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Reefer Madness 2.0: Over-Regulation

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel May 9, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xFrom Prohibition to Over-Regulation

    There was a time, not so long ago, when the most vocal supporters of prohibition did their best to explain why they felt the criminal prohibition of marijuana was justified, exaggerating the potential dangers of marijuana smoking and claiming the sky would fall if we stopped treating marijuana smokers as criminals. Adolescent marijuana use would skyrocket; millions of stoned drivers would suddenly be unleashed on the nation’s roads, putting all Americans at risk; and smokers would stay home all day getting stoned and eating junk food, instead of supporting their families.

    But as more and more Americans experimented with marijuana, they, along with their family and friends, discovered those dire warnings were pure bunk and support for legalizing marijuana continued to increase. Today, close to 60% of the public supports full legalization, regardless of why one smokes.

    Reefer Madness 2.0

    Our opponents could see the writing on the wall. Their continued support for prohibition was falling on deaf ears, so these self-appointed “experts” decided on a policy of acknowledging prohibition has been a failed public policy, even while raising new concerns to slow down the inevitable.

    Today we find our political opponents raising “big marijuana,” a term they coined to demonize this new industry, as the new boogeyman from which they want to protect the helpless and misguided American public. Marijuana itself now is not so bad after all, but apparently the need to protect the young, and those who, left to their own devices, might smoke more frequently than these moral referees would like, justify regulating the industry as if we were dealing with nuclear waste, not marijuana.

    According to this new version of “reefer madness,” legal marijuana must be highly taxed to discourage use and maintain high black-market prices. It must only be marketed by small, non-profit producers, or state-licensed stores, who presumably would not seek to maximize the potential profits from selling marijuana to the extent that “big marijuana” would do.

    These “reefer madness 2.0” folks want regulations (legal marijuana at the state level is already one of the most heavily regulated industries in America) banning advertising (ignoring the Constitutionally protected commercial free-speech rights); limiting the frequency that consumers can purchase marijuana and the amount they can buy; imposing excessive taxes based on the level of THC; and otherwise using every option short of criminal penalties to discourage marijuana smoking by adults.

    In other words, they want to create a “nanny state” for marijuana regulation. Opponents to legalization apparently believe they can convince a majority of Americans that the economic system we have always enjoyed in this country should not apply to the marijuana market.

    Just a Stalling Tactic

    Of course, none of this is an honest, straightforward position. These are the same people who praised prohibition, and claimed it was working, until that opinion became massively unpopular. It is a strategy intended to slow the inevitable progress towards legalization across the country, and to further extend prohibition, despite the public opposition to it, while these “experts” tell us how the marijuana market should be regulated.

    It is simply a stalling maneuver.

    The leader of this new opposition is Kevin Sabet, a former staffer at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), who, along with former Congressman (and self-acknowledged prescription drug abuser) Patrick Kennedy, formed Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) in response to the legalization initiatives adopted in Colorado and Washington in 2012. Their stated purpose is to protect all of us from the dangers presented by this new industry.

    According to Saber, “We’re opening the doors to allowing a new, powerful industry to downplay the effects of a substance they will be profiting off of and to downplay the effects of addiction … Big Tobacco was a disaster for our country in terms of the marketing machine that was activated while the government looked the other way for a century,” he says. “Do we want to repeat that with yet another substance? And one that in fact, unlike tobacco, produces intoxication and therefore leads to car crashes, workplace accidents, school dropouts and mental illness?”

    “This is deep in my veins,” says Sabet, acknowledging his zealotry. “I feel like it is my calling.” Perhaps more accurately, it is his attempt to continue to get rich off the backs of marijuana smokers.

    Another supposed new convert to ending prohibition (“At some point you have to say, a law that people don’t obey is a bad law.”) but who wants to treat marijuana like some contagious disease that threatens the public health, is Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University, who has argued for the “grudging tolerance” of marijuana. Like Sabet, Kleiman is another consultant who gets rich warning of the dangers of marijuana and advocating for extraordinary regulations for the industry, even as he concedes prohibition has been a failure.

