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Will Washington Post Sale Help End Marijuana Prohibition?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director August 7, 2013

    Washington, DC: I jumped into a cab Monday afternoon at the airport at the top of the hour, when the all-news radio station led with an almost hysterical-in-tone news flash of the Washington Post being sold to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. While most of established Washington and media circles rightly buzz about this cataclysmic change in ownership…my mind has raced for nearly 48 hours thinking back to the PROFOUND influence the Washington Post has had in in maintaining cannabis prohibition—acting at times barely more than a government organ; a ‘rip-n-read’ anti-pot propaganda machine.

    Call it professional pique, intellectual disgust or adopted hometown embarrassment after twenty-three years of reading Washington, DC’s ‘paper of record’ and the nation’s “premiere” political digests in regards to most everything having to do with cannabis:

    Activism (one time the Washington Post compared 10,000 cannabis activists gathered in DC to protest prohibition laws to UFO enthusiasts…instead of listening to concerned citizens about a failed government policy like cannabis prohibition, the ‘activists’ The Post has largely focused on are faux activists that work for government agencies or their chosen grant recipients; CADCA, CASA, PDFA, PRIDE (which is now NFIA) and DARE*)

    Science (The Post has almost exclusively relied upon federal anti-drug agencies like NIDA, SAMHSA and IOM for its cannabis-related information, who’re as bias against cannabis as NORML is for the herb)

    Culture (movies, TV shows, songs, books, magazines, musical and comedic acts who dabbled in cannabis-related theming were generally panned and mocked as being culturally irrelevant)

    Politics (pre-Marcus Brauchli, The Post’s editor from 2008-2012, the paper’s coverage of local, state, federal and international was decidedly statist and prohibitionist)

    Economics (despite near ubiquity of opinion within economic circles that cannabis prohibition is an economic failure, The Post historically cast economists who identify such obvious failings as ‘libertarian’, as if this were a pejorative)

    Race (skewed through the prism of upper-middle class African American editors and columnists from early 1980s until more recent years with their retirements, many of whom reached national prominence [Carl Rowan, Bill Raspberry and Colby King immediately come to mind], The Post cast cannabis as the precursor to most all things bad in the DC black community from heroin use in the 1970s, to cocaine in the 80s, to crack in the early 90s, to ecstasy in the late 90s….to gun violence, gang banging, teen pregnancy, underperforming schools, rap music, high rates of arrest and incarceration and broken families. So wanton to cast this narrative, The Post first won and then had to give back a Pulitzer prize for a writer making up a drug-addicted young boy in a totally fabricated narrative)

    Opinion-making (from about 1977-2008 the Washington Post’s editorial board and the widely read ‘commentary’ section was mainstream media central’s feeding trough for some of the most institutionalized Reefer Madness imaginable. A steady diet of mindless, fact-challenged and intellectually dishonest op-eds could be counted on bi-weekly from wild-eyed anti-cannabis professionals like Joseph Califano, William Bennett, John Walters, Peter Bensinger, Robert DuPont and whoever the ‘drug czar’ du jour. Conversely, one of the most prolific and syndicated columnists of the last forty years, William F. Buckley, The Post rarely ran any one of the dozens of pro-cannabis law reform columns he penned, often critical of the men mentioned above for their words and deeds vis-à-vis their continued support for cannabis prohibition, but for no sane, logical reasons or well reasoned reasons. In the early 1990s NORML director Richard Cowan contacted then managing editor Robert Kaiser, a classmate of his from Yale, imploring the two men to meet and discuss The Post’s news and editorial coverage of cannabis. Mr. Kaiser, while responsive to the letters, was not at all inclined to meet with a group like NORML and didn’t think anything wrong with The Post’s coverage and choice of ‘experts’ to broadcast to the reading audience…)

    *Conduit of government (…to Mr. Kaiser’s insistence to Mr. Cowan that The Post was objective re cannabis, it was not long after that I came to understand how bias The Post, under the Graham family, was to cannabis when they employed a respected essayist who leans libertarian in his writings named James Bovard to write a profile in 1994 on what was then the controversial DARE program, and more specifically on children who were encouraged and even taught by visiting DARE officers on how to turn their parents in for cannabis and other drug use. Many of these DARE cases were first vetted through NORML and forwarded to national and state media outlets, so Mr. Bovard had plenty of material fodder to cull through for his Post piece.

