Drug Law

DEA Continues Trying to Justify Marijuana Prohibition

| by NORML

Again, next time you hear or read about law enforcement or federal anti-drug agencies employing the claim ‘We don’t make the laws, we only enforce them’, please reference the below totally biased, paranoid, inaccurate and self-serving example from the Drug Enforcement Administration to counter such claims.

Unlike the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), it is not clear that Drug Enforcement Administration is mandated by Congress to oppose any efforts by citizens to peaceably and lawfully change cannabis laws.

While each and every one of the DEA’s supposed top ten ‘facts’ about legalization are easily rebutted, I think my favorite ‘fact’ presented by our tax dollars at DEA is #6, where the DEA purposely misleads the general public by claiming that Alaska ‘legalized’ cannabis in the 1970s, and upset voters in 1990 effectively saved the state from the dreaded ‘Devil’s Weed’.

What really happened in Alaska regarding cannabis policy?

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A police officer saw a young black couple drive by and pulled them over. What he did next left them stunned:

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A police officer saw a young black couple drive by and pulled them over. What he did next left them stunned:

The Alaska Supreme Court, relying on the most citizen-supportive state constitution in the United States, ruled in the Ravin case in 1975 that the state constitution afforded its citizens strong privacy rights, including the ability to possess one ounce of without fear of arrest. In other words, just like numerous other states (thirteen!) Alaska DECRIMINALIZED the possession of cannabis, it never legalized the substance in the standard sense of the word where adults could cultivate and sell it.

Since the tragic and expensive folly of cannabis prohibition began in 1937 by a legislative fiat in the Congress and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt (who was a keen supporter of ending alcohol prohibition, signed the Volstead Act and celebrated the end of alcohol prohibition at the White House with some of the first legal booze), not a lawful constitutional amendment such as was needed to both prohibit and re-legalize alcohol sales. Unfortunately, no state has EVER legalized cannabis cultivation or sales for non-medicinal purposes. None! The DEA is wrong to insinuate otherwise.

What happened in 1990 to Alaska’s cannabis decriminalization laws? Did mobs of angry voters, fed up with excessive cannabis use (or even above national average cannabis consumption rates) driven by an otherwise, for the average person, largely obscure 1975 court decision be compelled to place a voter initiative on the ballot to, according to our not so dutiful civil employees at the DEA, de-legalize cannabis in the state?

About the only item correct in the DEA’s #6 ‘fact’ about legalization is that the voters narrowly voted to end the state’s decriminalized laws for possessing one ounce. That, by the way, was largely a function of not the grassroots efforts of Alaskans, but of our first official ‘drug czar’ William Bennett (and his ‘Mini-Me’ and future Propagandist-in-Chief against cannabis as the longest serving drug czar, John Walters).

Bill Bennett, freshly minted as drug czar chose as one of the office’s first missions, consistent with its Joe Biden-written and Congressionally-approved charter to oppose cannabis law reforms as a matter of policy and function (science, morality, and economics be damned!), they chose to target what they perceived the lowest hanging fruit possible to capture: Go to the state with the most tolerant cannabis laws—Alaska was chosen—using numerous federal apparatus and tax dollars, whip up fear and emotional contagion in the population broadcasting rank anti-cannabis propaganda—notably with law enforcement, women, parents, church groups, oil companies and the US military/National Guard—and knock the supposedly ‘liberal’ cannabis law off the law books in hopes of starting a legislative and/or voter initiative backlash against cannabis in then 11 states that had already decriminalized the possession of (usually) one ounce.

The peak of the Bennett-driven effort to change cannabis laws in Alaska as I recall was a frenetic, mainly one-sided show featuring Bill Bennett at peak bluster debating a counter-culture writer on the then very popular daytime Phil Donahue Show (notably known for its high ratings among women viewers).

What actually has turned out in Alaska since 1990 that the DEA didn’t want the public to know in its so-called ‘fact’ sheet and misleads by omission in trying to portray Alaska as a state whose citizens ‘de-legalized’ cannabis and don’t favor its reform?

Well…

1) Post the vote in 1990, NORML supporters in Alaska who favor cannabis law reform, along with ACLU, successfully sued to have the voter initiative overturned as it violated the state’s constitution.

The Alaska Supreme court ruled Ravin was still the law of the land because the personal privacy protected under the state’s constitution could not be voted away in an initiative. The justices ruled that if the minor possession of cannabis were to be made illegal consistent with the state constitution (and their previous rulings), then Alaskan’s elected policymakers and citizens need to amend the state constitution.

In later court challenges in Alaska to enhance penalties, pushed by the Governor, the state courts not only ruled against the government, they increased the amount of cannabis a citizen could possess up to a quarter pound (four ounces)!

Regrettably, the most recent court decision in Alaska has reduced the amount from a ‘QP’ back to an ‘OZ’.

Ooops! Sorry Billy and Johnny (and the DEA), Alaska’s liberty-loving state constitution trumped your efforts. You lost, but oddly still cite Alaska to this day as some kind of warped ‘victory’. If it was a victory, even in the strictest sense of the word, it is the definition of a Pyrrhic victory.

