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Phoenix House

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director February 27, 2012

    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.

     Letters

    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.

    PETER PROVET
    President and Chief Executive
    Odyssey House
    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.