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Confronted and Owned: Anti-Marijuana Zealot Bill Bennett

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director July 6, 2011

    Let states enact their own marijuana policies

    By Paul Armentano, Special to CNN
    July 6, 2011

    (CNN) — It is hardly surprising that former drug czar William Bennett would, in his CNN.com op-ed, oppose any changes to America’s criminalization of marijuana. But it is surprising that he would lump Barney Frank and Ron Paul’s proposal to allow states the opportunity to enact their own marijuana policy with the effort to legalize drugs.

    Let’s be clear: HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, proposed by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, does not “legalize drugs” or even so much as legalize marijuana. Rather, this legislation removes the power to prosecute minor marijuana offenders from the federal government and relinquishes this authority to state and local jurisdictions. In other words, HR 2306 is just the sort of rebuke to the “nanny state” that conservatives like Bennett otherwise support.

    Barney Frank and Ron Paul: Get feds out of pot regulation

    The House bill mimics changes enacted by Congress to repeal the federal prohibition of alcohol. Passage of this measure would remove the existing conflict between federal law and the laws of those 16 states that already allow for the limited use of marijuana under a physician’s supervision.

    It would also permit states that wish to fully legalize (for adults) and regulate the responsible use, possession, production and intrastate distribution of marijuana to be free to do so without federal interference. In recent years, several states, including California and Massachusetts, have considered taking such actions either legislatively or by ballot initiative. It is likely that several additional states will be considering this option in 2012, including Colorado and Washington. The residents and lawmakers of these states should be free to explore these alternate policies, including medicalization, decriminalization and legalization, without running afoul of the federal law or the whims of the Department of Justice.

    Of course, just as many states continued to criminalize the sale and consumption of alcohol after the federal government’s lifting of alcohol prohibition, many states, if not most, might continue to maintain criminal sanctions on the use of marijuana.

    But there is no justification for the federal government to compel them to do so. Just as state and local governments are free to enact their own policies about the sale and use of alcohol — a mind-altering, potentially toxic substance that harms the user more than marijuana — they should be free to adopt marijuana policies that best reflect the wishes and mores of their citizens.

    Does Bill Bennett believe that state and local governments cannot be trusted with making such decisions on their own?

    Speaking during an online town hall in January, President Obama acknowledged the subject of legalizing and regulating marijuana was a “legitimate topic for debate,” even as he expressed his opposition. Yet Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, recently boasted that he would not even consider scheduling HR 2306 for a public hearing.

    There might be another reason people like Smith and Bennett will go to such lengths to try to stifle public discussion of the matter. To do so would be to shine light on the fact that the federal criminalization of marijuana has failed to reduce the public’s demand for cannabis, and it has imposed enormous fiscal and human costs upon the American people.

    Further, this policy promotes disrespect for the law and reinforces ethnic and generational divides between the public and law enforcement. Annual data published in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, and compiled by NORML, finds that police have made more than 20 million arrests for marijuana violations since 1970, nearly 90% of them for marijuana possession offenses only.

    It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to unregulated, criminal entrepreneurs and allow states the authority to enact common sense regulations that seek to govern the adult use of marijuana in a fashion similar to alcohol.

    In Bennett’s own words, “We have an illegal drug abuse epidemic in this country.” How is such a conclusion anything but a scathing indictment of the present policy? After 70 years of failure it is time for an alternative approach. The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011″ is an ideal first step.

    Editor’s note: Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML , the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and is the co-author of the book “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” (2009, Chelsea Green).

    93 Responses to “Confronted and Owned: Anti-Marijuana Zealot Bill Bennett”

    1. rich says:

      FORGET ABOUT ALL THIS RULES AND REGULATIONS.. WHATS GOING TO HAPPEN IS BUYING FROM PEOPLE ON THE STREETS AGAIN. ITS EXTREMELY DUMB THAT OUR STUPID GOVERNMENT WANTS TO PUT ALL THIS STUPID RULES AND REGULATIONS, WE DON’T HAVE TO FOLLOW THEM, THERE’S MANY PEOPLE THAT GROW AT HOME AND WILL BE MORE THAN HAPPY TO SELL THEIR PRODUCT OUT OF THEIR HOUSE AND GIVE THE RULES THE FINGER. i WILL RATHER BUY ON THE STREETS THAN TO LISTEN TO ALL THIS IGNORANT POLITICIANS.BEING NARROW MINDED AND IGNORANT IS GOING TO MAKE THIS INDUSTRY GO BACK TO THE STREETS AND NO MORE TAX MONEY FOR COLORADO. STUPID POLITICIANS RUIN EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING…. BUY FROM THE STREETS DON’T SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT RULES!!!!!!

    2. SteveTweak says:

      Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, should be made to spend a day in the life of someone that needs cannabis to make it through a day.And for that matter all the pin heads that think the current policies are working or have ever worked!FFS people wake up ! Stop believing and perpetuating the LIES!

    3. Devin Derrickson says:

      Just legalize the shit and get it over with. Lobbyist for pharma companies are making this a big deal to maintain big bucks.

    4. Ben says:

      Nice editor’s note.

    5. fishcreekbob says:

      Can you say treasoneous bastard.

    6. JJ says:

      I saw when Bennett first published the op-ed on CNN. I was both infuriated with CNN and disappointed with the media in general. Look around, how is marijuana reform being received by the media? It appears to anyone compelled to follow the issue throughout the various media outlets, that marijuana is coldly received by the media. Sure there are debates here and there on TV programs, but when it comes to visiting CNN, USA Today, MNSBC, etc. it all seems to be a side-show of sorts. We need to make the media more aware of our passion and our movement and restore the context of logic and rationale when discussing marijuana reform.

    7. Joel: the other Joel says:

      [“Does Bill Bennett believe that state and local governments cannot be trusted with making such decisions on their own?”]
      ——————–

      Nixon, who created the DEA, didn’t even trust the FBI to carry out his own personal war on U.S.citizens.

      Bring on the HR 2306!

    8. Spuds says:

      While I appreciate the article, your characterization of Bill Bennett, proudly displayed at the top, does little to help you seem legitimate.

      I’m pretty disappointed.

      [Editor’s note: The truth hurts. Bennett profits mightily from his self-appointment as the king of virtue, when he is more like the king of vice. Should cannabis consumers and victims of the Cannabis Prohibition laws Bill Bennett is so famous for championing for decades feel about calling him out as a big fat hypocrite?

      How many otherwise taxpaying paying Americans have suffered because of bloviators like Bennett wanting to maintain the failed and expensive policy of arresting cannabis consumers?

      Why pretend to be civil any longer to a hypocritical moralist who would have you as a cannabis consumer get violently busted and to crawl into a cage, make you piss in a cup for a job, take your home and children away by government fiat while he chain smokes, drinks America’s most dangerous drug and twitches to go blow the family milk money on video poker.

      Why?

      Why should cannabis consumers and the victims of 74 years of Cannabis Prohibition continue to cede one iota of respect or deference to this man and his zeal to treat cannabis consumers like third rate citizens who he deems as criminal deviants?]

    9. The American Genesist says:

      “Bill Bennett is an insufferable and overweight hypocrite who smoked or still smokes tobacco, drank or still drinks alcohol and has a gambling addiction!”

      This is exactly what I said – “Everyone has bones in their closet.” If the American public becomes the paparazzi of these hypercrites will die on the vine.

    10. Relax, prohibition will end just as long as leaders like Ron Paul and Barney Frank keep pushing for reform. Nothing happens over night and slow progress isn’t sptopping you from getting high, not really.

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