US, International Drug Warriors Attack State Marijuana Legalization

US, International Drug Warriors Attack State Marijuana Legalization

WASHINGTON, DC — As the nation awaits the Obama administration’s response to marijuana legalization votes in Colorado and Washington, Tuesday saw a two-pronged attack on the whole notion.

On the one hand, former drug czars and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) heads lined up to urge the administration to act now to strangle legalization in its crib, while on the other, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) warned that allowing states to legalize would violate international drug control treaties.

Legalization supporters rejected the attacks, comparing the ex-DEA chiefs to Prohibition agents seeking to justify their efforts and dismissing the global anti-drug bureaucrats as largely irrelevant.

In a joint letter under the auspices of the anti-drug reform group Save Our Society From Drugs, eight former heads of the DEA and four former heads of the Office of National Drug Control Policy urged the federal government to act now to nullify the votes in Colorado and Washington.

The same group similarly called on Attorney General Holder to speak out against those state initiatives last September, but he failed to do so.

Holder, who said last week his decision will be “coming soon,” is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The retired drug fighters urged senators to press him on the issue.

“We, the undersigned, strongly support the continued enforcement of federal law prohibiting the cultivation, distribution, sale, possession, and use of marijuana — a dangerous and addictive drug which already has severe harmful effects on American society,” they wrote. “We also respectfully request your committee at its March 6 hearing to encourage Attorney General Eric Holder to adhere to long-standing federal law and policy in this regard, and to vigorously enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).”

The signatories suggested that senators ask Holder is he still believed in the Supremacy Clause when it comes to conflicts between state and federal law and why he isn’t enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in Colorado and Washington. They also suggested asking him “what is being done about our international drug treaty obligations,” noting that they require the federal government to enforce marijuana prohibition.

And speaking of international drug treaty obligations, the INCB, which is charged with ensuring that countries live up to them, also criticized marijuana legalization as it issued its 2012 Annual Report.

The feds have conducted more than 200 SWAT-style raids on state-compliant medical marijuana businesses since 2011. Here, law enforcement commandos descend on a Santa Rosa neighborhood in search of medical marijuana growers in September, 2012.

The feds have conducted more than 200 SWAT-style raids on state-compliant medical marijuana businesses since 2011. Here, law enforcement commandos descend on a Santa Rosa neighborhood in search of medical marijuana growers in September, 2012.

Noting the popular votes in favor of legalization in Colorado and Washington, INCB reiterated that “the legalization of cannabis for non-medical and non-scientific purposes would be in contravention to the provisions of the 1961 Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol.”

The INCB also took a shot at medical marijuana, noting that “the control requirements that have been adopted in the 17 states in question and in the District of Columbia under the ‘medical’ cannabis schemes fall short of the requirements set forth in articles 23 and 28 of the 1961 Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol.”

And, also expressing concerns about decriminalization moves, INCB “requests that the government of the United States take effective measures to ensure the implementation of all control measures for cannabis plants and cannabis, as required under the 1961 Convention, in all states and territories falling within its legislative authority.”

The two-pronged attack excited a quick response from drug reform groups.

“The former DEA chiefs’ statement can best be seen as a self-interested plea to validate the costly and failed policies they championed but that Americans are now rejecting at the ballot box,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “They obviously find it hard to admit that — at least with respect to marijuana — their legacy will be much the same as a previous generation of agents who once worked for the federal Bureau of Prohibition enforcing the nation’s alcohol prohibition laws.”

“The war on drugs has been a failure by every measure,” said Neill Franklin, the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “After more than a trillion dollars spent over the last forty years, we have nothing to show for it except more violence on our streets, the fracturing of community trust in the police and overflowing prison populations. Still, use has not significantly declined. It’s unfortunate the DEA heads can’t admit this failure. As someone who gave three decades of his life fighting this ‘war’ on the ground, I can tell you that from that perspective, this policy was dead on arrival.”

US Attorney General Eric Holder

US Attorney General Eric Holder

“It is not surprising that these ex-heads of the marijuana prohibition industry are taking action to maintain the policies that kept them and their colleagues in business for so long,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project and an official proponent of the Colorado initiative. “Their desire to keep marijuana sales in an underground market favors the drug cartels, whereas the laws approved in Colorado and Washington favor legitimate, tax-paying businesses. Marijuana prohibition has failed, and voters are ready to move on and adopt a more sensible approach. It’s time for these former marijuana prohibitionists to move on too.”