    According to Kleiman, this would be his perfect system: “If you want to buy (marijuana), you should sign up as a buyer, you should probably take some kind of minimal test like a driving test to make sure you know what you’re talking about and then you should be asked to set for yourself a purchase quota on, say, a monthly basis. How many joint-equivalents a month do you want to use? Give us a number. Every time you make a purchase, that purchase will be recorded against that quota. And if you bought as much this month as you said you wanted to be able to buy this month, the clerk will say “I’m sorry the order was refused.”

    Somewhat ironic that these individuals who make their living from marijuana prohibition would themselves complain that others might make their living off of legal marijuana. And at a time when most Americans complain about “big government” interfering with the rights of the individual in all manner of ways, it is strange indeed to hear this discord from those who look to “big government” to protect us from ourselves.

    Sometimes it is those who claim they oppose marijuana prohibition who pose the biggest threat to the establishment of a legalized market that meets the needs of consumers, who want a high-quality product that is safe, convenient and affordable. It is time for these “do-gooders” to step aside and allow marijuana legalization to flourish in America.

    Those of us who smoke marijuana can manage for ourselves; we do not need their “help”.

    Read more http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2016/05/reefer-madness-2-0-over-regulation/

    32 Responses to “Reefer Madness 2.0: Over-Regulation”

    1. Todd says:

      Quotes from Nancy “Just Say No” Reagan’s husband:

      “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.”
      ? Ronald Reagan

      “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
      ? Ronald Reagan

      “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
      ? Ronald Reagan

      • Anonymous says:

        I used to get high with a lot of people who would use those quotes to convince me to vote Republican. I on the other hand heard:
        “Marijuana is probably the most dangerous drug in the United States today” and this golden oldie ““I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast.”
        I guess people hear what they want to hear, which would explain a lot.

      • Galileo Galilei says:

        You didn’t see these massive budget deficits that seem inevitable today before Ronald Reagan became President. He routinely ran $100 billion dollar deficits and blamed it on Congress. He presented a balanced budget every year, but made no effort to negotiate beforehand to deliver something that might even be considered.

      • Dave Evans says:

        The idiot was talking about himself. That is the craziest part of the whole thing.

        ““The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Is exactly what every prohibitionist says. “I’m here to waste your money and I’m here to insist the government over reaches, stomps some rights and takes a piss on the Constitution.”

        The lesson is, “We should be what we despise the most”. Freedom loving Nixon wanted to emulate China’s ability to lock up its citizens for non-crimes, so he emulated the people he was supposed to protect us from… What is with these moron, corrupted “Conservatives”?

    2. St. Nick 'n' Dime says:

      These people have never tried it and don’t know of anything they’re talking about. Expect these fake people to do everything in their power to throw a monkey wrench in and try to mess up what people want any way they can. These people are losers with nothing better to do. Ignore them and continue with our righteous mission.

      I heard somebody in the 50s or 60s, Albert Huxley or someone, said, “taking psychedelics is like driving to the top of the mountain instead of climbing.” Some people cannot climb mountains. Sometimes driving is the only way. Keep overcoming these annoying fake losers. Their time is past.

    3. Julian says:

      Excellent article as usual Keith.

      I just have to correct this insufferable quote from Sabet;
      “…And one that in fact, unlike tobacco, produces intoxication and therefore leads to car crashes, workplace accidents, school dropouts and mental illness?”
      1). Marijuana is not an intoxicant, it is nourishment with a psychoactive ingredient, THC, from which one cannot even overdose. Alcohol and Nicotine are intoxicants, because they can kill in large quantities.
      2). “Car crashes?” …Sabet means the ones where alcohol was involved, right?
      3). School “drop outs” and “mental illness..” Aaaah, Sabet, you must be talking to yourself, Senator Sessions and a few private prison owners. You know, you don’t have to pay to publish, you can just rent a conference room in some secret underground lair with Dr. Evil and call it a day?

      And to quote Keith;

      And at a time when most Americans complain about “big government” interfering with the rights of the individual in all manner of ways, it is strange indeed to hear this discord from those who look to “big government” to protect us from ourselves.”

      …It is this, the principle of the federal government “telling us what to do,” that fundementally cuts ties from people like Sabet who advocate a nanny-state for marijuana from real conservative voters that don’t have investments in Big Pharma, private “treatment” or “drug testing” centers or Sherriff’s Associations.

