Legalization Foes Come Out Swinging Against Marijuana

Legalization Foes Come Out Swinging Against Marijuana

Two states have already legalized marijuana, bills to do the same have been or will be filed in a half-dozen more this year, a federal bill to repeal pot prohibition has also been introduced, legalization initiatives aimed at 2014 or 2016 are already being plotted, and public opinion polls are showing support for marijuana legalization edging into majority territory. The opposition is started to get worried.

And it is moving to blunt the legalization trend. While official Washington has so far remained largely silent in the face of the fact of legalization in two states and the threat of it in more in the near future, special interests threatened by the end of marijuana prohibition and self-appointed anti-pot crusaders are starting to stage a pushback. While it is tempting to dismiss the crusaders as being on the wrong side of history, reform advocates are wary of their advocacy and say the good guys need to step up their game.

Project SAM (Smart About Marijuana), the recently formed brainchild of former Congressman-with-addiction-issues Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and former Office of National Drug Control Policy staffer Kevin Sabet, last week authored a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder calling on him to stand firm against marijuana legalization.

Its co-signers include a veritable cavalcade of beneficiaries of government drug spending, among them the federally-funded Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition, and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP). Other signers are a Colorado pediatric physicians’ group and Smart Colorado, “a broad-based alliance of concerned public health officials,” which is funded almost entirely by Mel and Betty Sembler, long-time drug warriors notorious for having operated abusive treatment programs for teens in the 1990s.

“We are writing to you to enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in Colorado and Washington with respect to recent ballot measures legalizing marijuana,” wrote Kennedy and the gang. “These state laws would severely threaten public health and safety goals, expressly contradict the President’s National Drug Control Strategy, make it impossible to comply with federal regulations, and present an obstacle to the achievement of Congress’ discernible objectives to prohibit the use, sale, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana. We urge you to restate marijuana is illegal.”

The marijuana legalization laws in Washington and Colorado “violate both the intent of Congress in enacting the CSA and the letter of the law,” the letter continued. “The Department of Justice and Congress have determined through the CSA that marijuana is a Schedule I drug and as such growing, distributing, and possessing marijuana in any capacity, save a federal research program, is in ‘violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities.'”

Project SAM advocates prevention and drug treatment for marijuana users and wants to avoid stigmatizing them, but still wants marijuana to be illegal.

“There is an arrest and prosecution industry in this country that depends on marijuana remaining illegal to maintain their budgets and stay in business,” retorted Mason Tvert, one of the key organizers of the Colorado initiative and now a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. “As Project SAM has said, we need to be focusing our attention on providing treatment to those who need it, but unfortunately their stance on marijuana would waste treatment resources on people who don’t. These groups talk about teens using marijuana, and if their true goal was preventing teen marijuana use, we would gladly join them, but their real goal is to keep marijuana illegal, and that doesn’t benefit teens or anyone else… but themselves.”

For one of the Project SAM signatories, signing on to somebody else’s letter wasn’t enough. The NADCP Monday released its own position statement against legalizing marijuana, saying “every dangerous and addictive drug was once believed to be safe and medicinal.”

NADCP “unequivocally stands against the legalization of marijuana and the use of smoked marijuana as medicine,” the group said. Society need not fall for the “false choice” of legalization or incarceration when it can find a third way through the “curative effects of drug courts and dozens of other treatment programs.”

“Drug court is the equivalent of purgatory in the Catholic theology,” commented Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “If you comport with their demands and accept your moral turpitude, they may let you ascend. But if you fail the drug test or don’t show proper deference to the system, you will not only be stuck in purgatory, but may pushed down into the bowels of hell,” the veteran activist said.

“We get calls all the time from people facing this Hobbesian choice of drug courts or traditional courts, and we have to warn them that, unlike the early 1990s, when they looked like a good alternative to incarceration, we have seen so many cases where individuals face far worse penalties, fines, and incarceration in drug court than if they took the worst plea bargain in regular court. Drug court pleaders belong in the category of special interests who clearly benefit — if not exist wholly — because of this government prohibition.”

Reformers should not take this new opposition lightly, some reformers say.

“While these groups are completely dependent on federal government anti-drug money and can be discounted as fighting to protect their own rice bowls, it would be a naïve and arrogant mistake to ignore them,” said Eric Sterling, executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. “Kevin Sabet is an energetic guy, and these groups have lots of taxpayer money to spend on this. They will mobilize in other states, and they have the ability to get the ear of the attorney general and others.”

Similarly, said Sterling, “to a lay person, the NADCP statement is an impressive statement,” even though policy and other experts may see their claims as overstated.

“People in reform should be concerned about a reaction,” he said. “It is certain that these documents represent products being developed by a concerted movement to turn back the tide. The opposition is first out of the box on this,” Sterling warned as he wondered aloud what the reform movement is doing to counter the counter-revolution.

“I was told in November that folks at Justice were completely blindsided by the victories in Colorado and Washington,” he said. “What written correspondence to Holder can we point to about what they should do? I know there have been some informal conversations between state officials and the attorney general, but there is nothing in writing that both lays out a plea and a case for accommodating state laws.”

That reflects a broader problem of lack of aggressiveness within the reform movement, he said.