As for INCB, it essentially plays the role of toothless nag, said Eric Sterling, the executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. It is mandated by the United Nations to report on adherence to global anti-drug treaties, but has only the power to hector, not to enforce.

“The INCB has no power other than to issue reports,” he said. “It can’t issue indictments, it can’t call for a resolution in some other body to condemn a nation. It’s strictly hortatory, and for many years, it’s bordered on the preposterous in the condemnations it’s made. The INCB thinks that nations ought to suppress music or motion pictures or books that ‘send the wrong message’ about drugs. In that sense, it is completely out of step with Western Civilization. They would reject art and music and probably science if it were contrary to their abstinence focus on drug use.”

Not only is the INCB relatively powerless, it is largely irrelevant, Sterling said.

“In our American drug policy, they have only negligible influence,” he said. “I don’t think that in any state capital, the INCB’s comments carry any political weight. I don’t think in most journals of opinion, their observations are important. Whether their comments have significance in other countries would be harder for me to assess. I tend to believe they are not that important,” he said.

“Most people don’t even know what it is or what its power is or what it said, including most members of Congress and their staffs,” Sterling continued. “The INCB is obscure. Maybe some former DEA administrators might want to refer to them in a press release, but nobody else is going to pay any attention.”

The forces of opposition to marijuana legalization are lining up to put pressure on the Obama administration. It shouldn’t listen to them, said DPA’s Nadelmann.

“President Obama and Attorney General Holder really need to allow Washington and Colorado officials to implement the new laws in ways that protect public safety and health while respecting the will of those states’ voters,” he said. “At this point, insisting on blind obeisance to strict interpretation of federal drug laws will only serve the interests of criminals who want to keep this industry underground and law enforcement officials who want to justify their legacy.”

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  • Mike

    Just for the record, placement of cannabis on the international “no buy” list and the treaty that created the INCB in its modern form in 1961 was almost wholly a creature of the United States. It started out as a means for the Western powers to control the opium trade in China. Yep, in the beginning it was all about helping the British wag their fingers at the Chinese over the opium trade. It you don’t understand how hypocritical that is, then read the history of the Opium Wars.

    Apparently, the international narc diplomats still have lotsa that hypocrisy to go around!

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  • Fifth Column

    Attempting to halt these two states for implementing these initiatives would be an attack on democracy (like the American citizenry have democratic rights in the first place).

  • Sinsibility

    Former head of the DEA and leader of Save Our Society from drugs Peter Bensinger who is trying to get the Attorney General to sue WA and CO, runs a drug testing company.

    Who’d have thought?
    http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2013/03/ex-dea-chief-lobbying-holder-to-nullify-marijuana-legalization-owns-drug-testing-company-2584798.html

    • RockyMissouri

      That’s shameful…!! To profit at the distress of others…..inhumane.!

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  • Brian Kelly B Bizzle

    The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars. Instead of The United States wasting Billions of more dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

    Those whom profit from our current prison for profit system will do and say anything to prevent marijuana legalization. They will also attempt to throw up as many obstacles, hurdles, and road blocks to marijuana legalization as they possibly can. These people have a vested interest in keeping marijuana illegal.

    The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to prison and are being given permanent criminal.records, which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

    Marijuana is way safer, and healthier to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink? It is also safer than tobacco, caffeine, even aspirin. Marijuana is the safest and healthiest recreational substance known to man.

    Even The President of the United States himself has used marijuana. Has it hurt his chances at succeeding in life? If he had gotten caught by the police during his college years, he may have very well still been in jail today! Beyond that, he would then be fortunate to even be able to find a minimum wage job that would consider hiring him with a permanent criminal record. Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

    So-called “Addiction Specialists” and “Anti-Drug Organizations” earn their living off of prohibition and are panicking. Once marijuana is legalized, they will no longer be able to use that tired old argument that they have people whom actually seek out therapy because of a marijuana addiction. We all know this is a complete FARCE. The ONLY reason people go to therapy for marijuana is because a court FORCES them to do so to avoid jail time. Then these “experts” twist that data and distort the truth. So, without a steady flow of fresh victims from courts forcing people either to therapy or jail, they will lose a TON of “BUSINESS”.

    It’s about time for all of you so-called “Addiction Experts” to either focus on really harmful drugs and/or go into a new line of work and stop making a living off the judicial misfortunes of our citizens!

    The government should not attempt to legislate morality because it simply does not work and costs us a fortune.

    Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

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