    4. Rod is on the gas says:

      The “overregulation” issue is entirely to blame on the legalization faction.

      As you said “marijuana itself isn’t so bad”

      The worst element is the creation of taxation regulations BEFORE we even decriminalize possession. Talk about silly priorities. No wonder smokers pulled back. Legalization is a profit oriented group of “do-badders”

      Here in California I’ll vote for AUMA, but I won’t campaign for it’s election. It’s more bad law. It turns me into a new type of criminal. I’ve been a peaceful homegrower for 45 years. My product is already the safest, most convenient, affordable possible.

      Finding fault and labeling me and a million other folks as “do-gooders” simply because we don’t agree with the need of growing more and bigger government, was dumb.

      [Editor’s note: “Legalization faction”? In other words the people and organizations actually doing the hard work of legalization (as compared to say just growing ganja and wanting no regulations to do so)?

      Yah, they suck. Worse people on the planet!

      “I’ve been a peaceful homegrower for 45 years.”

      What you’ve been, unfortunately, is a criminal for 45 years…thanks to prohibition. Maybe CA voters will finally be as smart as the voters in four other states, maybe the state where the most illegal cannabis is grown, sold and consumed will vote to end prohibition rather than maintain the status quo, allowing the local/state governments to keep harassing and abusing them (and, maybe of equal importance, shutting a legal window for federal law enforcement intervention in the country’s cannabis ‘bread basket’ that is otherwise generally shut where state voters take control of their own cannabis commerce destiny rather than still be content with the status quo of ‘cops vs robbers’).

      The best guard against over regulation are cannabis consumers and the cannabis industry working together, with like-minded elected policy makers, seeking the self-evidently difficult balancing act between personal freedom, commerce and public safety.

      Cannabis is a mild herbal drug. When grown and sold for profit there is and should be taxes and regulations on the grower, seller and consumer. Most of those laws and taxes will be state and locally derived. Soon, though not soon enough, the federal government will exert its due influence on cannabis commerce by creating and implementing a series of regulations and taxes (likely excise taxes on producers and distributors).]

      • Anonymous says:

        OK, OK, legalization function rather than faction, feel better? It’s not personal, it’s a keen observation based on reality. The function is unleashing a tsunami of regulations.

        CA voters will one day repeal prohibition precisely because AUMA doesn’t do the job. You should stop stating that AUMA ends prohibition. It legitimizes excess taxation and the unnecessary growth of government.

        It’s basic insanity to attempt to appease the prohibitionists by allowing them to make the regulations. They are nobody. Us cannabis consumers are the leaders here and demand to author the repeal.

        [Editor’s note: A wave of regulation? You must be referring to the already passed MMRSA…if enforced, the winnowing of unregulated ‘medical’ cannabis operations will have begun long before the implementation of a passed AUMA. CA legislators have it in for the industry, not the voters or pro-legalization groups.

        >You should stop stating that AUMA ends prohibition.

        Get a grip on reality, AUMA ends cannabis prohibition in CA. Period.

        You should most certainly stop wasting your’s and NORML’s time trying to propagandize on a pro-legalization webpage that ending cannabis prohibition does not end cannabis prohibition!

        Back in 2012 and again in 2014, a couple of malcontents/perfectionists tried to make the same absurd claims on NORML’s webpage…and the results after CO/WA and then OR/AK voters chucked pot prohibition is cannabis liberation for all adults over 21, arrests have plummeted for possession over 98%, hundreds of millions in taxes are now coming in, cannabis employees and entrepreneurs are legit, law enforcement can focus on real crime, etc…voting to end cannabis prohibition ends cannabis prohibition.]

        • John Thomas says:

          These prohibition mouth-pieces know marijuana has no significant harms. – They know the only thing harmful about marijuana is the fraudulent prohibition they are so frantic to protect.

          13 years of the chaos of alcohol prohibition created organized crime and corruption so rampant, it nearly brought society to its knees.

          The cancer of marijuana prohibition has metastasized for 80 years. The corruption is so deep, it clearly permeates every level of society.

