How Weed Won the West: Marijuana Legalization is a Crucial Issue for the Liberty Movement
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Jonathan Perri, writing for the Los Angeles Times, declares the war against drugs a dismal failure. Perri mentions an op-ed penned by D.A.R.E. America Chairman Skip Miller who claims his organization has reduced illegal drug usage by America’s children.
One has to ask… what is Mr. Miller smoking?
Perri notes that D.A.R.E. and other such educational programs have in fact not reduced drug use. “But in reality, our drug laws have failed to stop marijuana use among American youth but have succeeded in punishing them with damning criminal records, loss of financial aid for college and removal from after-school activities. As a graduate of D.A.R.E., I know all too well about the shortcomings of this program and of America’s war on marijuana,” writes Perri.
A casual glance at the so-called war on drugs reminds one of Einstein’s famous quip — insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Arresting and throwing recreational drug users in prison — primarily for possessing and smoking marijuana — will not win the supposed war. It simply creates a class of criminals where none existed before.
In fact, it can be persuasively argued that the purpose of the war on drugs is not to decrease use of illegal drugs. Rather the purpose is to feed and grow a multi-billion dollar industry created by the government and Big Pharma. In addition to pushing the “zero-tolerance” orthodoxy through school curriculum (with police as instructors) that parallels current U.S. drug control policy, D.A.R.E. recruits children to act as police informants. The war on drugs is on the cutting-edge of the police state emerging all around us.
The drug war also builds and expands the for-profit prison grid system. In 2007, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the largest state prison demographic consisted of people imprisoned for drug-related offenses. In 2001, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report, police arrested an estimated 723,627 persons for marijuana violations. In 1991, the number was 342,314. Since 1992, approximately six million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, a greater number than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined.
Around the country people are organizing to put an end to this madness. In California, proponents of an initiative to make California the first state to legalize marijuana have collected about 693,800 signatures, virtually guaranteeing that the measure will appear on a crowded November ballot, the Los Angeles Times reported last month. The initiative would make it legal for anyone 21 and older to possess an ounce of marijuana and grow plants in an area no larger than 25 square feet for personal use. It would also allow cities and counties to permit marijuana to be grown and sold, and to impose taxes on it.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries may soon go to a vote. “I don’t see anything wrong with it, I think it’s going to be monitored closely. I think there is a need for marijuana to be okay for people who have terminal illness,” said one resident, a retired nurse.
“Depending on the poll, either a majority or near-majority of Americans say that marijuana should be taxed and legalized. Even the American Medical Assn. has called for the federal government to review its absurd classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which puts cannabis right alongside heroin and PCP,” writes Jonathan Perri. “D.A.R.E. can warn people all day about the harm associated with marijuana use. What it refuses to acknowledge is that these arguments only support ending prohibition. If marijuana is so dangerous, D.A.R.E. and its allies ought to support efforts to remove control over distribution from black-market drug dealers.”
The Federal and government, however, will not go down without a fight. “While users herald the freedom of legally-licensed ‘weed,’ powerful forces at the DEA and law enforcement haven’t given up their federal enforcement power yet,” a write-up to Kevin Booth’s latest documentary, How Weed Won the West, explains. “In the backdrop of this public dispute is the Dark Alliance– where governments handle the volume of drug trafficking and work with cartels and drug dealers to manage the drug flow. Just like the prohibition of alcohol, drugs have thrived on their illicit appeal, and doomed millions of non-violent offenders to incarceration and prosecution. Now, those swearing by the healing power of medicinal marijuana as well as those who simply refuse to be outlawed by a hypocritical rogue government are daring to stand up and declare that the violence, corruption and uncontrolled flow of drugs is due to the prohibition of the substance, not the substance itself.”
Obama’s handlers billed him as the “change” candidate, but when it comes to marijuana he is merely continuing the policies of his predecessor and those before him, going all the way back to 1937 when marijuana was classified as a dangerous and illegal drug under the Harrison Narcotic Act, a bill pushed by the American Medical Association and supported by the president at the time. On Monday during a forum sponsored by YouTube, Obama refused to answer any questions about legalizing marijuana.
Kevin Booth’s documentary provides crucial background on the government’s long-standing war against marijuana. Even if you are opposed to the use of marijuana, this issue is rapidly becoming one of several focal points in the battle between the states and the federal government. Do the feds have the right to intervene in state-based medical marijuana dispensaries? Do they have the authority to overturn locally enacted laws decriminalizing or even legalizing marijuana?
In How Weed Won the West, Booth investigates these issues and more. “He infiltrates psuedo-legal California growers, investigates DEA raids on licensed dispensaries and even undertakes to sample the disputed ‘medicine’ for himself. He interviews radio host Alex Jones, former drug dealers, real-life gang members, legal-weed pitch men, activists and advocates to find the truth.”
Marijuana legalization — like it or not — is at the forefront of the liberty movement. Booth’s film is a perfect starting point to get educated on this important issue.