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.
The 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference is fast approaching. For three days from October 23rd through October 26th attendees will have the opportunity to interact with people committed to finding alternatives to the war on drugs while participating in sessions given by leading experts from around the world. This year’s conference is taking place in Denver, Colorado, where the drug policy reform landscape has just recently changed dramatically. In 2011, the conference hosted over 1,000 people representing 30 different countries. We wish to continue this stellar record of attendance and are pleased to offer scholarship assistance to allow a diverse group of people to participate.
We encourage you to attend the conference and have included the link to information about the National and International Scholarship applications here. Please be aware that although generous, our scholarships do not cover the full cost of attending the Conference. The deadline to apply for scholarships if you are from the US is August 2, for international attendees it is July 31.
Numerous NORML staff, board members and chapter leaders will be in attendance for this important bi-annual drug policy reform conference…hope to see you there too!
Allen St. Pierre
Our friends at High Times scored a really provocative and informative interview with Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, where Mr. Fox demonstrates both a wide range of knowledge about the need for countries like America and Mexico to end cannabis prohibition and forward-looking vision about the need for regulation and tax laws similar to alcohol products.
Mr. Obama and company, when your own Partnership for a Drug-Free [sic] America is left little-to-do but inane surveys indicating that American parents do not want cannabis marketed to their children when it is legal and the former president of the country where America’s failed war on some drugs has caused the most social upheaval, street violence, political and law enforcement corruption…maybe you should start listening and acting upon their recommendations.
The so-called Partnership for a Drug-Free [sic] America (PDFA) has been a prolific, yet impotent, anti-marijuana propaganda machine since its inception in the mid 1980’s under President Ronald ‘Just Say No’ Reagan. No other quasi governmental or private entity spent more money or had greater access to mainstream media to try to perpetuate the federal government’s failed cannabis prohibition. Only the now unpopular and underfunded DARE program rivaled PDFA in it’s high visibility efforts to maintain support among the American populace for cannabis prohibition–but was equally feckless–wasting billions in taxpayer dollars and not impacting youth drug use rates.
Both DARE and PDFA were largely ignored and underfunded by the George W. Bush Administration from 2000-2008, with the current administration continuing to follow suit by diminishing the size and scope of both’s finances and public reach.
After the PDFA released a new survey today, with media outlets starting to contact NORML for commentary, only then did it become clear to me that the beginning of the end is die in the cast for PDFA when they chose to put out a survey that in effect says ‘marijuana legalization is coming, but only for adults’.
Really?! PDFA needed to waste even more funding and bandwidth informing the public that support for cannabis legalization for adults is at an all time high, but that parents surveyed don’t think the herbal drug should be legalized for youth or marketed to children.
Gee. Was there anybody in America advocating that children should be able to legally buy and use cannabis products?
While the PFDA’s most recent survey seeks to create a political red herring about children and cannabis, the survey affirms the now obvious in American life: public support for continuing cannabis prohibition is at an all time low and tax-n-regulating cannabis is an alternative public policy that now enjoys majority support.
After watching and archiving hundreds of anti-cannabis propaganda commercials from the PDFA going back to the late 1980s, reading this new survey acknowledging 1) Legalization is quickly picking up public and political support in America, 2) Americans want a sensible cannabis policy, where, like with alcohol products, only adults have legal and controlled access and 3) Parents have concerns about potential cannabis advertisements in mass media demonstrates to me that another major socio-political ‘tea leaf” has revealed itself with the PDFA now left to propagandize about if and how legal cannabis will marketed, not whether cannabis is an inherently ‘evil’ drug that will forever be prohibited.
With even the hardcore anti-cannabis folks at PDFA now recognizing the changing attitudes about cannabis in favor of legalization, when will Congress and the White House finally embrace this political reality too?
At a meeting with drug reform advocates in San Francisco, former Mexican President Fox expressed support for California’s efforts to legally regulate cannabis, medical and otherwise. He said that California has a strong cultural influence on Mexico, and that progress here would help efforts there.
Speakers included Dale Sky Jones for CCPR, Nate Bradley for LEAP and myself for California NORML, who noted that marijuana prohibition is an international problem founded on international treaties, which need to be fixed through international cooperation by the U.S., Mexico, and other countries. Many thanks to President Fox, Jamen Shively, and Steve DeAngelo for arranging this meeting. – Dale Gieringer, CA NORML
Former Mexican president Fox urges marijuana legalizationSource: Reuters – Tue, 9 Jul 2013 12:40 AM
By Ronnie Cohen
SAN FRANCISCO, July 8 (Reuters) – Former Mexican President Vicente Fox took his crusade to legalize marijuana to San Francisco on Monday, joining pot advocates to urge the United States and his own country to decriminalize the sale and recreational use of cannabis.
Fox met for three hours with the advocates, including Steve DeAngelo, the Oakland-based executive director of California’s largest marijuana dispensary, and former Microsoft executive Jamen Shively, who hopes to create a Seattle-based pot brand now that Washington state has legalized recreational use.
Legalization, Fox told reporters after the meeting, is the only way to end the violence of Mexican drug cartels, which he blamed on America’s war on drugs.
“The cost of the war is becoming unbearable – too high for Mexico, for Latin America and for the rest of the world,” Fox said in English.
Every day, he said, 40 young people are killed in drug-related violence.
Fox’s position on legalizing drugs has evolved over time since the days when he cooperated with U.S. efforts to tamp down production in Mexico during his 2000-2006 presidential term. He has been increasingly vocal in his opposition to current policies, backing two prior efforts to legalize marijuana in Mexico.
Mexico’s current president, Enrique Pena Nieto, has opposed legalization. But he recently said that he would consider world opinion on the matter, particularly in light of recent voter-approved initiatives to legalize marijuana in Washington state and Colorado for recreational use.
In San Francisco on Monday, Fox said he had signed on to attend and help develop an international summit later this month in Mexico to strategize a path to end marijuana prohibition.
Participants scheduled to attend the three-day meeting starting July 18 in San Cristobal include an American surgeon, the dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health and a Mexican congressman who plans to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in Mexico this summer, Fox said.
The bill, which he expects to be introduced by Mexican lawmaker Fernando Belaunzaran, would legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, Fox said.
Support for legalizing marijuana in the United States has been growing. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws, according to the pro-legalization National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. But the drug remains illegal under federal law.
Lifting the prohibition on cannabis in Mexico, however, appears to face more of an uphill battle. Mexican lawmakers have rejected previous legalization efforts and polls have shown little popular support for the idea.
But Fox promised to wage what he said was a necessary battle.
“We cannot afford more blood and the loss of more young people,” Fox said. “We must get out of the trap we are in.” (Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Walsh)