          Catherine Austin Fitts follows the money to examine the lower part of the iceburg in her article, “Narco Dollars For Beginners.” – She examines the deterioration in our quality of life that resulted from the massive corruption of the near-century-old black-market.

          Vice Journalist Lee Fang gets down to the nitty-gritty of the corruption:

          >>>”Leading academic opponents of pot have ties to the painkiller industry. Dr. A. Eden Evins, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is a frequent critic of efforts to legalize marijuana. She is on the board of an anti-marijuana advocacy group, Project SAM… as of November 2012, she was a “consultant for Pfizer and DLA Piper and has received grant/research support from Envivo, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer.” Pfizer has moved aggressively into the $7.3 billion painkiller market. In 2011, the company acquired King Pharmaceuticals (the makers of several opioid products) and is currently working to introduce Remoxy, an OxyContin competitor.”

          So much for the moral high ground of pharmaceutical shill, Kevin Sabet, and all the rest of the prohibition “do-gooders.”

          ————*————–

          “The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It’s possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government.”

          – William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995

    5. Mark Mitcham says:

      If Keith is concerned about these guys, then I am taking him seriously.

      But I’m still not quite sure I see the major threat here. Yes, there are still a lot of people who are fully convinced that marijuana is “bad” somehow, and that you are “bad” for smoking it; but they can’t justify it or expain their reasoning, they have no idea why. It’s just “bad.” Well, you just can’t reason with lunatics like that. (And that’s the great thing about legalization: you don’t have to worry about what some judgemental asshole thinks about you anymore! The hell with them!)

      If Sabet and Kennedy are the leaders of the Neo-prohibition movement, Reefer Madness 2.0, then who are their followers? Seriously, does anybody take advice from these people? As far as I know, most people have never heard of Kevin Sabet, or what he represents. The only way I have ever heard about him is, I follow drug reform policy — but most people don’t! I only know of them through drug reform organizations like NORML and MPP, calling them out, as Keith has done here.

      Okay, granted, they are full of shit, and on the wrong side of history, and all that; and it offends one’s sense of fairness that they actually get paid to spout that nonsense. But are they really a threat to the legalization movement?

      If Keith thinks so, I’m not going to disagree; but it appears to me they are just ex-drug warriors on the run, in full retreat. It’s a good tactic if you’re about to get the shit beat out of you: let out a loud battle-cry, then take off running in the opposite direction!!!

      Or am I missing something?

      • John Thomas says:

        I think you are missing something. Primarily, it’s the razor-thin margins by which legalization initiatives win – or lose. – It doesn’t take much of a heavy thumb on the scale to make a crucial difference.

        The average citizen may not know Kevin Sabet’s name, but if they read the news, they see his “work” all the time. – The money and power of the prohibition profiteers, in this case, the pharmaceutical companies, buys access across the whole range of media.

        They even conduct local anti-marijuana campaigns on the state level. Russ Belville did an outstanding job dogging and exposing their tour through Oregon.

        http://radicalruss.com/the-kevin-sabet-oregon-marijuana-education-tour-against-measure-91/

        So, yes, in our struggle that seems to always produce such nail-biting campaigns, propagandists with deep pockets throw up substantial roadblocks and they’re every attack must be countered rigorously.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          Starting to get the picture now. Thank you.
          One could still say they’re in retreat; but they sure haven’t given up, have they? And you’ve very clearly highlighted the mechanism by which they now work: A massive behind the scenes psych-operation, powered by Big Pharma. More subtle than the blatant horseshit they’ve been feeding us for so many years. Hard to combat directly, for the very reason you say: The average citizen isn’t even aware of these people. That’s why I first shrugged at the names of these individuals. Who cares what they think? But it’s not what they think that’s the issue, their kind have always been liars; but it’s their new, subversive strategies that now must be countered.

          • John Thomas says:

            Excellent grasp of the situation! — It’s amazing that the key to understanding government “drug policy” is to THINK BIG, and then, think bigger still!

            Professor Julian Heicklen never smoked or cared about marijuana. But when he retired in 1998, he decided the most important thing he could do was to conduct marijuana smoke-ins at the Gates of Penn State every Thursday for more than a year.