2) The citizens of Alaska voted for medical access to cannabis in 1998, 58% – 42%. The law has had little to no negative consequences in the state from a public health or safety point of view. Medical cannabis, like in most states that adopt it, is ‘no big’ deal despite the DEA’s efforts to convince lawmakers, media and the public.

3) In 2004, a ballot initiative to actually legalize cannabis in Alaska largely funded by the Marijuana Policy Project lost 55% – 44%.

See Alaska’s current laws here.

This fall, with the voters of California having the opportunity in a binding voter initiative to actually become the first state to legalize cannabis (Field Poll surveys in the state indicate 56% support legalization), let’s show the anti-cannabis bureaucrats at the DEA and ONDCP (just to name two of over two dozen taxpayer-wasting federal government bureaucracies that largely oppose cannabis law reforms) a thing or two about what their employers—we the taxpayers and voters—want regarding a functional cannabis policy where the herb is legally controlled and taxed for responsible adult enjoyment and relaxation just like caffeine, alcohol and tobacco products.

To send a clear message to the DEA, please support Tax Cannabis 2010 in California!

Summary of the Top Ten Facts on Legalization

Fact 1: We have made significant progress in fighting drug use and drug trafficking in America. Now is not the time to abandon our efforts.

The Legalization Lobby claims that the fight against drugs cannot be won. However, overall drug use is down by more than a third in the last twenty years, while cocaine use has dropped by an astounding 70 percent. Ninety-five percent of Americans do not use drugs. This is success by any standards.

Fact 2: A balanced approach of prevention, enforcement, and treatment is the key in the fight against drugs.

A successful drug policy must apply a balanced approach of prevention, enforcement and treatment. All three aspects are crucial. For those who end up hooked on drugs, there are innovative programs, like Drug Treatment Courts, that offer non-violent users the option of seeking treatment. Drug Treatment Courts provide court supervision, unlike voluntary treatment centers.

Fact 3: Illegal drugs are illegal because they are harmful.

There is a growing misconception that some illegal drugs can be taken safely. For example, savvy drug dealers have learned how to market drugs like Ecstasy to youth. Some in the Legalization Lobby even claim such drugs have medical value, despite the lack of conclusive scientific evidence.

Fact 4: Smoked marijuana is not scientifically approved medicine. Marinol, the legal version of medical marijuana, is approved by science.

According to the Institute of Medicine, there is no future in smoked marijuana as medicine. However, the prescription drug Marinol-a legal and safe version of medical marijuana which isolates the active ingredient of THC-has been studied and approved by the Food & Drug Administration as safe medicine. The difference is that you have to get a prescription for Marinol from a licensed physician. You can’t buy it on a street corner, and you don’t smoke it.

Fact 5: Drug control spending is a minor portion of the U.S. budget. Compared to the social costs of drug abuse and addiction, government spending on drug control is minimal.

The Legalization Lobby claims that the United States has wasted billions of dollars in its anti-drug efforts. But for those kids saved from drug addiction, this is hardly wasted dollars. Moreover, our fight against drug abuse and addiction is an ongoing struggle that should be treated like any other social problem. Would we give up on education or poverty simply because we haven’t eliminated all problems? Compared to the social costs of drug abuse and addiction-whether in taxpayer dollars or in pain and suffering-government spending on drug control is minimal.

Fact 6: Legalization of drugs will lead to increased use and increased levels of addiction. Legalization has been tried before, and failed miserably.

Legalization has been tried before-and failed miserably. Alaska’s experiment with Legalization in the 1970s led to the state’s teens using marijuana at more than twice the rate of other youths nationally. This led Alaska’s residents to vote to re-criminalize marijuana in 1990.

Fact 7: Crime, violence, and drug use go hand-in-hand.

Crime, violence and drug use go hand in hand. Six times as many homicides are committed by people under the influence of drugs, as by those who are looking for money to buy drugs. Most drug crimes aren’t committed by people trying to pay for drugs; they’re committed by people on drugs.

Fact 8: Alcohol has caused significant health, social, and crime problems in this country, and legalized drugs would only make the situation worse.

The Legalization Lobby claims drugs are no more dangerous than alcohol. But drunk driving is one of the primary killers of Americans. Do we want our bus drivers, nurses, and airline pilots to be able to take drugs one evening, and operate freely at work the next day? Do we want to add to the destruction by making drugged driving another primary killer?

Fact 9: Europe’s more liberal drug policies are not the right model for America.

The Legalization Lobby claims that the “European Model” of the drug problem is successful. However, since legalization of marijuana in Holland, heroin addiction levels have tripled. And Needle Park seems like a poor model for America.

Fact 10: Most non-violent drug users get treatment, not jail time.

The Legalization Lobby claims that America’s prisons are filling up with users. Truth is, only about 5 percent of inmates in federal prison are there because of simple possession. Most drug criminals are in jail-even on possession charges-because they have plea-bargained down from major trafficking offenses or more violent drug crimes.