Are Mainstream Media Promoting Marijuana Prohibition Junkies?

October 13, 2010 – The longtime government supporters of Cannabis Prohibition are very nervous about the upcoming binding ballot initiative in California which appears on track to be approved by millions of state voters. There is much evidence for this assertion:

A few weeks ago the Los Angeles Times published a so-called unprecedented ‘jointly’ signed letter by all of the former drug czars (aka, Directors of the Office of Drug Control Policy) crowing against cannabis and the voter initiative in California that is likely going to pass this November 2nd. Ironically, or not, when readers go to the Los Angeles Times’ webpage to read the former czars rant-n-rave, they’re pitched cannabis-related Google ads.

It is hard to imagine Cannabis Prohibition surviving too much longer when pro-cannabis ads ring government propaganda!

This week The Wall Street Journal regrettably compromised its usual rhetorical commitment to ‘less government’, more ‘free markets’ and ‘personal responsibility’ by publishing an absurdly argued op-ed from every previous administrator from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) calling on the Obama administration to actively oppose the democratic will of the voters in America’s most important state politically and economically if they choose, as it appears likely they will based on recent polling, to legalize cannabis for responsible adult use, sales and taxation.

Why the ‘we don’t like big government’ and free market-oriented editorial page editors of The Wall Street Journal decided to  shill for a federal government agency, who, according to a report from the Office of Management and Budget is little more than a bureaucratic sacred cow, has one of the worse performance records in the history of otherwise bloated inside-the-beltway bureaucracies that the Journal editors usually relish skewing is beyond me.

Firstly, the rant from these former ‘head narcs’ against the Democratic Obama administration comes mainly from partisan Republicans.

Second, as has been noted in NORML’s letter-to-the-editor at the Wall Street Journal (see below) and at Reason, these former DEA heads make a flaccid and intellectually dishonest assertion that a state must be saddled with a failed federal public policy like Cannabis Prohibition in contradiction to the popular will of it’s voters. Really? Is this true? Then why do states like California, Colorado, New Mexico, District of Columbia, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maine have systems in place to authorize the retail sale of medical cannabis and to tax the product as well?

Is the sole focus on ‘legalization’ by these former anti-drug technocrats a left-handed acknowledgment that medical cannabis use and sales are in fact lawful and taxed commerce at the state level now, while at the same time trying advance the unpersuasive argument that states sanctioning and taxing non-medical cannabis is now going over some kind of impermissible line of state autonomy? Or worse, a violation of international treaties?

One can understand on the level of myth-making, propagandizing, brain-washing, indoctrinating, embracing pseudo science and possessing the most tin ears politically why these men (and a woman) who’ve represented the ‘big lie’ to the American public and Congress for so long are reticent to  1) acknowledge that they were at all wrong in opposing cannabis legalization (even notably medical access and industrial hemp), 2) that they’re logically afraid of rightly being branded as ‘liars’ and 3) having to cop to the hundreds of billions of tax dollars that have been both wasted and left uncollected for decades…to say nothing of the 21 million arrests and millions of incarcerations since 1937.

One can almost feel bad for these individuals for a nanosecond when considering how badly pop culture is currently treating them, and how I personally believe history will likely cast dark shadows over their championing of Cannabis Prohibition.

What do I mean by ‘casting dark shadows’?

Here’s two prime examples from the list of former DEA heads:

After making a reputation at the DEA for opposing NORML’s administrative law victory in challenging the DEA’s mis-scheduling of cannabis in Schedule I, Jack Lawn went on to fame and fortune as the CEO of the Century Council–the main non-profit organization funded by the hard booze lobby to promote ‘alcohol awareness and to deter youth access and drunk driving’.

Peter Bensinger, who has a business partnership with former drug czar Robert DuPont providing anti-drug advice to fortune 500 companies and drug testing services (including to members of Congress), also has a daughter who used to be a spokesmodel for Miller Beer.

Yep…you can’t make this stuff up!

These lame and too-late-to-the-game monologues by all of these former government agency heads who made careers (and small fortunes) lying about cannabis and demonizing cannabis consumers and patients in the Los Angeles Times (shame on you!) and the Wall Street Journal (doubly shame on you!) are likely going to be as successful as the last and great ‘unprecedented’ attempt by Cannabis Prohibition’s A-Team to thwart the direct will of the citizens regarding setting a new path to end prohibition, when, every living US president (Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1.0 and Clinton) signed a 1996 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times (so much shame for this paper’s historical support for Cannabis Prohibition!) against a then supposedly radical and society-threatening Prop. 215–which the voters approved in California at a higher rate than they did for returning President Clinton back to office.

As has been predicted recently by a number of polling firms and political scientists in California, the state’s voters may well endorse in greater numbers for legalizing cannabis in three weeks then they will in supporting any major political candidates for elective office. One would think that these mainstream, duopoly political candidates would finally say ‘Uncle!’ and end their stubborn and unfounded opposition to a long-sought end to cannabis prohibition in California if only out of the pure embarrassment of how wrong they’ve been in bucking public sentiment and the free market.

Something tells me I probably shouldn’t hold my breath.

NORML’s submitted letter-to-the-editor to The Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2010:

To the editor,

Former DEA administrators John Bartels et al. claim “there is very little likelihood” that California’s Proposition 19 — which would legalize the private adult use of limited amounts of marijuana, and allow local governments to regulate its commercial production and retail distribution — will raise state and local tax revenue because “paying sales taxes … would be admitting the commission of a federal felony” (“California pot initiative: don’t forget about federal law,” October 6).  Yet they neglect to mention that, federal law notwithstanding, marijuana businesses presently operating in California already pay over $100 million annually in state taxes.

According to a March 2010 report issued by the California Board of Equalization, medical marijuana dispensaries in the state generate as much as $1.3 billion in sales and $105 million dollars in state sales taxes.  Since it is estimated that medical marijuana consumers comprise less than ten percent of the existing marijuana market in California, this total represents only a fraction of the revenue that will be generated when this commodity is legalized for all adults over age 21.

It is time to bring long-overdue oversight to a market that is presently unregulated, untaxed, and uncontrolled. Proposition replaces decades of failed marijuana prohibition with a policy of sensible regulation.

Paul Armentano
Deputy Director, NORML

By Allen St. Pierre



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