Who’s Getting Rich Off Prohibition? Just Look Who Opposes Prop. 5

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 30, 2008

    You can learn a lot about the merits of a proposal by taking a good, hard look at who’s lobbying against it.

    Take California’s Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act, which would require the diversion of certain non-violent offenders to drug treatment and increase funding for state-sponsored rehabilitation programs. The measure seeks to expand upon the alternative sentencing programs initially enacted by Proposition 36, which is estimated to have saved taxpayers some $1.7 billion dollars and reduced the number of people incarcerated for simple drug possession by one-third. So who would oppose this proposal?

    If you guessed: the folks who make their living arresting non-violent drug offenders, you’d be right! According to the ‘No on 5’ website, the California State Sheriff’s Association, the California Narcotics Officers Association, the California Peace Officers Association, the Police Chiefs of California, and the California District Attorneys Association all oppose Prop. 5.

    However, even more disturbing is who’s bankrolling the ‘No on 5’ campaign. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, California’s powerful prison guards union has spent close to $2 million dollars to lobby against the passage of Prop. 5. After all, overcrowded prisons — In 2007, California declared a ‘state of emergency’ in the prison system because of the lack of bed space — and more prison construction (in lieu of building additional public high schools and state colleges) are a financial windfall for prison guards, even if they spell disaster for everyone else.

    In addition to expanding drug treatment in California, Prop. 5 would also reduce minor marijuana possession penalties from a misdemeanor (punishable by a $100 criminal fine with a criminal record) to a non-criminal infraction (punishable by a $100 civil fine with no criminal record). Now who would be against that?

    If you answered: the folks who make their living by possessing a monopoly on the sale of legal intoxicants, you’d be correct! According to the DPA, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors have donated $100,000 to the ‘No on 5’ campaign. Could it be that the alcohol lobby is fearful of the day when they will have to legally compete with a natural product that is remarkably safe, non-toxic, and won’t leave you with a hangover? Do we even have to ask?

    So now that you know who’s against Prop. 5, why not examine who is lobbying for it. That list would include the California Nurses Association, California Society of Addiction Medicine, the California League of Women Voters, and the California Academy of Family Physicians.

    In short, those who have dedicated their lives to helping others in need are backing Prop. 5, while those who have dedicated their careers to destroying people’s lives (or who promote a product that does) vehemently oppose it. You do the math.

    27 responses to “Who’s Getting Rich Off Prohibition? Just Look Who Opposes Prop. 5”

    1. Logan says:

      Absolutely ludicrous. Not altogether surprising though.

    2. Excellent commentary on the vested interests opposing Prop. 5 by Arianna Huffington at the Huffington Post. Read thee full essay at the link below.

      Posted October 30, 2008 | 08:27 PM (EST)

      The Battle Over CA Prop 5: Special Interests Overwhelming the Public Interest


      “Yet Prop 5 is struggling because of a very powerful special interest: the prison guards union. It has funneled $1.8 million into the campaign to derail Prop 5.

      For the guards, prison overcrowding means more overtime pay. So the state’s prison industrial complex has unleashed the full force of its financial power — funding an array of ads that blatantly mischaracterize Prop 5. Truth has gone out the window, replaced by overheated claims that the initiative is a “drug dealer’s bill of rights,” “a get out of jail free card” for meth dealers, and a law that will allow parents to abuse their kids and escape punishment.

      Goodbye reform, hello fear. The special interests are, once again, overwhelming the public interest.”

    3. Even more on the cozy relationship between the California prison lobby and state politicians. Check out the author’s back-and-forth with Jerry Brown at the link below.

      Jerry’s Brown-Nosin’ with California’s Prison Guards


      “The California prison guards’ union — one of the state’s richest and most reviled special-interest groups — is funding a multi-million-dollar attack on Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act. The prison guards’ newest ally is Jerry Brown, attorney general and former governor of California.

      Prop. 5 is a modest and sensible reform of California’s corrections system that promises to reduce the state’s bloated prison population and, in the process, cut state spending by billions of dollars. The measure is supported by a wide-range of treatment professionals, good-government types and former high-ranking corrections and law enforcement officials.

      The prison guards, however, oppose Prop. 5. They don’t like the math. Fewer prisoners will mean fewer jobs and less overtime pay for prison guards.”

    4. Not surprising, but a great reminder that we need to continue educating others about how the average American loses in the war on drugs. We can change the drug laws, and we will! Whenever i get the chance I talk about how drug prohibition has had so many negative consequences and why we need drug law reform. Most people have never even thought about the war on drugs and its implications. When they get the information, though, many will see why it’s such a horrible policy that we should discontinue.

      -David Carlson

    5. z says:

      Wait a minute now, wouldn’t doctors,nurses, and addiction specialists benefit from more people in state paid drug treatment programs?

    6. Watch Zeitgeist the Movie says:

      Yep law enforcement is a Biseness Cops,prison guards,probation officers are the laziest people on earth.
      The only thing they care about is getting payed to push people around they don’t give the slightest fuck what you’ve done. Potheads make great prisoners/slaves as they are non violent there is little risk to the cowardly cops who arrest them, once in prison they are much easier to manage than real criminal who might assault the lazy cowards employed as guards.
      Honestly the guards would rather the violent offenders were released as would make their life’s easier.

    7. John316 says:

      I have been preaching the same thing just follow the money and you will find our why we still go to jail in record number. It is a sad record of where we are as a country..

    8. Libertarian Mac says:

      Hey Paul you realize calling them “prison guards” is an insult to them. They wish to be adressed as “correctional officers.” I’m still trying to figure out what it is that they correct.

      Hmm, let me get this right. I get a cushy gov job, benefits, retirement and all I have to do is babysit some guys/gals that aren’t violent in the first place.
      HELL sign me up!

    9. D says:

      Z – good point, I didn’t see it that way until you said it… that aside, the nurses and doctors aren’t fucking up people’s lives.

    10. Paul says:

      z Says:

      “Wait a minute now, wouldn’t doctors, nurses, and addiction specialists benefit from more people in state paid drug treatment programs?”

      That’s right z… Drs and nurses will benefit from prop 5. Also there will be more jobs created for them and drug abuse treatment specialists as well. This is actually a very good thing compared to law enforcement, prison guards and politicians that support them receiving those increases if prop 5 fails. “Why” you say? Because the latter group does very little if anything to improve the lives of non-violent drug law offenders and their future benefit to society while the programs and professionals mentioned in the first group are actually intent on doing just that.

      The question is; who do you want to support? The people who save lives and families of non-violent drug users or the people who are focused on arresting (leaving them with a criminal record) or arresting and incarcerating (where most learn how to be a criminal) then sending them back into society with little chance to overcome their criminal record and the stigma that’s attached (in many cases forcing them to put the criminal teachings they learned in prison to use out of desperation for survival).

      Oh, by the way prop 5 will also save about 2.5 BILLION in taxpayer funds while.

      Let’s be real! The War on (some) Drugs has failed! Drug Warriors need to pull themselves out of denial and accept it! It’s time for smarter drug policies focused on health rather then treating non-violent drug users or abusers as criminals, arresting or locking them up, condemning them to deal with negative lifelong effects!