The Prohibition Industrial Complex

  • by Sabrina Fendrick January 28, 2014


    Our nation’s marijuana laws are being held hostage by a prohibition industrial complex.  

    The latest Wall St. Journal/NBC poll shows, yet again, that the majority of Americans support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults age 21 and over.  But despite this surge in support (several other national polls have seen similar results), there are a few well financed, politically powerful groups that remain staunchly against reform – and will likely serve as the biggest hinderance to widespread change.  These folks have made a lot of money off of marijuana’s current legal status, and those individuals (as well as their businesses/shareholders) are deeply invested in making sure things stay the way they are.  The wide range of direct and auxiliary enforcement mechanisms, as well as the increase in drug testing laws are driven by companies and businesses who provide the services necessary to support this disastrous and wasteful policy.

    One such industry that has a financial interest in maintaining the status quo is law enforcement, especially drug officers and private prisons.  Drug officers benefit from forfeiture and federal grants.  Private prisons keep their jails full and multi-million dollar state contracts in place.  The Office of National Drug Control Policy requested $9.4 billion in funding for 2013, the majority of which went to enforcement and incarceration.   More specifically, California police – one of the most vocal opponents to legalization in the state made $181.4 million by seizing and selling the homes and cars of Californians involved in marijuana cases from 2002 to 2012.  Police in Washington are already taking budget hits as a result of the passage of I-502, the state’s marijuana legalization initiative that passed in 2012. It was reported that some police drug task forces lost 15 percent of funding due to decreased revenue from marijuana forfeiture cases.  On a national level, marijuana cases netted $1 billion in assets forfeited between 2002 and 2012.  Assets can be seized under federal or state law, depending on the situation.  The Wall St. Journal recently reported that marijuana law reform would cut into a significant percentage of drug task forces’ revenue.   Most cash generated from drug-related property forfeitures goes to the law enforcement agency that made the bust.  The Journal reports that “Nationally, assets forfeited in marijuana cases from 2002 through 2012 accounted for $1 billion of the $6.5 billion from all drug busts.”  Task forces also rely heavily on federal grants.

    One example of a federal grant relied heavily upon by drug task forces is Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.  The amount of money distributed is based on the number of drug arrests made for that year, among other components.  The more drug arrests made, the more grant money provided, and 50% of all drug arrests are marijuana related.   No drug will be able to fill the void of marijuana arrests.  Marijuana is easier to spot and smell, and is consumed by more people than any other illegal drug, making marijuana arrest rates a significant percentage of overall revenue.  Then you have state contracts with private prisons, which mandate that facilities be filled at 90% capacity at all times.  If 50% inmates are there as a result of drug-related crimes, and half of that is for marijuana – legalization would be a serious threat to new contracts and increased profits.

    Another industry tied into the prohibition industrial complex is the drug testing market. It’s a multi-billion dollar a year industry with its own, built in legislative advocacy machine.   Take DATIA , the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association for example.  This industry organization represents more than 1,200 companies and employs a DC-based lobbying firm, Washington Policy Associates.   Their mission statement includes, among other things, creating “new opportunities for the drug testing industry.”

    In 2002, a representative from the influential drug-testing management firm Besinger, DuPont & Associates (Robert DuPont, Nixon’s first drug czar is a high profile opponent to legalization) heralded schools as “potentially a much bigger market than the workplace.”  Workplace drug testing is a declining market due to the fact that employees see minimal return on investment.  In fact, a DATIA newsletter dubbed school children “the next frontier.”  Unsurprisingly, this industry advocates testing in all grades and for all extracurricular activities.  It should be noted that several reports have concluded that drug testing minors is not only ineffective but can be emotionally and psychologically damaging.  Lucky, many schools have been reluctant to embrace testing.

    Year after year, the drug testing industry gears up for another legislative push, ghostwriting bills for local and national lawmakers demanding testing for people who receive public assistance.  Many of these elected officials are either financially investment in these companies, or received significant financial contributions from industry organizations.  For example, in February 2012, Congress amended federal rules to allow states to drug-test select unemployment applicants.  Among the lawmakers advocating for the change was Congressman Dave Camp, who owns at least $81,000 in assets in companies that are major players in the drug-testing industry, such as LabCorp and Abbott Laboratories. He has also received $5,000 in federal campaign contributions from LabCorp over the past three years.  Abbott Laboratories spent $133,500 on campaign donations to Ohio and Texas state politician promoting drug testing to welfare recipients, in the lead-up to the 2010 and 2012 elections, in addition to more than $500,000 spent by the company on state lobbying contracts since 2010.

