Thursday, January 17, 2013

The 5 Greatest Enemies of Marijuana Legalization

Rolling Stone has put together a list:
1.  Kevin Sabet

A former White House advisor and outspoken opponent of legalization, Sabet worked under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations as a political appointee and researcher in the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He touts himself as a drug policy reformer, arguing for an approach that does not include arrests but stops short of legalization – leaving many marijuana reform advocates dubious.

Sabet's new group, Smarter Approaches to Marijuana, also known as Project SAM, uses clever language to disguise what essentially remains a prohibitionist argument. Advocates of legalization stress that so long as a drug is illegal, arrests will inevitably follow. Semantics aside, Project SAM's "alternatives" to prohibition simply don't represent enough of a change to the status quo.

2. Mel and Betty Sembler

Save Our Society from Drugs, an advocacy group led by these two hardened drug warriors, dumped more than $150,000 into lobbying against Colorado's recent marijuana legalization initiative, Amendment 64. This was only the latest in a long string of regressive actions by the Semblers.  A staunch conservative who has worked for Mitt Romney, Scooter Libby and George H. W. Bush, Mel Sembler made his money in banking and, at one point, drug treatment. From the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, he and his wife ran drug treatment centers for adolescents under the name STRAIGHT, Inc. Investigations of their facilities have uncovered disturbing allegations of rape, beatings and intense psychological abuse taking place at the program's centers. Sembler has done little to respond to these reports, instead touting STRAIGHT's supposed successes while continuing his anti-drug work under Save Our Society from Drugs. Meanwhile, the Drug Free America Program, Save Our Society's sister program, has a federal contract to help small businesses develop employee drug-testing programs – which brought it $250,000 in taxpayer dollars in 2010 alone.

3. Michele Leonhart

Employees in what has been called the "arrest and prosecution industry" – from the Drug Enforcement Agency down to local police chiefs and district attorneys – often rely on the drug war not just for their paychecks, but their sense of purpose. As the DEA's chief administrator, Michele Leonhart is in charge of making sure the fight is on, regardless of where the facts lie. At a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing this June, Leonhart revealed the department's rigidity when she repeatedly, absurdly refused to acknowledge that marijuana is less harmful than other drugs, like heroin. Video of the exchange between Leonhart and Representative Jared Polis (D-Colorado) quickly went viral. The head of America's top drug agency simply refused to acknowledge what most Americans accept as simple truth: That different health risks are associated with different substances. Rather than make a fact-based case for DEA policy, Leonhart revealed the great lengths to which her organization will go to avoid conceding any ground.

4. Gil Kerlikowske

Drug czar Gil Kerlikowske is the current head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which plays a key role in producing anti-marijuana literature and advertisements. Kerlikowske often claims that the Obama administration has reformed America's drug war, shifting focus to public health rather than prosecution – but funding levels for treatment versus incarceration do not reflect his rhetoric. When it comes to marijuana, Kerlikowske has walked a careful line between diehard prohibitionism and pot policy reform, choosing to chastise legalization one day and acknowledge Americans' interest in reform the next. "Legalization is not in my vocabulary and it's not in the president's," Kerlikowske once said. More recently, he claimed that even medical marijuana "sends a terrible message" to teenagers – then, the very next day, responded to popular pro-legalization petitions on the White House's website by acknowledging that "We're in the midst of a national conversation about marijuana policy." Which is it?

While operating at a federal level, the ONDCP also has regional branches called High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) that hold the potential to meddle in state-based marijuana policy reform. According to the government's HIDTA website, "The DEA plays a very active role and has 589 authorized special agent positions dedicated to the program." HIDTA facilitates cooperation and intelligence-sharing among all levels of law enforcement to produce coordinated strategies – a scary thought if you're a Colorado or Washington citizen who wants to smoke weed as your state's law allows. With a $238 million budget in grants administered by the ONDCP, the 28 HIDTAs cover 60 percent of the U.S. population. And Amendment 64 activist and Marijuana Policy Project communications director Mason Tvert says that HIDTA has already been a visible opponent and headache to Amendment 64's implementation in Colorado.

5. David Frum

Conservative commentator David Frum recently wrote a series of articles decrying legal marijuana as a vice that Americans who already engage heavily in risky behavior cannot afford. Touting a variety of disproved myths about marijuana, Frum has written this month for major outlets including CNN, claiming that legalization will somehow magnify the supposed problems associated with recreational marijuana use. A member of Project SAM, Frum has become the conservative face of the notion that some other alternative to marijuana prohibition – but certainly not legalization – is the best solution.

While his threat, like many on this list, lies in the arena of public opinion, Frum has the potential to use revamped rhetoric to reignite right-wing opposition to marijuana policy. While acknowledging that the old arguments about being "soft on crime" no longer resonate with Americans who do not want marijuana users to face arrest, Frum is offering anti-pot conservatives new language to fight back against the spread of marijuana legalization. And that's something we should all be worried about.

I'm guessing this also might make them enemies of the COHLDS Freedom Group (advocates for the legalization of cocaine, heroin and LSD)


  1. Do all of these people also support gun control? If so, I think there may be a contradiction somewhere in here.

    1. David Frum is a gun-grabber. Right wingers beware..David is coming for YOU.

      “I do not think marijuana is America's #1 public health problem. That bad distinction goes to firearms - access to which I am also in favor of restricting and tightening. With marijuana, and marijuana alone, we are moving in the wrong direction: toward more acceptance, and even more promotion.“

      –David Frum

  2. A drug free, thug free and child proof school and neighborhood are goods that could be and can be easily provided by the free market. The anti-Ancap people are both the libertines and the murdering thugs. While I support legalizing all drugs immediately, absent private neighborhoods and streets, it is going to be problematic. Who wants to live next door to crack-heads or send your kids to government schools alongside the offspring of meth addicts? Private neighborhoods solve all of these "lifestyle" problems. No muss, no fuss.

  3. I forgot to mention if someone is so inclined, a gun free private neighborhood is also easily obtainable on the free market.

  4. Anyone who is willing to devote their career to obsessing about what substances people put in their bodies has an obvious screw loose. Whether out for pay or personal glory, these people are among the most despicable tentacles of the state. These are the sniveling playground tattlers eager to inform teacher of the innocuous deeds of their peers--except all grown up and armed with guns, badges, and the sick sense of legitimacy that comes with enacting one's violent wishes under the pretense of state authority. The state-worship is plainly visible in the Polis-Leonhart exchange alluded to above, as sycophant in question can't stop babbling that drugs are dangerous because they are "illegal."

  5. Lest those who casually read EPJ come to the conclusion that we are nothing more than a bunch of druggies and that our quest is centered on that issue, I have a nit to pick. In my view there is a vast difference between laws that legalize specific behavior and having no such law which, therefore, leaves the behavior to the discretion of the individual.

    I do not advocate legalizing drugs. I advocate adherence to the tenets and principles contained in our Constitution as explained in great detail by the founders. If that makes of me a Constitutionalist rather than a Libertarian then so be it. Although I think they are one in the same.

    I find no prohibition to the use of drugs (including alcohol and tobacco) in the founder's Constitution. What I find is very little, in fact, that empowers the general government, as it was known, in areas other than those of a general nature. The more intimate power and authority belonged to the states and local governments, and most of all to each individual.

    Therefore, if the citizens of a state or locality wish to create a drug-free environment by passing stringent laws against selling or using drugs, or other measures, then they are entirely within their authority to do so. The “federal” government has absolutely no such authority on either side of the question except within the borders of Washington D.C.

    If there are localities or states desiring an environment where drugs are freely available for sale and use, then they may create that environment simply by not passing any law one way or the other. Those who desire to share that environment may move to such a locality and those who don’t may move somewhere else.

    What a beautiful system where we may create a diverse social and cultural landscape and enjoy the world in which we desire to live and leave others to follow a different path. Perhaps there might even be a place where drug use is required. That's okay with me as long as I don't have to live there.

    While advocating such a diverse landscape, I would choose to live in a drug-free area since I am of the opinion that drug/alcohol/tobacco use is a moral weakness and, ultimately, slavery. You, however, ought to be free to make that choice for yourself. I would never coerce your behavior simply because I have a different view. You might, however, have been surprised at the laughter and sweet fun had at my home by those who attended our New Year’s Eve party and who’s merriment was fueled solely by the joys of friendship and the love of life’s joyous gifts unencumbered by extraneous substances which, in my view, diminish the capability of freely experiencing true human emotions. And yes, we are Mormons. Isn't that an interesting thought? Libertarian Mormons. Sorry Mitt. You didn't get my vote. Not even close.

    My point is simple: It should be made very clear that just because you advocate liberty does not mean you’re a druggie and no one who criticizes Libertarianism should do so on that basis.

  6. Rolling Stone, missed Obama, Holder, Actually Obama should be #0 in this list. The FDA, the DOJ and drug scheduling are purely under the control of the executive. The president could legally overnight, solve this issue once and for all, without any effort, and at no expense to anyone.

    Anyways, one is either for freedom or not. And freedom starts with the individual and ends with the individual. There's no such thing as collective right, a right that society at whatever level has that the individual does not; nor is there a right that an person has that a group of persons do not.

    If you believe in property rights, including property rights in ones own body, then what your neighbor ingests on his premises has no bearing to any justified use of force against him. People have yet to answer why they tolerate a neighbor's use of alcohol or tobacco but upon discovering it concerns other substances, then they think violence is somehow justified. People can associate freely based on their own subjective values, for whatever lifestyle, but their is simply no justification for the use of force in enforcing or pursuing those values.

    Any drug legalization should really be called re-legalization, as they were all legal up until we started getting prohibition fever in the early 20th century.

    Whether or not someone condones any particular substance simply is not germane to liberty. Utilitarian debates about all these things, the pros and cons (which mostly vary in degree and not kind), are an entirely separate discussion. A total hedonist can be just as much a libertarian as a monk-like Ghandi figure.

    1. Obama doesn't care about the plight of the stoners. He prefers "a little blow".