    Apparently troubled by the tone and light cast on the DARE program in Mr. Bovard’s well written and compelling guest column, Post editors and lawyers intervened three days before publication without informing Bovard, sent the story to DARE lawyers to review, the column was then substantively edited and items added by Post editors that were not from Bovard’s original reportage, amazingly, some of the information was libelous in the minds of a family in Georgia mentioned, who filed a lawsuit against The Post.

    I called the Washington Post and spoke to the legal counsel about the Post’s actions, and she informed me when I inquired with her whether or not from that point forward as a daily Washington Post reader should I believe that the words written by a columnist/guest writer are in fact their own, her reply was, in effect, ‘they might write them, but we print them, so, the answer to your question is “no”’. Believing her, from that point forward, I have never read The Post fully confident at all that I’m reading the writers’ work more than the viewpoints of the editors and owners.

    Indeed, on the rare occasion, probably to lend to the appearance of being balanced, The Post would publish a pro-reform essay from Drug Policy Alliance’s Ethan Nadelmann, Harvard’s Lester Grinspoon or ACLU’s Ira Glasser; or their less read ‘Foreign’ section would occasionally publish a field report from a Post reporter about what they were witnessing in Amsterdam, for example.)

    The big question:Does having an all-controlling family who largely hire statist editors and lawyers, with a former District of Columbia police officer in the ownership ranks, running the national capital’s major newspaper ceding the sale of the property to an apparently libertarian-leaning west coast, high tech billionaire located in a pro-cannabis city, in a state where the citizens have propelled the state to the vanguard of ending cannabis prohibition by voting last year to legalize the possession and sale of cannabis for adults have a MAJOR impact on the future and rapidity of cannabis law reforms in America—but maybe most importantly on Washington, D.C. and the federal government that created cannabis prohibition in 1937, has maintained it viciously and without remorse, ultimately the entity that can best end this nearly seventy-five year public policy, free market debacle?

    The big answer: I dunno.

    But, wow, I sure hope so.

    Really, think about it. Amazon is the most innovative and largest retailer in the world. When cannabis prohibition ends, and technology securely and safely delivers adult commerce directly to the consumer, what other company (and their much smaller product providers) better stands to benefit from the billions of dollars annually from cannabis moving from being illegal to legal commerce? Who? Costco?? Starbucks? Hmmm…they’re also Washington State-based companies.

    Of the many hundreds of thousands of items in NORML’s large archives about the history of cannabis prohibition, the day the Washington Post was sold from the Graham family to Jeffrey Bezos may indicate major epoch change in America’s intellectual and business society from one of enthusiastically embracing cannabis prohibition to possibly challenging its continued existence to profiting from the needed change in policy.

    Talk about doing well at the same time as good! Something tells me that one day I’ll look forward to morning read of my Bezos-owned Washington Post–questioning failed government policies rather than being a lapdog for them–and probably enjoying some home-delivered Amazon cannabis too.

     

    21 Responses to “Will Washington Post Sale Help End Marijuana Prohibition?”

    1. We are already there…the population of the ‘howdy doody’ George Bush love’n right wing whacko religious hypocritical zealots have been marginalized behind their gerrymandered pure white bread US House of Representatives political districts. That’s where they have hid, that is where they will opine for the return of their prosperity. In the interim, we seize the day. Witness the demographic break down of the March Pew Center report. Boomers are 50/50 split when ask’d if we should support ‘recreational’ Med Mj…whereas support from the ‘Silents’ is on the wane. Bezos and his Amazon machine gross’ d $61 B in revenues USD in 2012. He spent $250 million USD to purchase the Washington Post. Do the math. How best does he ‘kindle’ a now enhanced Amazon experience? By backing Med Mj? Possibly. But, shoudn’t we be trying to re-embrace the ‘howdy doodies’ to back a ‘free choice’ cannabis independence initiative? I think so. Robert Hempaz, PhD Trichometry…Follow me on Twitter @hempaz

    2. Douglas says:

      Now this is what I love to read. Two thumes up.A very greay and powerfull articl

    3. Judy says:

      Thank you for this inspiring article. It never occurred to me what a negative influence the Post has been to the lives of people who just want to be left alone to live in peace! I share your enthusiasm that Mr. Bezos will be a much better steward of the responsibility that goes with owning such a major newspaper.

