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More than twenty years ago drug-reform advocate Todd Austin Brenner wrote that “complete legalization of marijuana…would be the real test.”  He further went on to argue that “drugs causing permanent addiction such as heroin and crack would be banned from sale.  Instead, these drugs would be offered free of charge at clinics where addicts have been registered.  Simultaneously, these addicts would be helped in trying to overcome their illness and would hopefully be cured.”

The digital timepiece at still remains quite clear with the implication.  Counting only since the start of 2011, the U.S. government has spent nearly five billion dollars on the Drug War, state and Federal efforts combined.  Nearly 115,000 of those arrested are cannabis users, fifteen hundred of them already locked-away.  Meanwhile, usage remains undaunted.

Notice the hint?  No matter how much money the taxpayer spends, no matter how many are arrested, we get no closer in stopping the use of cannabis or any of those other readily available substances.  That’s the addictive nature of drugs, ill-defined as that word might always be.  Rather, the numbers given above are more reminiscent of dollar signs floating above a given prison official’s head as he ushers his “product” into an iron cage.  He or she with said-badge would laugh if reading such a suggestion, lest they be found guilty of profiting from crime.

A New Problem Coming Into View

Accepting the corporate view of the world, non-participants of this debate would respond apathetically.  However, this monster is evolving.  Nowadays, the voter-block has been stirred ever so slightly while Law Enforcement officials begin to realize that their not the only ones noticing big numbers in their paychecks.  Both of these amnesiac bystanders could notice the column permanently placed in the Los Angeles Times:  Mexico Under Siege.

Stealing the morning edition from my neighbor’s recycling bin, the effort has failed me not: Uncle Sam, now considering putting armed troops into Mexico, where almost 230,000 people have been displaced from the Drug War.  Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) has recently convened in the House to consider placing the Mexican Cartels on the international terrorist list.  With America and its UN partners now deciding when our Country goes to war, it is unlikely to raise a suspicious eyebrow anywhere in the civilized world.  In a recent essay for Cannabis Times, I quoted some numbers given to me from Marijuana Policy Project via Mike Meno, who says that over 60% of the Cartel’s drug revenue comes from pot.  David Bienenstock from High Times reports 40 %.  In either case, underground sales of cannabis fund just about half of that Mexican Mafiocracy south of the border – an unconfirmed multi-billion dollar number.  And yet, with no clear objective in mind, the criminal-factories here in the U.S. continue to operate.

Criminal factories?  Yes, the “Hydra-Theory” of Drug Lordship: Once one goes down, two more take his place.  The only way to slay the beast for certain is by removing the source of his power – or might that be powder? – the white stuff you tried to warn your kid about, whom, if the laws were slightly altered, would not be greeted by any narrow-eyed strangers carrying shoe-boxes outside their school.  It’s long been known that these beasts breed inside the secretive Prison Networks, who are left unrestrained from taking tax-dollars to their bank accounts instead of rehabilitative services.

Exploring Alternatives

Obvious as this failed policy seems, even a minimally persuasive reform-advocate would have to plead with their neighbor for an honest conversation about the matter.  The trouble is worth it, because there actually is another option.  This idea is foreign, perhaps like eating fragrant meat at a low-key Korean restaurant downtown (which isn’t all that bad).  Who knows? – it might work.

Ostensibly, the reform always referred to is the transferring of responsibility: raking drug distribution away from black marketers and with public and parental vigilance, entrusting the task to somewhat more conservative hands who can keep an eye out for who gets what and how often.  After recognizing the evidence that undesired products don’t go away with any wizardly pen signatures, and that costly prohibition has in fact had the opposite effect by creating even more criminals inside the less-tan transparent penitentiaries, it would not be difficult in conceiving.

An academic study by Alex Stevens, called What Can We Learn From The Portuguese Decriminalization of Drugs? asserts that since 2001, when their government decriminalized drugs and focused on treatment instead of incarceration, the amount of Problematic Drug Users (PDU’s) and youths actually dropped – slightly, but significantly enough to warrant more consideration.  “Using data from the Netherlands, the U.S., Australia, and Italy….they (citing another study) concluded that the removal criminal penalties appear to produce positive but slight impact.  The primary impact was reducing the burden and cost in the criminal justice system.”  Stevens also emphasizes that contrary to the widely-held notion that the removal of sanctions would increase the amount of users – it did not happen.

