Who We Are and Why We Fight: "People Who Do Drugs, and People Who Don't, Will End the War on Drugs"
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Part of what makes this challenging is that our movement for freedom and social justice is, in fact, different, in some respects, from others. One of the things that makes it different -- and we have be frank and honest when dealing with -- is that ours, unlike the movements for civil rights, gay rights and women’s rights, involves a commodity. It involves something that people can and do and will make money from. It means that when we fight for people to take drugs and not be discriminated based on that; when we fight for the freedom of people to grow their own medicine, their own cannabis or whatever it might be; when we fight for the rights of indigenous peoples to grow coca or opium as part of their societies, it’s also recognizing that when we’re fighting for those freedoms, we’re also fighting, in some respect, for something that is a commodity. It is a commodity.
Look at what’s happening today, and part of what’s going on with medical marijuana, is that a lot of people are making money. Some of them ethically, and some of them, not so ethically, from marijuana, from medical marijuana. We trying to bring this stuff above ground and we have to do it in responsible ways. We can see what’s going on in The Netherlands now, where we have the right wing government trying to shut down the coffee shops, that they’ve hovered in that middle ground for so many years, but they never legalized the thing entirely. They never fully regulated it. They kept it in a decriminalized -- not just possession -- but they decriminalized market, retail places. That’s inherently unstable. That’s where we are with medical marijuana today. It means that as we try to move this thing forward, we have to bolster our defenses. We have to be smart. We have to call out the entrepreneurs who are acting unethically in this world. We can’t give the excuse to the federal prosecutors and others to target the whole industry. We can’t have the bad role models who become the symbol that the opposition waves in our face. It's one of those challenges that we have have to be honest with -- that this is a fight for freedom and decency and human rights -- but with this commercial element, it needs to be managed responsibly.
I don’t care whether it’s for profit or not for profit, or these sorts of things. That can be decided locally. And we’re not going to have the luxury that happened with the repeal of alcohol prohibition. With the repeal of alcohol prohibition, it can go like that. And many of the people who made the most money selling alcohol illegally can become the legal sellers. It happened quickly. But we’re going to go through this -- we are going through this transitional stage -- where we have no alternative than to manage this stuff as best as we possibly can. Every time I look around me, I say something about this struggle: It’s getting more complicated. It’s getting more complicated. The oppression is as real and as horrific as ever but it’s getting more complicated. We’re drafting ballot initiatives and we’re fighting over where we compromise on principle and policy and which interests get represented. We’re fighting over legislation and we have to battle over this. We’re fighting over resources. We have to keep making these judgments in the best possible way we can. Building a movement, taking it to the next stage, means not being distracted by the money that can be made or burnout or the fights that can happen.