HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Going Backward in Drug War
Pubdate: Sat, 15 Oct 2011
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2011 The Orange County Register
Author: James P. Gray
Note: JAMES P. GRAY / Retired Orange County Superior Court judge, 
author of book, "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed"


New Federal Effort Against Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Will Fail 
As Have All Other Efforts at Prohibition.

The four U.S. attorneys in California announced last week yet another 
federal marijuana program, with this one aimed at closing down 
medical marijuana dispensaries. Not only will this program be as 
hopeless as its predecessors, it is yet another continuing example of 
the arrogance, hypocrisy and bullying of the federal government in this area.

There is no question that some medical marijuana dispensaries are 
acting outside of California law, as established by Proposition 215 
and its progeny. But the answer is for those involved to be 
prosecuted by the state of California, not the feds.

As for the arrogance, bullying and hypocrisy, this new program has 
the fully intended result of depriving the targeted dispensaries of a 
trial by a jury of Californians. How so? Because it is using the IRS 
to disallow all deductions of dispensaries' business expenses, and is 
using the FBI to send letters to the landlords threatening 
administratively to seize their properties if they don't close down 
their tenants' dispensaries.

Even putting aside these issues, the practical problem is that 
programs of this kind don't work. Since 1970, police have arrested 20 
million Americans for marijuana offenses, of which 90 percent were 
for simple possession. Nevertheless, those expenditures of scarce 
criminal justice resources have failed to reduce public demand or 
access to marijuana. In fact, virtually any teenager will tell you 
that, today, it is easier for them to get marijuana, if they want to, 
than it is alcohol.

Thus, calling marijuana a "controlled substance" is the biggest 
oxymoron of our day. Prohibition leaves governments with no controls 
whatsoever over things like age restrictions, quality, quantity or 
place of sale. Those important issues are left in the complete 
control of Mexican drug cartels, juvenile street gangs and other 
thugs, which is where most of the customers will go once the 
dispensaries are closed down.

And how is business? Today the largest cash crop in California is 
marijuana. (No. 2 is grapes, if you care.) Several years ago the head 
of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was quoted as saying that 
60 percent of the gross revenue for Mexican drug cartels came from 
the sale of marijuana, and that figure probably also holds true for 
juvenile street gangs as well. And, of course, none of those sales are taxed.

Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for the San Francisco-based Northern 
District of California, unintentionally demonstrated why the new 
program will not work when she said, "Marijuana cultivators are 
converting our public lands and pristine national forests into 
large-scale clandestine marijuana grow operations. They are cutting 
down trees and plants. They are diverting streams, polluting the 
water table and the land with processed pesticides."

Of course, she is right about what is happening under today's system. 
But bringing the growing and selling of marijuana back under the 
control of the government will change that, just like it did with 
alcohol with the repeal of Prohibition. Why? Because today we do not 
see Mexican drug cartels growing illegal vineyards in our national 
forests in competition with Robert Mondavi. And we also do not see 
teenagers selling Jim Beam bourbon to each other on their school 
campuses. But those things are happening with marijuana all the time.

So what should be done? There is a bill pending in Congress, HR 2306, 
that would take marijuana off the five federal lists of controlled 
substances and allow each state to address the issue in the manner 
that each deemed most effective. We should contact our federal 
representatives and encourage them to support this bill.

And on the November 2012 ballot we will have an initiative that will 
strictly regulate and control the recreational use of marijuana for 
adults. You can see the exact language at

Importantly, this initiative will not change existing laws about 
driving under the influence of marijuana, people using or being 
impaired by marijuana in public or in the workplace, or any laws 
about marijuana for people under age 21. And the program will be 
administered by California's Alcohol Beverage Control Board, just 
like wine, and the commercial advertising of recreational marijuana 
will be prohibited.

I have never used marijuana, and have no intention to do so (unless 
it is recommended by a medical doctor to alleviate some medical 
malady). But we should reclaim our rights back from the federal 
government to make our own decisions about marijuana. Regulate it, 
control it, tax it, and make it less available for children. What's 
not to like? The federal government clearly does not have all the 
answers, and we are mature and experienced enough to handle this 
issue ourselves!
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