Pubdate: Thu, 19 Sep 2013
Source: Mountain News (Lake Arrowhead, CA)
Copyright: 2013 Mountain News


This Won't Be Your Ordinary Conference

It's not every day Americans get to witness a high-profile federal
government agency doing a 180-degree turn on a key policy issue. But a
spotlight will be focused on one such turnabout during a two-day
conference next week in the Inland Empire.

Delegates from 37 states will convene on Sept. 23 and 24 at the first
annual National Marijuana & Policy Strategy Conference, at the
Victoria Gardens Cultural Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

Its sponsors say the idea is to learn from successes and failures in
reducing marijuana use, sales, trafficking, production and related
issues, all aimed at generating an effective marijuana policy and
strategy guide to be shared nationwide.

Their goal is to reduce the impact of marijuana and reverse current
efforts around the country to legalize it.

But if they succeed it likely won't be because of help from the
federal government. In fact, it's the government-specifically the
Department of Justice-that's the problem.

Just how significant a problem is outlined in a letter the organizers
sent this newspaper a few days ago.

Co-authored by the nine individuals who served as administrators of
the United States Drug Enforcement Administration-ironically a branch
of the Justice Department-continuously from 1973 to 2007, the letter
blasts current Attorney General Eric Holder for his about-face on
marijuana enforcement.

For the uninitiated, Holder announced earlier this year his office
will allow Colorado and Washington to legalize the production and sale
of pot for recreational use. His decision followed the legalization in
both states last year of the possession of small amounts of marijuana
by adults.

The former administrators say they are "shocked and dismayed" at
Holder's flip-flop. They point out that his new position not only
reverses his opposition to California's failed 2010
marijuana-legalization measure, Proposition 19, but also runs afoul of
federal law and a 1961 international treaty the United States signed.

Known as the Single Convention on Drugs, the treaty was signed by 97
countries and aims to ensure that cultivation, manufacture, possession
and offering for sale of drugs including marijuana are punishable offenses.

Holder's posture, the letter says, also ignores his pledge to support
and defend the U.S. Constitution, because Article VI, the Supremacy
Clause, says laws enacted by Congress, such as the ones criminalizing
marijuana, shall be the supreme law of the land, trumping state
statutes that conflict.

The signers predict Holder's policy will accelerate the availability
of marijuana to minors, encourage the growth of drug gangs and cartels
and divert marijuana to states where possession is still illegal.

The letter also cites research predicting increased highway crashes
and fatalities, as well as negative impacts on school attendance and
performance and declines in workplace productivity and safety.

The conference organizers also cite the 2012 National Survey on Drug
Use & Health, published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, which reports rising use of marijuana by persons
50 or older in the past decade, as an indicator of its growing popularity.

This apparent variance of views between two departments in the Obama
administration may make for some interesting discussions at future
cabinet meetings.

But federal disagreements aside, it's compelling that next week's
conference will convene such an impressive array of experts in law
enforcement, drug cartels and gangs, drug policy and testing,
faith-based prevention efforts, drug prosecution, treatment and
prevention and other disciplines, with a common goal in mind.

They'll be there because they've seen and understand the impacts of
marijuana-especially the strains available today, that are
substantially stronger than what our parents may have smoked in the
1960s-and see nothing but trouble unless current trends shift.

We wish them success in getting out the word that marijuana isn't the
feel-good, victimless substance its backers assert, but a dangerous,
addictive product that needs interdiction by officials who don't waffle.
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