Drug Law

Marijuana Prohibitionists Hold Private, Publicly Funded Conference

| by Marijuana Policy Project

By F. Aaron Smith

Law enforcement officials from all over the nation have descended upon San Diego, California this week to attend a conference for the National Marijuana Initiative (NMI) and the California Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP). We’ve been pointing out the futility of marijuana “eradication” campaigns like CAMP and NMI for years but don’t expect conference attendees to spend any time rethinking their failed prohibitionist policies while enjoying their stay in sunny San Diego.

The agenda for the publicly funded conference, held at the prestigious U.S. Grant Hotel from May 10 through May 13, is not available to the public. In fact, the conference is under the close guard of about a dozen San Diego Police officers and even some military personnel.

We do know that former U.S. Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey was a featured speaker. According to his press release, McCaffrey laid out talking points against California’s Tax Cannabis 2010 initiative. That’s right, your tax dollars are essentially being used to hold an anti-reform campaign rally behind closed doors.

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There’s also no doubt that conference attendees are patting themselves on the back for their work in the largest and most expensive weed abatement project of all time. Since 2003, CAMP’s marijuana plant seizures have grown by 500% but nevertheless have had no effect on marijuana’s availability or cost, which has actually decreased slightly since CAMP’s inception in 1983. Programs like CAMP are actually making matters worse by driving illegal marijuana operations deeper into harder-to-reach and environmentally sensitive areas on our public lands.

Yesterday, MPP held a press conference across the street from the marijuana eradication love fest to call out these officials for supporting a program that, at best, is a costly failure. Former deputy sheriff and current LEAP speaker Leo Laurence and Rev. Mary Moreno-Richardson, an Episcopol priest from San Diego, joined me in calling for a new direction in our marijuana policies.

Our event was originally to take place in a room across the hall from the prohibitionist conference but the hotel reneged on our contract at the last minute, forcing us to move across the street. Clearly, marijuana warriors don’t want to risk hearing from those questioning the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. To protect these prohibitionists’ bubbles from being burst by reality, our original meeting room at the U.S. Grant was left empty while conference attendees enjoyed their taxpayer-supported echo chamber across the hall.

As the upcoming “eradication” season unfolds, let’s hope that the mainstream media won’t let the staggering imagery of helicopters being used to uproot marijuana plants distract them from asking the important question of whether or not these programs are actually working.

At a time when law enforcement budgets are strained to their limits and hundreds of thousands of violent crimes are going unsolved, the last thing we need is for cops to spend their time pulling up weeds. The only way to effectively control marijuana and eliminate the illegal grow operations from our public lands is to take it out of the hands of criminals and regulate it like we do alcohol.