    The industry is once again flexing its political arm pushing for policies that mandate drug testing for welfare recipients.  Legislation has already been introduced in Virginia, New York, Arizona, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois and Mississippi, for the 2014 legislative session.

    Two of the most outspoken opponents of marijuana legalization are David Evans and Robert DuPont.  DuPont, Founder of Besinger, DuPont & Associates served as the nation’s first drug policy director under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.  During that time he had advocated decriminalizing marijuana and its use a “minor problem.”  Once he left public office however, he became a “drug-testing management” consultant.  David Evans worked for Hoffmann-La Roche, a multi-billion dollar drug testing group encouraging workplace drug testing policies.  He now runs his own lobby firm and has ghostwritten several state laws to expand drug testing.   Drug testing overall detects marijuana more than any other drug, which stays in the body for up to a month — as opposed to other harder drugs like cocaine and heroin, which are metabolized within one to three days. That is why they have such significant stake in keeping the plant illegal.

    The total income for all of these industries combined adds up to hundreds of billions of dollars annually, a significant amount derived from taxpayer dollars.  An industrial complex is when there is a policy and monetary relationship between legislators, the public sector and an industrial base that supports them.  Just like the military industrial complex, the prohibition industrial complex, and its cycle of laws, enforcement and contracts will pose a major challenge to reform efforts.  This will be especially true in states that don’t have ballot initiatives, which is why it is so important for everyone to get active on a local level, and hold lawmakers accountable.  Though difficult, this will not be an impossible challenge to overcome, as long as we remain diligent and active in the political process.

    Please take a minute of your time today to utilize NORML’s Take Action Center to contact your representatives and urge them to support or sponsor marijuana law reform legislation.  Click here to see if there is a bill pending in your state, and here to find contact information for your elected officials. 


    80 responses to “The Prohibition Industrial Complex”

    1. TheOracle says:

      It’s the new Jim Crow in the age of shareholder capitalism, which looks somewhat like a new kind of marketplace passive-aggressive neonationalsocialism because government coercion, the law, is used to marginalize large groups of people, of whom many are poor people of color or free thinkers. Unequal application, enforcement, of the law ensures that the preferred type of people get the advantage of not having competition for jobs and social status from the marginalized and disenfranchised people busted and ruined for pot.

      Legal cannabis banking + keep running the economy into the ground for the everyman=more states jumping on the cannabis money train.

      If the feds do not interfere, no busts, no IRS shit, states are free to set up soil to store taxable brick and mortar systems. Cash strapped states will be like, hey, these other states are milking this cash cow, feds are letting them, so why are we (Pennsylvania) being so stupid and not going for the money grab, too?

      Pennsylvania is all fucked up, and the sooner Governor Corbett is out of office the better. Governor Christie can come over to campaign for his re-election to help drive home the point that bullies, birds of a feather flock together. Some big shindig at the Hershey Hotel with all you can eat chocolate ought to ensure Christie will be there. Hell, Governor “My Mom’s Sicilian” Christie can take a shitload of chocolate back to Jersey with him, runs the damn state like a mobster, just that Corbett’s a tad bit sneakier.

      MMJ hearings today at the Pennsylvania capital, predictably going nowhwere. That could all fall in line with the 80 some percent of the public who want MMJ legal if the politicians can stuff some of the cannabis cash in their own pockets somehow.

    2. lockedoutofMYfriggenshed says:

      this proves the main thing that holds legalization back…..MONEY! its all about money. not that their is anything wrong with cannabis,its just about the money. how shitty does that REALLY look? this article needs to get out in msm! I mean ,they all do but this tells the REAL story…sickening!

    3. Patient says:

      Paranoid conspiracy theory doesn’t help our cause…

    4. Anonymous says:

      Know thy enemies. Only then can you defeat them. Keep shining the sunlight on that scum and eventually they will be sanitized. Great job Sabrina.

