Marijuana Prohibition Is Hanging on by Its Final Thread -- There's a Bright Future on the Horizon
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Are there bad players in the American cannabis industry, which crop is worth more than corn and wheat combined, according to ABC? Of course. Criminals are just about all that prohibition’s free-for-all creates, other than a massive prison population. It’s why we’ve heard of Al Capone.
As one cannabis farmer I followed, Tomas Balogh, put it, “When there’s a gold rush, you’ve got Yosemite Sam right next to responsible hardworking people.”
Matt Cohen, the Mendocino farmer who was about to be raided, is not a gangster. He doesn’t own a weapon and even his dogs will lick you to death. He was, according to Mendocino County Board of Supervisors member John McCowen, “the first…to call for regulation of the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana to prevent black market diversion.” His raid, according to NORML’s Dale Gieringer, was “a victory for the cartels.”
The funny thing is, in the year I spent researching American cannabis farmers, most law enforcers I met were well-intended, regulations-following professionals just trying to do their job. Good cops, in other words. Not intentionally working for cartels. Though more than a few were aware that they are on the losing side of the war and part of a bad policy.
Last July, a man wearing fatigues whose salary I pay pointed an automatic weapon at me and ordered me off my own public lands during a national forest raid I was trying to cover. He did so what seemed to me apologetically, with the posture of someone punching in and punching out. Blaming that fellow for the drug war would be like blaming the corporal slogging it out in a Southeast Asian rice paddy in 1973 for the Vietnam War. I felt bad for him. I hope he can find other work, perhaps going after prescription pill mill operators, when the exorbitant travesty of cannabis prohibition ends.
Throwing their hands up at congressional and White House refusal to put cannabis to work for the American economy (Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron suggests that lost tax revenue was $6.2 billion in 2011) while crippling the cartels (70% of whose revenue derives from cannabis trafficking, according to some studies, though even 50% would mean cannabis legalization would cripple them), cannabis activists at national organizations like the Marijuana Policy Project are chipping away at outdated cannabis laws, one state at a time. In fact that organization’s slogan is, “27 medical marijuana states by 2014.”
Eventually, drug peace activists believe, we will reach a tipping point. The number of people who believe that America’s health and children are more threatened by legal cannabis than by illegal, cartel-controlled cannabis will continue to wither down to nothing as the truth, as it tends to do, eventually gets out.
Congress will have to act, they say. It will be forced to shut off the tap, or at least redirect the massive flow of Drug War, Inc. Hope they hurry. We’ve got an embarrassingly world-leading 2.3 million Americans locked up today, to which New York City makes its little stop-and-frisk racial profiling contribution. Federal funding trickles down to local police coffers based directly on arrest numbers.
On the producer/farmer end, sometimes law enforcement budgets are actually dependent on seizing Americans' property. California U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner unilaterally “awarded” Stanislaus County law enforcers $154,875 following one 2011 raid. Federal law doesn’t even mandate property return if charges are never filed. This is why former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper says, “the drug war’s most serious collateral damage has been to undermine the role of civilian law enforcement in our free society.”