“On one level, the reform movement is not being proactive,” Sterling argued. “It’s one thing to get an initiative passed, and we’ve demonstrated a high degree of competence at that, but we haven’t seen that same sort of competence when it comes to Washington. It’s a much more complex and tricky problem to mobilize a majority of the House or Senate, and there has not been a well-organized effort on a sustained basis to get Congress to weigh in. It’s amazing to me that so far after 1996, no senator has ever introduced a bill to allow their state to have a medical marijuana program free from federal interference. There are now 36 senators from 18 medical marijuana states, and not one of them has ever introduced a bill. That’s an amazing failure to organize by our movement.”

The movement — especially that part of it with deep pockets — needs to step up, Sterling said.

“I’m not aware that any of our movement organizations have a strategy for getting the American Bar Association or other high-profile groups to take a position on marijuana enforcement after the passage of the initiatives,” he said. “Those kinds of campaigns need to be thought about and have people assigned to do them. I haven’t done that either, but I’m not a leader of any of the ‘angel organizations’ that do this work.”

While the reform movement builds itself, it can still attack the foe, St. Pierre said.

The opposition is actively pushing back now. Reformers are working quietly with state officials on implementation of regulation, but they can’t forget that Washington is where some crucial decisions get made. Project SAM and its allies certainly haven’t.

  • RockyMissouri

    Sabet is an idiot, and Kennedy is delusional, sadly….. But WHO is funding them….?

    • Rainer Wolfcastle

      As the op advises take these folks seriously. They are backed mostly by big recovery. They work in collusion with NIDA and the drug czar. WA and CO recovery clinics just took a huge and tangible hit and it’s very upsetting. It’s ProjectSAMs job to generate the sound bites for the low information drug warriors. They pimp all the latest junk studies and sow doubt with them.

  • Ahnlaashock

    To think that they would not push back in defense of the power they hold to decide for others, would mean one has not been watching the news these last few years.

    The feds have been running strings of raids against the People, designed to scare the politicians in those states into voting how the feds want on pending legislation. The people caught and prosecuted are irrelevant to the feds, as their goals were to influence state laws. They are using the tactics of terrorists, only they are attacking victims that have been substantially vilified, so the sleeping public thinks those people deserve what they get.

    To think that the millions that work in the prohibition industrial complex will quietly give up their jobs helping the state and central government consume lives, because it is the right thing to do, is simply wrong. Most of these folks will fight as long as they can, if for no other reason than it pays their mortgage.

    As it is today, in many places, the police and governments seem incapable of changing to respect current laws, as they continue the war as they always have, in places where the war is supposed to at least be in a ceasefire. They act like they are addicted to the power, and we don’t have that many treatment beds in the entire nation. The Cannabis Cup has now been thrown out of two jurisdictions, in California no less.

    Sooner or later a case will go to the Supreme Court again. The Supreme Court will rule in favor of the feds. The majority that is in support today, along with a whole bunch of PO’ed voters will be left with petitioning congress for relief.

    That is where the real victory will take place, and that is who we need to be talking to. Not the head of the Justice Department, who is also the president of the prohibition industrial complex, and as such, can be no help. Even a good man is too leveraged here. Talking to Obama will not help, and likely the next guy too.

    We are left with the choice between watching the war run for another ten years or more, consuming at least another 6 million people’s lives along the way, or we must insist that those that represent us, actually represent the will of the People. I have contacted my representatives.

    Have you?

  • nightman

    and make a nother fiction depicted video like refer madness geez the actors in that film werent smoking pot they were smoking meth

  • sammie james

    Problem is, SAM lies. coz cannibus is NOT, NOT, NOT, ADDICITIVE! just another SHAM TACTIC. truly a sham to the entire world for such anti pot laws and the stance of this SAM folls. and we are supposedly a FREE nation. wow

  • herbalmagick

    I find it funny that the anti-weed crowd want to restrain WA and CO from enforcing their new laws. The only part on which they’d have any legal leverage is the regulation, not the legalization. Regulation could be construed to be abetting trade in a controlled substance or conspiracy to do so. So the feds might be able to keep the whole framework for distributing legal marijuana from being created, but they can’t make the state declare weed to be illegal. If the prohibitionists are successful, they could see two states with legal marijuana and no state regulation at all. They might wan to take a moment to think about that.

  • Sanders20

    Patrick admits he has little experience with pot but admits to being a former junkie. He claims pot is a gateway drug, just not for him. Prescription drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the US, #2 is now car accidents. 11% of this country over age 12 (27 million Americans) are doped out on antidepressants. We ingest 80% of all the worlds Opioid prescription drugs. We ingest 99% of the worlds Vicodin. Where the f-word are this scumbags priorities? He himself almost died from prescription drug abuse, our country is being decimated by RX death, and this 70 IQ is focused on pot, which causes 0 acute overdoses per year. Furthermore, we as a country poison our children with prescription filth such as amphetamine (adderal), Ritalin (time release cocaine) and methamphetamine otherwise known as desoxyn. Thus when so-called doctors PRESCRIBE methamphetamine starting at AGE 6, the question must be posed….is methamphetamine a gateway drug to methamphetamine?