Forced Rehab Backers Fund Anti-Marijuana Legalization Efforts

Backers of prohibition and forced rehabilitation for marijuana use are throwing big money, at least $2 million, to stop various state ballot measures that would treat cannabis more like alcohol — and they are not saying where the money is coming from.

This new injection of funds from a secret financial source comes on the heels of a wave of  law enforcement groups using dues taken from their members, but many suspect that this new funding source comes from the very financial interests who stand to make massive profits from indoctrinating people who choose cannabis to instead use currently legal drugs, such as pharmaceuticals, alcohol, nicotine, sugar and coffee.

What makes the circumstances all the more suspect is that the money is being channeled through the political arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group founded by recovering drug addict and ex-Congressmember Patrick Kennedy, senior editor of the Atlantic David Frum and anti-marijuana crusader Kevin Sabet.

That organization has long been promoting its so-called “third way” policy that changes little from current Drug War policies. They would keep marijuana a crime with fines and prison sentences but add requirements that force responsible adult pot smokers into mandatory reprogramming courses that encourage them to abstain from everything or use alcohol instead. There is no evidence that such programs are safe or effective, or even that marijuana use is an illness that needs treatment. Marijuana is actually one of the least addictive drugs known.  (More on cannabis safety and addiction.)

Private businesses who run such programs would get a massive financial windfall from such a change: People who get arrested for marijuana would still pay various fines, possible jail time but also they would have to pay or get state funds to pay for private businesses to “rehabilitate” them back to alcohol use.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the prohibitionist group has declined to say who originally donated the money but, when asked, said it does not come from law enforcement sources or billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has fought legalization proposals elsewhere.

This is just the latest example of vested financial interests lining up against legalization. In California, a group of medical marijuana providers who have a virtual monopoly over legal retail sales of marijuana, have mounted a social media smear campaign to keep non-medical use and sales illegal. The campaign keeps up a barrage of false claims about the upcoming Prop 64 initiative, which was written to keep Prop 215 and other state medical marijuana laws safe while adding new protections for patients and opening the market to non-medical adult use and legal home grown cannabis across the state.

Currently, a patient must get a doctor’s approval that provides a legal defense in court but does not prevent their arrest or prosecution, and the current laws allow localities to ban sales of marijuana (Inland Empire Patients v Riverside) as well as personal home gardens (Maral v Live Oak).

If Prop 64 passes in California, small amounts of marijuana will be legal for all adults with or without a doctor’s approval, local governments will still be able to ban commercial activity but personal cultivation, possession, transportation and sharing will be legal activities for anyone over the age of 21.

The Prop 64 initiative has drawn broad support from the California Democratic Party, the California Medical Association, NAACP, ACLU, and major legalization advocate groups including NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project,Drug Policy Action and others.

To learn more about what the initiative would do for California, click here.

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