Pubdate: Thu, 26 May 2016
Source: Portland Mercury (OR)
Column: Cannabuzz
Copyright: 2016 The Portland Mercury
Author: Josh Jardine


It's Easy to Forget About Anti-Weed Prohibitionists. Don't.

AS WE APPROACH the one-year anniversary of recreational cannabis 
legalization in Oregon, it's easy to forget about the prohibitionist 
forces that aren't happy about it. This is a mistake, though-these 
opponents are spending massive amounts of time, money, and energy to 
roll back the progress that's been made.

I've always struggled to understand who these prohibitionists are. I 
get that some religious people have a moral objection to cannabis and 
its use-which they've somehow extrapolated from that very popular 
book about the zombie miracle worker with a cool beverage party 
trick, who struggled with some serious daddy issues before being 
immortalized as a white Middle Easterner who looks like the Dude.

For others, it's a concern that children can gain access to cannabis, 
and that early development may be hampered by its use. Of all the 
arguments made by those who fear legalization, this is the one I 
understand the most. But I still have yet to meet anyone, ever, who 
has suggested that providing kids with recreational weed is a great 
idea. Let's drop the argument of legitimate medical use (pediatric 
epilepsy, cancer treatments), or how a child using cannabis 
recreationally has potentially far fewer negative or lethal effects 
than alcohol or prescription pill use. Young children smoking weed is 
not cool, never has been, and we should all do what we can to 
eliminate that scenario.

Now let's cast our red-eyed gaze southward to that nation state, 
California, and see how they're faring with their plans to vote for 
recreational use this November. Who is organizing and raising money 
against the legalization efforts?

Meet John Lovell, a Sacramento-based lobbyist whose main clients 
include police chiefs and prison guard supervisors, according to news 
website the Intercept. Lovell created a committee, the Coalition for 
Responsible Drug Policies, which has raised $60,000 in the first 
three months of 2016, based on a disclosure filed in May. The funds 
came from groups like the California Police Chiefs Association, 
Riverside Sheriffs' Association, Los Angeles Police Protective 
League's Issues PAC, and California Correctional Supervisor's 
Organization. These groups stand to lose federal grant money from the 
US Department of Justice, including grants that are specifically 
focused on marijuana.

But wait, there's more. Let's not forget two words that make law 
enforcement agencies drool with anticipation: "asset forfeiture." 
That's when these enforcement agencies seize property and cash 
associated with drug busts. Law enforcement agencies frequently share 
in the proceeds from their ill-gotten booty. And it's not an 
insubstantial amount: In California between 2002 and 2012, the amount 
for marijuana asset forfeiture was an astounding $181.4 million, 
according to the Intercept. Lovell wasn't about to let that sweet 
teat of cash get cut off, so in 2015, he helped defeat measures that 
would have reformed asset forfeiture. Why fix what's broken if you're 
making money from it, regardless of the toll it takes on people of 
color? Fun history fact: We started a civil war in this country over 
this type of thing.

Prison guards are also reluctant to see the laws change in favor of 
less punishment. In 2008, the union of prison guards in California 
helped defeat Proposition 5, which would have diverted nonviolent 
drug offenders away from prison. What's the point of having prisons 
if you can't fill them beyond capacity with young, poor, nonviolent 
people of color? For prison industrialists and those employed by 
them, that's how the cash cow is milked.

It's not just California. The sunburnt ballsack of the East Coast, 
Florida, defeated a medical marijuana ballot measure in 2014 with the 
help of law enforcement officials and their argument that weed is 
bad, and kids, and stuff.

Here's the good news: California legalization supporters have already 
raised more than $2.25 million to counter the prohibitionists, and 60 
percent of the state's likely voters are in favor of legalization. A 
win would make California, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska meccas of 
regulated, taxed cannabis usage, helping to raise millions if not 
billions of tax dollars, while reducing the number of nonviolent 
cannabis users helping prison guards keep their jobs. If you have 
friends in California, please remind them what's at stake this November.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom