And How It Informs About Who Supports Cannabis Prohibition…
“Supporting marijuana use is an example of domestic terrorism—it puts the public at great risk and threatens the very fabric of our society.” -Ron Brooks, President of National Narcotics Officers’ Association, 4/11/08
In my many annual public appearances and media interviews advocating for cannabis law reforms, the question will often arise ‘if NORML and the other drug policy reform groups are right that there are safe and viable alternatives to cannabis prohibition laws, who then opposes you in trying to amend current state and federal laws?’
The recent political endorsement given to former Republican congressman and ardent drug warrior Doug Ose by the National Narcotics Officers’ Association (NNOA) provides a handy opportunity that helps reveal exactly who are America’s prohibitionists and what are their motivations against ending cannabis prohibition.
Who Actually Supports (Or Profits From) Cannabis Prohibition?
At this juncture having worked over 17 years at NORML/NORML Foundation, my standard reply, without achieving doctoral dissertation length is 1.) There are five basic subgroups of Americans who strongly oppose any reforms in cannabis laws, and 2.) These subgroups constantly seek to deepen and enhance prohibition laws, i.e., politically and culturally oppose citizens and organizations who don’t favor prohibition laws; advocate for greater criminal sanctions and fewer civil liberties (more penalties, longer prison sentences, higher fines, and more of the ‘Big Three Ps’: police/prosecutors/prisons) and civil penalties (forfeiture, drivers license suspension, loss of child custody for parents who consume cannabis, denial of college loans to students busted for pot, removal from public-assisted living housing, etc…).
The Five Pillars Of Pot Prohibition
For all intent and purposes, in my opinion, educators, religious leaders, health organizations, military leadership, business and insurance institutions, and economists are not rabid supporters of cannabis prohibition per se. However, the five subgroups of Americans who do support rigorous cannabis prohibition laws and penalties are:
1- Law Enforcement
Police, sheriffs, state police; prison guards, parole officers and wardens; federal law enforcement [i.e., DEA]; local, state and federal prosecutors; drug court professionals and probation officers. Also, as you plainly read from the NNOA’s webpage, private law enforcement officer associations such as NNOA, California Narcotics Officers Association (read the CNOA’s anti-cannabis, laugh-inducing rants, click here, and here), Fraternal Order of Police, Chief of Police Association (and their state affiliates; Florida’s chapter is a prime example of police influencing the law—not just enforcing them) and the National Association of Attorney Generals (NAAG) work in concert to promote prohibition over tax-n-control policies.
2- So-called Parents Groups
Back in the 1970s there really was an organic, grassroots parents’ movement motivated and organized to oppose NORML’s marijuana decriminalization efforts. However, after the successful election bid of Ronald (and Nancy) Reagan in 1980, the executive branch largely hijacked the parents’ movement under the guise of Mrs. Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ anti-drug program and a number of well funded government front groups were established by inside the beltway Republicans as promotional vehicles for Mrs. Reagan, leaving the nascent grassroots parent’s movement largely high and dry.
The legacy of federal government anti-drug bureaucracies usurping the 1970s parents’ movement against marijuana is found today in a number of what are supposed to pass for parents’ groups, but today are largely government-funded organizations such as, in two examples: National Families in Action (NFIA) and Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA).
3-Companies and industries that financially benefit from the government’s 70-year old ban on cannabis and hemp products
When government passes a law there are always winners and losers. When the US Congress created cannabis/hemp prohibition in 1937 it created a number of economic opportunities for certain industries that effectively exist to support and prosper cannabis prohibition, such as: drug testing industry; private prisons; private for-profit cannabis ‘rehabilitation’ centers, high-tech surveillance (i.e., forward looking infrared radar, aka FLIR) and interdiction devices (i.e., ion scanners).
Many of these profit-making, prohibition-supportive companies and industries (some of which are multi-billion dollar and powerful multi-national corporations, i.e., General Electric, Blackwater, Lockheed Martin or Dyncorp) aggressively lobby for government policies and tax expenditures that benefit their companies, and their shareholders.
A change in cannabis laws from prohibition to tax-n-control negatively impacts the bottom line of many large and politically connected US corporations (and their subsidiaries), along with hundreds of smaller government contract-dependent companies.
4- Companies that would have to compete with cannabis and hemp products if it were not for the government’s cannabis prohibition, and therefore lobby for cannabis/hemp to remain illegal and its consumers treated like violent criminals:
The alcohol industry (beer, wine and distilled spirits; wholesalers and retailers), tobacco industry (cigar, spit and cigarettes; wholesalers and retailers), pharmaceutical industry and industrial material and energy companies (i.e., wood, paper, petroleum, plastics, fiber, seed oil, animal fodder, etc…), lobby and/or advocate against taxing and controlling cannabis and hemp products. Pro-industry associations like the US Chamber of Commerce and The Business Roundtable often work closely with industries and companies benefiting from cannabis prohibition by opposing cannabis law reform, promoting the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries (after all, these are legitimate, tax-paying industries. Right? Must be nice…).
5-Local, County, State, Federal and International ‘Anti-Drug’ Government Agencies and Bureaucracies
One could argue that absent the tens of thousands of government employees (civil servants and political appointees alike) and their inherent taxpayer-funded, multi-billion dollar annual budgets, there would be no so-called ‘war on drugs’ in America (and around the globe attributable to America’s exportation of cannabis prohibition through 1.) United Nation treaties and World Bank funding criterion, 2.) NIDA funding for anti-cannabis scientific and medical research and 3.) US Government-funded crop eradication and market disruption.
However, in conclusion, as long as the US Congress continues to allocate tens of billions of funding annually for huge government agencies and anti-cannabis propaganda campaigns—such as the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Partnership for a Drug Free America, Drug Awareness and Resistance Education (DARE), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and about a dozen more US government bureaucracies with odd sounding acronyms that represent tax-draining agencies, most of whom the general public have never heard of, such as the incredible Congressional boondoggle known as NDIC, the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, PA—allows the other four pro-prohibition subgroups to both foster and proliferate cannabis prohibition in support of their parochial profits and narrow business interests (or in the case of government agencies and their employees: annual funding with almost assured built-in budget increases, nearly impossible to terminate civil worker status, regular cost of living increases and a host of other highly sought after government employee benefits).
Thankfully, on June 3, Ose and National Narcotics Officers’ Association lost the primary to one of the most longstanding libertarian politicians in the nation, California Republican state senator Tom McClintock—a supporter of cannabis law reforms.