New York Times
While there is nothing genuinely funny about a seventy-five year prohibition on cannabis that has arrested over 25 million cannabis consumers, making fun of the failed policy never goes out of style, especially when done right, with aplomb, which the NORML staff occasionally highlights on an otherwise serious-minded public policy blog.
While over a week-old it would seem a crime itself not to share this New York Times so-called OpDoc (where videos rather than guest columns are submitted). The Gregory Brothers, a quartet of video artists from Brooklyn, absolutely skew the disparity between American society’s hypocritical legal vs illegal drug paradigm.
They accomplish this by very humorous employment of auto-tune and eye-rolling use of politicians’ own words about the now near universally acknowledged failed war on some drugs.
Check out former Congressman Ron Paul, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey governor Chris Christie (with intentional help from Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes of ‘Jay and Silent Bob’ fame) sing in a way, about a subject matter, they surely didn’t intend t00 when they opened their mouths and spoke the truth about an unpopular public policy (which, ironically, is what elected policymakers are supposed to do in democracies).
You can watch the video here.
Tomorrow’s New York Times will feature a full page advertisement from our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance, acknowledging what a remarkable year it has been for cannabis law reform in the United States, and around the world.
Check out the ad here.
In the wake of the historic votes for marijuana law reform on November 6th, there has been a renewed focus on the topic and a shift in tone amongst the mainstream media. While previously, many outlets have either covered our efforts with a wink and a nod (or didn’t cover them at all), now that two states have called for the end of marijuana prohibition, reporters are rushing to cover the story. Along the way it seems they are also getting a crash course education in the concepts of civil liberties, federalism, and the disasters of our country’s prohibition on cannabis. Many are beginning to wake up to the reality that we have long identified: cannabis prohibition is a failed policy that has destructive effects on our society and these effects can be remedied by legalization and regulation.
Look no further for a sign of the changing times than editorials featured this weekend by two of the United States’ largest newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Both papers featured columns from their staff opining in favor of marijuana law reform. It seems the days of traditionally conservative editorial boards writing against cannabis law reforms may be coming to an end.
There is a seismic shift happening in the national consciousness on marijuana policy in response to the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington, we are winning new converts by the day and those previously afraid to speak out are now doing so with passion and vigor. This recent influx of mainstream media outlets jumping on board with reform is just the beginning of the avalanche of change that is to come.
The New York Times by Timothy Egan, NYT Opinion Writer:
Give Pot a Chance
For what stands between ending this absurd front in the dead-ender war on drugs and the status quo is the federal government. It could intervene, citing the supremacy of federal law that still classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug.
But it shouldn’t. Social revolutions in a democracy, especially ones that begin with voters, should not be lightly dismissed. Forget all the lame jokes about Cheetos and Cheech and Chong. In the two-and-a-half weeks since a pair of progressive Western states sent a message that arresting 853,000 people a year for marijuana offenses is an insult to a country built on individual freedom, a whiff of positive, even monumental change is in the air.
…there remains the big question of how President Obama will handle the cannabis spring. So far, he and Attorney General Eric Holder have been silent. I take that as a good sign, and certainly a departure from the hard-line position they took when California voters were considering legalization a few years ago.
The Washington Post by Washington Post Editorial Board:
Marijuana’s Foot in the Door
…Or the Justice Department could keep its hands off, perhaps continuing the approach the feds have largely taken for some time — focusing scarce resources on major violators, such as big growers that might serve multi-state markets, cultivators using public lands or dispensaries near schools. The last option is clearly best.
But it’s unrealistic and unwise to expect federal officials to pick up the slack left by state law- enforcement officers who used to enforce marijuana prohibitions against pot users and small-time growers. Unrealistic, because it would require lots more resources. Unwise, because filling prisons with users, each given a criminal stain on his or her record, has long been irrational. For the latter reason, we favor decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot, assessing civil fines instead of locking people up.
Also, for that reason and others, the Justice Department should hold its fire on a lawsuit challenging Colorado and Washington’s decision to behave more leniently. And state officials involved in good-faith efforts to regulate marijuana production and distribution according to state laws should be explicitly excused from federal targeting.
It is very hard to imagine that Cannabis Prohibition could have ever lasted as long as it has–75 years in America–if there were:
1) The Internet…and it’s ability to allow citizens to directly communicate, sometimes en mass, at lightening speed and at little-to-no-cost (as compared to say the pre-Internet era where the capital start up costs and regulatory entanglements to reach the masses for TV, radio and newspapers were prohibitively high except for the most well-to-do).
2) Brave and forward-looking citizens like Frank Mattioli, from western New York, posting personal videos to major media outlets like CNN, articulately and passionately advocating for major changes in America’s failed Cannabis Prohibition.
As there is far, far more cannabis smoke in Americans’ closets these days than sex (including gay sex), the easy analogy to the gay rights movement’s success of ‘coming out of the closet’ should not be loss at all by the cannabis law reform movement.
Currently, 50% of the US population favor legalizing cannabis (75% support medical access). These days one of the major questions asked repeatedly of NORML by reporters, columnists and editorial boards is ‘not if, but when will cannabis finally become legal in America?’
Nate Silver at the New York Times estimates that the politically crucible number of sixty percent public support for legalizing cannabis will likely occur in the next ten years.
I don’t see how this is not possible, certainly if more and more cannabis consumers and lovers of freedom, like Frank Mattioli, continue to speak their mind and vote their conscience.
You can’t make this stuff up!
I often say to staff, supporters and the media that: We’re blessed by our opponents to cannabis law reform!”
