Saturday, April 07, 2012

Way Past Time....End Marijuana Prohibition

Way Past Time to End Reefer Madness

What do President Reagan’s Secretary of State George Schultz, former Fed Chairman Paul Volker, Former President Jimmy Carter, Former Detroit Police Chief McKinnon, and the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson all have in common? Add to this list international media and political expert Fareed Zakaria, former Presidents and Prime Ministers of five countries in Europe and South American, and the United Nation’s Global Commission on Drug Policy. They all agree that the 42 year old “War on Drugs” has failed miserably; they call for the decriminalization of marijuana, and they call for an end to drug policies that rely on law enforcement, prosecution, criminal penalties, and incarceration for drug users and in its place new models of regulation, taxation, education, and treatment.

That the war on marijuana has failed is almost universally accepted. Beginning in 1937, and accelerated by Richard Nixon in 1970, the U.S. criminalization of marijuana and other drugs has resulted in a tenfold increase in the number of persons arrested, prosecuted, and jailed, at a cost of over one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000.00.) For that money, we have seen the creation of huge underground economies that are neither taxed nor regulated, run often by drug cartels and street thugs. We have spent precious resources on prisons, lawyers, and law enforcement that focus on drug use instead of burglaries, larceny, rape and other violent crime. Meanwhile resources for drug and addiction treatment are reduced, grandmothers are arrested for baking brownies, and it becomes much easier to get into prison that to go to college.

Marijuana has been decriminalized in many places across the globe, including nations in Europe, and in some ways in certain cities and states here in the US. The results show no increase in crime, addiction, or use. Everywhere medical marijuana issues are put on the ballot, voters pass them in overwhelming numbers. Yet some reactionary segments of society, particularly in law enforcement, continue to follow failed policies of prohibition.

In the small city of Ferndale, MI, voters actually voted for legalization of medical marijuana three times. Each time they voted, the percentage of voters saying yes increased, to finally during the state referendum they went 3 to 1 in favor. As a Councilman, and then Mayor in Ferndale, I came out in support of these efforts, against the advice of my political advisors and others. We spent over a year going over zoning rules, developing policies, drafting legal rules and planning for medical marijuana to come to Ferndale, following the dictates of our residents and the people of Michigan. Our police chief was on board, the city council and city staff were together, and we set up policies to regulate dispensaries in our city. We opened one with great fanfare, and it was toured by mayors, council members, and police officials from several neighboring cities. There were no problems, complaints or issues of any kind during the two months Clinial Relief was open, that is until the day the Sheriff and his strike force came to town with helicopters, bullet proof vests, automatic weapons, and dogs.

By the way, Bouchard had just been to Ferndale days earlier to help us open the annual Dream Cruise, and I as Mayor introduced him and welcomed the Sheriff to town.

At this same time Sheriff’s Net team members and federal narcotics agents made numerous busts around Oakland County, including private homes and other medical marijuana facilities. This was also the famous news story about the Waterford medical marijuana facility that was being guarded by an alligator. News reports breathlessly reported the pot growing operation guarded by the dangerous reptile. Lazy reporters, however, failed in their jobs to report the news accurately and never demanded to see the reputed guard-alligator, and never bothered to ask what happened to it.

The truth was, of course, that the alligator was a baby, just a few inches long, and was kept in a 20 gallon aquarium.

Not to be out-done by our Republican law and order Sherriff, our Democratic County Prosecutor joined in the party, announcing that in order to protect children, she would prosecute any and all attempts to provide marijuana to patients, and that everything in Michigan was still illegal under federal law. Growing up before the
60’s, she still believes the government propaganda that was the 1937 film Reefer Madness.

Never mind that we were supposedly Democratic and political allies, Jessica Cooper even threatened prosecution against me, as Mayor, and then a sitting Oakland County Commissioner, and any locally elected official, who attempted to enact laws that our own voters demanded for medical marijuana.

Marijuana is one of those issues that most politicians are scared to death of. Many know the current system is unfair, illogical, unwise, expensive, and doomed to failure. They also will refuse to admit any of this. Many of them have used or do use marijuana, for medical or recreational purposes. But fear keeps them silent. Even though our last three presidents have all admitted to using marijuana, the denial and silence by politicians is still king.

While time is on the side of those who desire marijuana reform, progress is painfully slow. For those of us who want law enforcement to focus on true crime that affects our citizens and to empty the prisons of pot smokers, there are a number of things we can do to speed the process and bring sanity to the issue.
We must vote, and we must vastly increase the number of people who do vote, and we must enlighten those who care about the issue on how to vote.
We must raise money and contribute to elected officials and organizations who support this issue. And that also means raising money in large sums for the political opponents of our greatest foes. A couple of losses by our opponents in high profile races would have a huge effect on all politicians. This also means creating or funding political pacs, and even a super pac. Our enemies have plenty of money, but so do we. But we must use it smartly.

Lobby elected officials, locally, countywide, state-wide, and nationally. Politicians pay attention to voters, to letters, emails, polls, and above all, money and contributions.

Hound the media, and demand fair and constant reporting. Call them on fake stories about giant alligators or murky South American drug cartels operating in Michigan. Make them do their job, and fill the newspapers with letters to the editors, op editorials, and news stories that shine the light of truth on this issue.
Remind everyone about the astronomical costs of prohibition from arrests, law enforcement, prosecutions and imprisonment. And remind them of the funds that could become available for schools, public safety, and roads with marijuana regulation and taxation.

If a long time Gay rights leader like myself can agree with a right wing Christian evangelical like Pat Robertson that in this age of growing austerity, we can no longer afford to pay for the failed war on cannabis, then anything is possible.


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