With the countless studies showing cannabis to be far less harmful than tobacco, alcohol, fast-food, pills and the rest of them (many of the studies government-funded), a strong indication has persisted that recommends the plant be allowed to flourish naturally for personal consumption, with understandable limitations on the amount of 420 cafes sure to prop up there afterwards.  Harder drugs – the ones you dare not even whisper – would be manufactured and handled pharmaceutically, with a Netherlander’s approach of treatment instead of incarceration.


In the weeks prior to Prop 19′s vote the CIA-funded RAND Corporation had published a study called Reducing Drug Trafficking Revenues and Violence in Mexico:  Would Legalizing Marijuana in California Help? Their final report said that the measure would not cause sufficient damage to the cartels.

Amazingly, the statistics provided by the think tank left out one important fact that was pointed out by Meno.  While Mexican exports of pot are estimated to be anywhere from 15-30 %, the gross domestic production of Cartel-operated pot farms here in the U.S. is much, much higher.  Weed is very easy to grow, you see, and besides, why let California’s perfect crop weather go to waste?  The end result left unmentioned by RAND: You cannot eradicate such an easily-grown plant, only attempt regulation at its commercial value via distribution.

In the case of addicts and dope-fiends, breaking into another’s personal shit is usually to fund the ghastly habit, with alcohol and speed occasionally causing social disruptions involving vehicles and rose gardens.  Giving it away for near-free to the Zombies (I mean addicts!) and placing the into specialized areas (like parks or dormitories) might alleviate the public burden of DUI’s and assaults.  Ultimately, it is vastly more humane, far less expensive, and certainly more controlled than sending a non-violent offender off to the Factory.

So did Prop 19 bring forth any remedies for this perpetual madness?  Perhaps it helped.  Bienenstock’s High Times article reported that “Exit polls showed that youth turnout was up 16% over 2006, the last midterm election in California, and that a whopping 64% of those under 25 supported Prop 19.”  Statistically impressive, but from a personal standpoint, I recall little talk amongst the college-bound.  One such conversation took place inside of a Jacuzzi:

“Yeah man, it sucks the measure didn’t pass,” a well-to-do psychology major had said to me.

Well, did you go and vote?, I asked.

“Nah,” he shrugged.

Oh, well then….

Questions Requiring Answers

Since the Drug War affects all neighborhoods alike, an objector of such reform measures who takes the time to have little chats (Jacuzzi’s or elsewhere) should be required to answer the following questions:

  • How do you intend on making all this money and effort our while?
  • Are you willing to send another non-violent drug-user to the Criminal Farm?
  • Maybe we could publically flog the creature in Times Square hoping that it’ll scare others from doing so?
  • What about raising the deficit a little more so as to pay the pensions of a hundred-thousand gangster-minded prison guards?
  • How about asking Ben Bernanke to print another trillion dollars to fund Mexico’s oncoming Civil War?
  • Or, what if we just blow-up the entire peninsula – all the way to the Panama Canal?

These decisions are lost on those possessing hearts accustomed to punishment as an absolute, even if the crime is hurting oneself and the outcome is a zombified drug-addict obtaining five new contacts once he is put in his cell.

Since Proposition 19 has been defeated, this revolutionary debate has, predictably, been placed on semi-hiatus.  Presumably, it will pick up again once another thousand people are either decapitated, incarcerated or returned to jail.

This reformer’s argument is best summed-up by Peter Gorman at Skunk Magazine, who placed a well-said rant in a recent issue: “For decades, voices of reason have been calling for an end to the War on Drugs, through legalization, but what with the billions of dollars in black market money to be made annually, most of which at some point goes through US banks, and billions more spent on weapons and ammunition, the prison industry, law enforcement, prosecutors, rehab-hell, even methadone….well, those voices of reason seem to be whispering into a very large pit.  Nobody making the money is listening.”  How true Mr. Gorman.  How sadly, consequently true.

Written By Kevin Patten

Featured Writer Cannabis Times Magazine

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