    4. TheOracle says:

      The big question’s answer is something we’ll all be watching. Facebook and Twitter dudes had their opportunities to do something pro-cannabs and did NOT. What’s Bezo’s take on legalizing cannabis? He’s for same-sex marriage, I read. Is he working in tandem with Jaymen Shively?

      Let’s say Bezos does change the Post’s tune to a pro-cannabis harmony. We got a do-nothing Congress and a do-nothing Administration in all matters having to do with legalizing cannabis. Son burros. They’re stupid. They’re burros. You’d think the polls supporting the feds not interfering in states having their own MMJ and/or recreational & industrial regulation and the actual pro-cannabis scientific evidence would tip the scales of the cannabis balance in favor of legalization and sway more of these goofballs in D.C. Precious few of them are statesmen rather than goofs.

    5. St. Nick and Dime says:

      It appears as though those who worked for the post were backwards-thinking dolts who would believe the sky is green if the US government said so. I didn’t know this post was stuck in the 50s. They probably think slavery is a good way to save money. I will never buy their joke of a news organization’s paper because propaganda is not fact. These people obviously don’t feel good at all and want to drag as many down with them as they can. I’ll wipe my ass with the washington post unless they start right thinking and acting.

    6. snapu23 says:

      Oh, come on! It’s foolish to think that the Washington Post sale will end marijuana prohibition. However, it could aid towards that end.

      Look, as a long-time District resident, I’m sick and tired of seeing a liquor store on every corner, but yet, there’s no weed or at least there is weed, but you have to be in the “know” to get it. I have no issues with alcohol, but when marijuana, that has yet to cause a death is so hard to get while alcohol, that causes thousands of deaths every year, is everywhere you go in DC, I get pissed. Not to mention that marijuana actually helps my Big Pharma medication in treating atypical depression, I get even more pissed.

      I hope this recent sale of the Washington Post helps. However, in the meantime, I’m still considering a move to either to Colorado or Washington state.

      Despite the fact that the vast majority of the District’s residents are liberal, the city itself is still slow to change (thanks to the influence and power of the national US government). I fully realize this, but there are days when the world outside of the Capital Beltway seems so much better than what’s going on within it.

    7. xDIRTYSOUTHx says:

      I love Amazon and I love weed.

      BRING ON THE AMAZON PRIME OG KUSH!

    8. Somedood says:

      What’s a newspaper? Oh yea… They keep those at those museum libraries right?

    9. If Texas would decriminalize even slightly, it would have a major impact on America’s psyche. Texas, like some other states struggling to legalize, such as New York, does not have a referendum or initiative process. This makes it very difficult for the residents to have an impact on the laws which govern them.

      Currently, 28% of Texas residents are over the age of 50. That is a large population from which a portion could benefit from medical cannabis. Also, sadly the suicide rate in Texas is highest among those over the age of 55. Cannabis may be able to help prevent some of those suicides.

      Texas could also strongly benefit from hemp farming which would be used to reduce erosion. Considering Texas’s unique geography and legal history, it may have more success in farming even without Federal approval.

      My heart goes out to the parents of this story. May their daughter’s story help prevent this from happening to other children.

    10. 2buds says:

      Allen, it’s obvious your angst toward the paper’s “previous administration” has been festering for awhile. Go ahead – tell us how you really feel. So the question hangs there still – How does Jeff Bezos feel about Cannabis and Cannabis reform? And who will rush to do the first interview? How much will his stand on issues influence the direction taken by this “locomotive force” that is the Post?

    11. julian says:

      Fascinating timing. The post goes under the same day that the DEA’s evidence fabrication program, code named SOD is leaked out. Then Attorney General Eric Holder mentions “unintended consequences of the drug war” and proposes to let “non violent offenders go” from our overcrowded prisons? Did the planet finally reverse polarity? Are we in Common Sense world yet?
      We all knew print publication has been losing classified money to the internet like bleeding giants. But I can’t help but notice the fall of the Graham dynasty happens weeks after the announcement that NIDA, NIFA (and long since DARE) have not only been stripped of federal funding but private advertising won’t even touch an anti drug propoganda because kids today flip the channel faster than you can say “DARE.”
      Then the Danny Chong settlement hits the front pages at the same time Uruguay leaglizes cannabis? Do I “DARE” ask how the Post covered THOSE stories?