A few weeks ago the New York Times featured a straight forward story during these recessionary times about local and state governments with legal protections for medical cannabis patients struggling to cobble together taxation and other revenue streams derived from medical cannabis in the face of federal recalcitrance and outright law enforcement opposition.
The national affairs story is almost a no-brainer that wrote itself regarding this clear conflict between state and federal governments over the country’s festering 74-year old and increasingly unpopular Cannabis Prohibition.
While not clear if whether or not an indication of the dearth of letters received by the NYT on the subject matter (i.e., meaning the subject matter was not controversial), or, the letters’ editors casting needed public light on the kind of remaining, almost teetering and naked public opposition that solidly supports another eight decades of the failed and expensive public policy of Cannabis Prohibition, the publishing of only these two letters, from such clearly bias sources, is potentially revealing.
The first letter is from a drug rehabilitation center CEO in NYC (back in the late 1980s and throughout most of the 1990s, one of the most frequently published commentators and letter writers in the New York Times against virtually any pro-cannabis law reforms was Mitchell Rosenthal of Phoenix House, another drug rehabilitation provider like competitor Odyssey House. Not too surprisingly the current CEO of Odyssey House used to be employed at Phoenix House….).
The second letter is from a decidedly unsurprising duo of longtime anti-cannabis propagandists and prohibition profiteers, former National Institute of Drug Abuse head Robert DuPont, M.D. (who, as director of NIDA, at one time publicly supported major cannabis law reforms, including decriminalization) and former Drug Enforcement Administration honcho Peter Bensinger.
Both the former G-men and current pee testers, like rehabbers Rosenthal and Odyssey House CEO Peter Provet, are now some of the very few and clearly committed individuals remaining in a country with an estimated population in excess of 300 million to consistently write and publish letters to the editors of major newspapers and magazines condemning all things cannabis and favor not only the status quo, but a doubling-down by government passing even more stringent and invasive anti-cannabis laws and enforcement.
While the NYT correctly identifies these two prohibitionists’ former executive roles in federal government anti-drug bureaucracies going back 30 years ago, what the NYT failed to inform readers is that DuPont and Bensinger are the longtime and current principles of a lucrative drug testing (their company has been chosen by members of Congress to perform individual drug tests) and anti-drug counseling business to Fortune 1000 companies and small businesses.
As previously stated, currently in America, almost all of the public opposition against cannabis law reform historically comes from government agencies, industries and companies who most financially benefit from the current and failed status quo of Cannabis Prohibition:
–>Law Enforcement Agencies: Employees from local police to the Drug Enforcement Administration, to sheriffs, prosecutors, probation officers and prison guards, in modern times are usually the first in line, loudest and most strident against ending Cannabis Prohibition in America.
–>Government Bureaucracies Born of Cannabis Prohibition: DEA, ONDCP, FBI, NIDA, SAMHSA, DARE, PDFA, etc…
–>Industries and Companies That Will Compete With Legal Cannabis: Tobacco, Alcohol, Pharmaceutical, Wood and Fuel
–>Industries and Companies That Currently Benefit From Cannabis Prohibition Laws: Private Prisons, Drug Testing, Drug Rehab, Drug Detection Device Makers, Mercenary Private Military Companies That Perform Duties and Actions Once Reserved for the Civilian Military
The below letters published by the NYT demonstrate how limited, parochial and self-interested today’s anti-cannabis activists are becoming in a country where 50% of the public no longer supports Cannabis Prohibition.
Taxing Medical Marijuana
Published: February 23, 2012
To the Editor:
“Struggling Cities Turn to a Crop for Cash” (news article, Feb. 12) doesn’t mention a major issue of concern that has to be considered before claims of attractive financial benefits from taxing medical marijuana can be made.
In the states mentioned — California, Colorado, Maine and Oregon — 3.2 million people are not receiving the treatment services they need for drug abuse and dependence. California alone accounts for 2.3 million people with untreated substance abuse disorders.
Before hard-pressed municipalities, in these and other states around the country, look at medical marijuana as a new source of tax revenue to finance essential services, taxpayers should be given the opportunity to consider allocating some of this money to under-supported treatment and prevention programs.
This will not mitigate the effects of untreated substance abuse, but it will help send a clear message to young people that marijuana, prescribed or not, has addictive potential that too often requires intensive treatment.
President and Chief Executive
New York, Feb. 13, 2012
To the Editor:
California cities’ meager tax payments are a tiny fraction of the costs of their misguided “medical marijuana” initiatives.
The taxes imposed on medical marijuana place it in a category with alcohol and tobacco, two legal drugs that demonstrate the same appalling disparity between tax revenues and societal costs. The state and federal alcohol revenue of $14 billion and the $25 billion collected in tobacco taxes in the United States are overshadowed by the $235 billion and $200 billion in social costs they produce, respectively.
Among all Americans 12 and older who abuse or are dependent on an illegal drug, 60 percent abuse or are dependent on marijuana. Nationally, admissions for primary marijuana use to state-financed treatment have increased by 31 percent from 1998 to 2008 (the most recent year for which data are available).
California and other states that have legalized medical marijuana face the disturbing reality of the drug’s true costs in long-term health care, increased treatment admissions, loss of productivity at work and at school, and increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.
In addition to the disproportion of small tax revenue compared with large societal costs, medical marijuana sharply increases marijuana use and dependency. With 60 percent more cancer-causing chemicals than cigarettes and four times more tar, making marijuana more available is bad economic policy and bad health care policy.
PETER B. BENSINGER
ROBERT L. DuPONT
Chicago, Feb. 14, 2012
The writers are, respectively, former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, 1976-81; and a psychiatrist and founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1973-78.