    5. mexweed says:

      The billion dollar profits mentioned by Sabrina are impressive, but consider this figure from the new Surgeon General Report: $igarette $moking costs the US economy $289-billion a year and almost half of that is for medical care– i.e. a big percent of the money made by doctors, hospitals, drug companies is for “managing” avoidable $moking-related diseases which will be drastically cut back by cannabis legalization because (A) millions of kids will experiment with cannabis instead of tobacco and NOT get hooked on something that causes high profit di$ea$es; (B) once cannabis is legalized, “paraphernalia laws” will fall away and no one will be afraid to own or carry a vaporizer or a 25-mg -Long-Drawtube One-Hitter (safer alternatives to the 500-mg joint or the 700-mg H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide high-profit $igarette).

    6. Ray Walker Jr. says:

      Corruption in the form of an “Industrial Complex” has been an evolving parasite on this country since the day we dropped anchor on the shores of America. Accountability will always rein supreme in the fight for keeping legislators within their roles as stewards of democracy. When we speak of any problem and cite its unjust attributes without citing the core cause we waste valuable time and do nothing to solve the problem. And citing the CSA as core cause to the longevity of cannabis prohibition is precisely marking the ground where the fight centers itself.
      @Sabrina Fendrick- You are the sharp voice that I always look for in this ongoing discussion of truth for change. When you say,”This will be especially true in states that don’t have ballot initiatives, which is why it is so important for everyone to get active on a local level, and hold lawmakers accountable. Though difficult, this will not be an impossible challenge to overcome, as long as we remain diligent and active in the political process.”,.. THAT is cutting to the chase and marking the ground where the fight centers itself. Having an indirect democracy just removes the power of “by the people” from the voting hands of many states, and is an injustice that has kept these industrial complexes alive for so long. If our legislators could be held more accountable, they would think long and hard about their choices. Us being active is the way, just as our founding father advised that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. In those states that don’t have ballot initiatives, the fight will be long and hard.
      It took me some time to find a way to voice myself as I do now. I also had to wait until my situation allowed me the safe conditions to do so. Being retired, and not having to worry about losing a job is huge in terms of freedom to speak freely. Living in Mississippi doesn’t give me all the freedom I want, but that will change soon. Moving to California will allow me greater freedom to be more active in this fight. My point for now is we should all find whatever thing it is that we can do and just do it. If you can see a way to do something great, then by all means do that also. It brings more and more purpose to my life the more I become involved. Fight the good fight.

    7. bob lange says:

      Let’s not forget to include the counseling industry who always produce inflated figures of teens who “need” help with their “addictions.” Though not all are there through some judges decree, the rest have been “encouraged” by concerned parents.

    8. It’s called policing for profit.

    9. Norml is best ever! says:

      Why don’t they apply those grants to the hungry, schools or to solve robbery, attempted murder, murder and rape cases? That way those could start getting solved! Giving rewards for drug busts creates a huge problem. The problem is dirty law enforcement has and will continue to violate our GUARENTEED RIGHTS and or plant evidence for those extra funds. I’m sure the DEA and other law enforcement stage grow bust. Build them and say they are doing steak outs for a long time and come in and have no suspects! When I say violate rights I mean just that! Them being able to search a vehicle on smell? I’ve actually witnessed this bullshit personally when there wasn’t any smell at all. In sealed bag. On vacation get pulled over for doing 5mph over in a 75mph. I was doing 75mph w/ cruise control on. Went to jail. Paid over 100,000 after all said and done. Who needs the mafia when you have the police? Who ever enacted that law is as unamerican as North Korea. So was Harry j. Turdeater.

    10. Norml is best ever! says:

      Also if traveling through utah especially I80 or I15 do not have California tags and do not travel at night alone without a camera! They will pull you over for nothing. Mud flap violation? 5mph over in 75mph when your doing 75mph. Watch out for the laser pointers and or laser dazzlers while you’re driving normally. I’m for real on this. I hope who ever reads this has no worries and has a great life. –
      God even said cannabis is good in genesis! How are you gonna argue with that? Lmao