            Of course, he was arrested several times. – When asked why he was doing this, he said:

            “Marijuana is the messenger, not the message. The issue is whether we will live in freedom or in tyranny!”

            • Revolutions child says:

              A question worth repeating when we vote. Vote out all incumbents. Let us stop considering the agendas of the ruling class as reasonable direction necessary to tolerate but rather realistically arrogantly paternalistic elitists with a commodity for sale to the highest bidder. They profit we pay. Party politics is exposed and while they bicker we could all vote for the next guy down on the ballot. Time for cool change. All people have needs that must be met before we will have lasting peace.

    6. john davis says:

      Mid grade Mj is about 10%.It is 100$ an oz., on the streets.Or 800$ a pound.Compare this to Medical Mj at 5000$ a pound.A person can get about 4 or 5 pounds off one plant.A stalk of cotton(one plant) is about 25 cents for a mature plant.One mature plant of MJ can bring 20000$ maybe 25000$.What the feds are doing in no way will affect We the Peoples ability to get Mj, thru the black market. That s the price of control and regulation.Poverty rules. Poverty says that We the People will always seek out the least expensive product we can find.The only way to affect the black market is to allow We the People to grow sell or consume our own MJ. I hope MX does not figure out how to grow Hydro.Sure they can get under 5000$ a pound.

    7. Ruben Jesus Hernandez says:

      AUMA = Over-Regulation

    8. Cat Cassie says:

      That Sabet really has a problem. It’s like he is obsessed in a creepy way. Kennedy is a miserable pain pill junky that wants everybody to feel as awful
      as he does. They remind me of that idiot Preacher Billy Sunday back in the alcohol prohibition days where he would rant and rant about the demon alcohol.

    9. Gurney Halleck says:

      Thank you so much for this perspicacious article that succinctly clarifies the annoying role these drug policy “experts” play in continuing the stigmatization of marijuana and, therefore, its continued prohibition.

      First, Kevin Sabet is an out and out marijuana prohibitionist, and he and his SMART organization are very plain in their intention to prevent marijuana legalization, and so his odious scare mongering about “big marijuana” glaringly comes off as a debate tactic that let’s him drone on when it’s his turn to speak in debates but I don’t believe he really ever wins over anyone who wasn’t already inclined to favor continued prohibition. Still, I give up him some respect in being plain about his intentions.

      No, more sinister than Kevin Sabet are these people: Mark. A.R Kleiman, Jonathan P. Caulkins, and Beau Kilmer, a public policy group focused on drugs that work together. They are marijuana prohibitionists in their bones, but now that public opinion has come to favor legalization, they act resigned to eventual legalization but work tirelessly to implement the “over-regulation” regime the article describes. I said “sinister” because if you think about it an individual on the fence about legalization can quite reasonably decide, based on the arguments by these “experts” as to how legalization should be implemented, that it’s just better to play it safe and vote against legalization.

      Which is why it’s fairly disconcerting that these individuals keep getting airtime in prominent media outlets to give the “expert” opinion on marijuana legalization. Jonathan P. Caulkins a few months ago in a journal article he penned: “It is clear we would all be better off if marijuana did not exist.” And this guy is giving the “expert” opinion to major print news outlet about marijuana legalization (while providing studies and policy suggestions to legislators for how they should approach legalization.)

    10. Julian says:

      Anyone catch the AAA report today on NPR that THC levels can’t prove or test impairment in drivers? “It’s very hard to prove cannabis is responsible for a crash, with a variance of factors at play.”
      -Jake Nelson AAA director of traffic safety

      The NPR report then covers how people in Oregon may now get their marijuana convictions and criminal records expunged! How’s that for a step towards reperations? And reported by Public Radio!

      [Paul Armentano responds: I have a peer-reviewed paper addressing the subject of why proposed per se limits for THC are not evidence-based that I wrote several years ago. The AAA conclusions largely mimic those of my own, and many others, like NHTSA: http://norml.org/pdf_files/per_se_limits_for_cannabis.pdf.

      • Julian says:

        “I’m sorry Mr. Sabet, what were you saying about marijuana and traffic safety? I couldn’t hear you, I was renewing my membership to NORML and AAA…”

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