From proud parents to celebrities, big-time CEOs to prominent political figures around the world past and present, cannabis is enjoyed by legions of followers, many of whom are very successful. Despite this, we face discriminating stereotypes every day about what it means to smoke pot. Today this image is changing, thanks to conscientious cannabis lovers. For some, however, the facts aren’t as important as spreading hate and misinformation to further their cause.
It is apparent that the majority of marijuana opposition comes from the oldest members of government; those who hit their prime in a bygone era filled with Red-Scare tactics and similar committees against suspected communists. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) spearheaded a recent witch-hunt style tribunal of one-sided rhetoric, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.). The hearing of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control was convened to discuss whether the Justice Department has been derelict in its duties to enforce the law against marijuana.
“The Department of Justice decided to all but abandon the enforcement of federal law relating to the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana.” – Sen. Grassley
The one-sided hearing featured a who’s who of prominent pot-bashers:
Caucus member Jeff Sessions (R-Al.) rallied those present around the cry of fostering:
“…knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about… and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
The hearing was filled with other comments that were either vaguely misrepresentative or outright false according to statistical evidence, interspersed with exaggerated anecdotes from the very people who say subjective experience of the benefits of cannabis is irrelevant, and no substitute for empirical facts.
Doug Peterson responded to a question from Greenley, saying:
“We know that our young people in Nebraska are getting the drugs. I can tell you story after story of… high school students gathering up their money and sending a buyer into Colorado and bringing [marijuana] edibles back or bringing the product back.”
Though Peterson may spin an eloquent yarn, official federal data contradicts him. Between 2012 and 2014, monthly marijuana use among high school students in Nebraska actually declined, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Teen use in Colorado and Washington, the states where adult use was legalized, also saw no increase.
Senator Grassley spoke from prepared remarks saying:
“Our country is in the middle of an epidemic of addiction focused on heroin and prescription opioids, and just last year, the Centers for Disease Control found that people who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin. So if the Obama Administration is serious about addressing this epidemic, it should stop burying its head in the sand about what’s happening to its enforcement priorities on recreational marijuana.”
Nice try, Grassley. Trying to tie hard drug use to marijuana is a staple of anti-pot propaganda, but study after study, including the very CDC report that Grassley cites state that people who abuse alcohol or prescription pills are also considerably more likely to abuse heroin.
Furthermore, the notion that marijuana acts as a “gateway” drug is being contradicted by a growing body of research that cannabis use actually steers people away from hard drugs, even aiding in addiction treatment and reducing the overdose and fatality statistics in legal states. Even D.A.R.E., the infamous anti-drug campaign, has removed marijuana from its list of gateway drugs, bowing to overwhelming evidence.
Even before the “debate”, critics cried foul, stating that there was no pro-legalization voice allowed or even an official from Colorado or Washington. The hearing panel stated that the focus of the meeting was on the Justice Department’s enforcement policy
“…and its commitment to keeping track of what is happening in the states, not directly about any particular state’s policy.”
“The Drug Policy Alliance wanted to have a witness on pro-legalization for recreational use and civil rights/sentencing reform, these topics are afield from the hearing’s focus on DOJ enforcement and commitments.”- Jill Gerber, spokewoman for Sen. Grassley
Their own direction of discussion throws that fish out of the water. Indeed, Michael Collins, Deputy Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that fights for policy and sentencing reform, spoke out before the event.
“The outcome of the hearing has been predetermined: This is going to be a prohibitionist party, not a substantive hearing. It’s a waste of time, a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
“An honest evaluation of marijuana legalization would include the undeniable benefits of legalization like the massive drop in marijuana arrests, the billions in taxes, and the transition from an underground market to a regulated one. A more even-handed hearing would also address the destructive harms of marijuana prohibition.”
The medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access denounced the gathering as
“yet another lopsided hearing against medical cannabis.”
The only glimmer of truth in the entire circus event was related to the supposed reason for its taking place. The DOJ is forced into an awkward position by simultaneous and contradicting laws over marijuana.
The next hope of Prohibitionists seems to rely on bullying the DOJ into direct action, as anti-drug groups, local law organizations, and even lawsuits by neighboring states have all failed to stop the will of a growing majority of Americans.
The 8 enforcement triggers outlined in the guidelines limiting their ability to enforce federal law in states that passed laws allowing medical or recreational marijuana include distribution to minors, interstate smuggling, and negative health consequences, but according to the Government Accountability Office report recently released and the single GAO officer present at the hearing, the DOJ isn’t documenting its monitoring of these events, or lack thereof.
The point made by Ambassador William Brownfield, the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, when he spoke ahead of the recent United Nations Special Session on drugs, comes to the front of the issue.
There is no national police force in America. There are national agencies, but they rely on local and state departments for their enforcement efforts. In effect, if a state chooses to allow marijuana, as more and more are doing, there is no action that the federal government can take short of Civil War to stop them without their consent.
The allowances made by the Justice Department are tenable when legalization is contained to a handful of states. As this year swings that number into a potential majority of the nation, that approach may no longer be capable. The growing industry is demanding legal reforms to access banking and tax deductions, and those denying progress cannot deny them once the movement hits an inevitable “critical mass”. The hands-off approach of the Rohrabacher-Farr memorandum and the Obama administration will soon be forced to give way to either more concrete legislation protecting marijuana, or a Prohibitionist crackdown that could lead to something far darker for our nation’s future.
Are you noticing the temperature heating up over marijuana in the media and politics? Which way do you think our nation is headed? Sound off on social media or in the comments below. Raise your voice!