Pubdate: Tue, 05 May 2015
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Froma Harrop


Howard Wooldridge, a Washington lobbyist, is a former detective and 
forever Texan on an important mission - trying to persuade the 535 
members of Congress to end the federal war on marijuana.

Liberals tend to be an easier sell than conservatives. With liberals, 
Wooldridge dwells on the grossly racist way the war on drugs has been 

"The war on drugs," he tells them, "has been the most immoral policy 
since slavery and Jim Crow."

Conservatives hear a different argument, but one that Wooldridge 
holds every bit as dear: "Give it back to the states."

This is a case for states' rights, a doctrine to which conservatives 
habitually declare their loyalty. It is based on the 10th Amendment 
to the U.S. Constitution, which says that powers not delegated to the 
federal government are given to the states or to the people. In fact, 
states had jurisdiction over marijuana until 1937.

Co-founder of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, 
Wooldridge leaves no doubt where he stands on the war on drugs. End 
it all. That means no more U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. No 
more federal SWAT teams invading suburban backyards. No more DEA 
agents shooting from helicopters.

Today the war on drugs costs taxpayers $12 billion a year just for 
the enforcement part. Meanwhile, the loss of income for the millions 
of ordinary Americans made nearly unemployable after being caught 
with a joint can't be counted.

"You could close half the prisons in the country if you ended 
prohibition," Wooldridge says.

He now focuses only on marijuana, which he dismisses as "little green 
plants." And he doesn't use the L-word - that is, legalization.

If Washington state and Colorado legalize marijuana for recreational 
use (and they have), that's fine with him. If 21 other states, from 
Maine to Hawaii, choose to allow marijuana only for medicinal use, 
that's also OK. And if Alabama and South Dakota want all marijuana 
kept illegal, again, fine.

"For sure, Utah is smokeless," he added, "and I say God bless."

Liberals have traditionally shunned states'-rights arguments because 
of their association with the evils of slavery and segregation. So it 
is notable that the NAACP has endorsed a bill just submitted by U.S. 
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., requiring the federal government to 
respect state laws on marijuana.

African Americans do not like the 10th Amendment, Wooldridge notes, 
"but the racism involved in the prohibition is a billion times worse 
for black people."

Republicans once presented a united front in supporting the war on 
drugs. That wall began to crumble with the rise of the Ron Paul 
libertarians. When the House voted 219 to 189 last year to stop the 
federal ban on medical marijuana in states making it legal, 10 
Republicans joined the "yes" side.

Pushing the "no" votes were police employed by the war and private 
businesses running prisons. They have an economic interest in keeping 
prohibition in place.

But it's also about "emotion." Nearly every police officer had a 
colleague killed in the drug war. They don't want to think their 
friends died for nothing.

Example: In the fall of 2012, two deputies flying over southeast 
Colorado to locate the marijuana harvest died when their light plane 
crashed. Two months later, Colorado legalized recreational pot.

The war on drugs, especially marijuana, is entering its twilight 
phase. The question now is: How many million more American lives are 
going to be ruined and how many billion more dollars will be poured 
down the drain before we recognize its futility and move on?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom