workers for selling cannabis to undercover officers who got their applications approved by a doctor. 

That fall, he held a series of seminars on how to implement the law—with no patients or caregivers invited. The seminars featured a PowerPoint presentation that said pot sold for $700 to $2,000 an ounce in the Midwest.

Scheutte denounces the idea of legalizing marijuana, calling it “easy access for young people to get hooked on drugs.” Yet in 1987, after he was elected to Congress, he admitted that he’d inhaled while a college student in the 1970s. In 2008, he told a radio interviewer that contrasting his past with his claim that pot was a “gateway drug” was “a low blow.”

7. Florida Gov. Rick Scott

In 2011, Scott issued an executive order requiring state agencies to drug-test workers at random and all job applicants. He also backed a law forcing people receiving public assistance to be tested. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said it was important to ensure that people getting state money “not spend it on illegal drugs.” Some scurrilous scandalmongers noted that a large chunk of Scott’s $218 million fortune came from owning a chain of clinics that did drug testing. He sold his shares a few weeks later.

The welfare-testing program lasted four months before a federal judge stopped it as an unconstitutional search. Only 108 of the more than 4,000 people tested came up positive for drugs, according to the Miami Herald, and most of those were for pot. (Despite the stereotypes, surveys have found that people on public assistance use drugs at a lower rate than others.) With the tests $35 each and the state reimbursing people who came up negative, the program cost almost $120,000.

Scott is no stranger to frauds involving public benefits. In 1997, he resigned as CEO of Columbia/HCA, a for-profit hospital chain, while the company was under federal investigation for defrauding Medicare. It was convicted of 14 felonies and fined $1.7 billion. 

8. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly

Since Bloomberg took office in 2002, these two have continued Rudolph Giuliani’s policy of making New York the pot-bust capital of the world, with more than 400,000 marijuana-possession arrests. The number of petty pot busts passed 50,000 in 2010 and 2011, enough to pack every seat in Yankee Stadium. More than 85 percent of the people popped were black or Latino.