      [Editor's note: Washington Post's webpage covered both the Chong settlement and Uruguay legislation for legalization. Generally speaking, circa 2008, The Washington Post drifted from being obviously anti-cannabis to reasonably 'neutral'. As noted in the blog post, only after a change of editors occurred in 2008, where a decidedly younger and more urbane editor assumed the reins, did the anti-cannabis bias abate.

      In some ways this is very consistent within the dynamics of demographical changes of American views regarding cannabis and law reform itself--the younger the person, the more supportive.

      Mr. Bezos is forty-eight years old and reportedly leans libertarian. The combination would seem to bode well for the future.]

    12. Miles says:

      I feel very positive about Mr. Bezos acquisition of the Post. He has allowed the sales of many marijuana related products on Amazon such as growing books, DVDs, and supplies. I am pretty sure he does not share the close-minded opinions of the previous owner!

    13. Warren Osborn says:

      The Fascist Right is not down and out just yet. Oklahoma Congressman Tom Coburn told me he refuses to support legalizing industrial hemp because the DEA told him a person can get high on .03% THC that might be found in hemp. I suspect we will not have full legalization until pigs like Coburn and Lamar Smith of Texas are dead and gone. These NAZIs don’t give a damn what WE THE FUCKING PEOPLE think.

    14. Old Hippie says:

      Wow, this is exactly what I immediately thought too when I heard about this. I don’t know anything of Jeff Bezos and his personal politics, but he can hardly have failed to notice what’s happened in Washington State lately, and being a businessman, he knows legalization is coming down the pike!

    15. HmmmSaysDavidHune says:

      While its easy to be hopeful about what may come under new management, it’s also important to know that Washington reporters who hope to retain access to power players on The Hill, The Whitehouse or elsewhere in DC must pay fealty to the one who bring ‘em. Generally, that means if the editorial staff wants you to write a piece a certain way, you do.

      And a capitalist is a capitalist. Yes, Jeff Bezos is a brilliant, fabulously innovative entrepreneur and has made a real ‘dent in the world’. But make no mistake, $250M for a newspaper in decline won’t be about editorial neutrality, libertarianism, conservatism or for that matter humanitarianism. No, it will be about transitioning to digital content in a Kindled format, from a pay-walled effort to bring the publication back to being read by the masses.

      I’m not saying there won’t be journalistic integrity, support, opposition or neutrality towards cannabis, or for that matter a continuation of the status quo. What I am saying is that the culture of the paper, and the incentives already in place at the journalist, editor and owner levels remain unchanged. And there are countless issues and topics to cover in a news day. Cannabis is no more likely to be at the forefront in the coming months than it was prior to the sale, excepting of course real developments by the citizenry or the politicians.

      And politics is, always has been and always will be about the seizure and wielding of power. Nothing more.

    16. charles shearer says:

      where is the best place to visit in washington ?

    17. Vape Forest says:

      Should be interesting to see what this changer in ownership brings. Perhaps the Washington Post will begin working towards legalization. Wouldn’t that be nice?

    18. DisbeliefInWisconsin says:

      Coming from a state that when others are fighting for legalization, wisconsin is looking to actually increase penalties on MJ possession, I agree with snapu23 I’m ready to jump the border to Michigan next month(for me this is only 5 miles east. I can fish on wisconsin side of the river and literally watch my friends legally medicate on the Michigan side of the river. What happened to all men are created equal?) I have no faith in our government. But if something as simple as a newspaper column can finally get the ball rolling, hey I’m all for it. But after reading all the posts, one question still remains, What is Bezos opinion and is he willing to help?

    19. Julian says:

      This is your brain: (A fried egg)
      This is your brain on:
      NORML.org (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Law)
      Drug Policy Alliance
      mpp.com (Marijuana Policy Project)
      LEAP.cc (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)
      votehemp.com
      hempcar.org
      (An egg hatching… )
      …Any questions

    20. danny says:

      Graham lumber ring a bell? Might explain why the post is one sided

    21. I hope some states will have a uniform policy about this stuff so people will not be confuse in visiting to other states especially about this marijuana thing.

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