The Nation: “Breaking The Taboo”

Several cover stories appearing in the new issue of The Nation take issue with United State’s ‘war on drug’ policies. The entire issue is arguably worth reading, but the following essay, penned by Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann, is particularly relevant to marijuana law reformers as we look to 2011 and beyond.

Breaking the taboo
via The Nation

[excerpt] The prospects for reforming drug policy have never been so good. The persistent failure and negative consequences of drug war policies, combined with budgetary woes and generational change, are mainstreaming reformist ideas once considered taboo.

Nowhere is this convergence more evident than with respect to marijuana. In 1969, when Gallup first asked Americans if they support legalizing marijuana use, 12 percent were in favor. Support hovered in the mid-20s for many years, then started drifting upward—from 25 percent in 1995 to 36 percent in 2005. In October, at the height of the landmark campaign for legalization in California, the latest Gallup poll found 46 percent in favor nationally, with 50 percent opposed. Prop 19 garnered 46.5 percent of the vote—and roughly a quarter of Californians who voted against it said they favored legalization but were hesitant to vote yes for one reason or another.

Criminal justice reformers know that marijuana offenses account for “only” 50,000–100,000 of the roughly 500,000 Americans behind bars for a drug law violation, but arrests for marijuana possession represent 45 percent of the 1.7 million drug arrests made annually in recent years. And as Queens College professor Harry Levine has amply documented, African-Americans and Latinos are arrested for marijuana offenses at dramatically higher rates than whites, even though they are no more likely to use or possess marijuana. It’s only a matter of time before the racial justice implications of marijuana prohibition and legalization overcome the cultural conservatism of African-American and Latino communities.

According to the Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans who live in the West now favor legalizing marijuana use. It’s thus highly likely that 2012 will see more legalization initiatives in Western states, and with the support of young people—who consistently say they care a lot about this issue and turn out in higher numbers for presidential elections—a few may actually succeed.

The Nation isn’t the only mainstream media outlet taking aim at the drug war. Earlier this month the Associated Press published the second installment in their ‘AP Impact’ series. Their first analysis, published in May (and summarized on NORML’s blog here) concluded that the United States drug ‘war’ has cost over $1 trillion dollars, has led to the arrest of over 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, and yet has done “little” to reduce Americans’ access to or desire to use illicit substances. The AP’s second analysis takes an equally critical approach to the United State’s efforts in Mexico, which have led to “little, if any, slowdown in the drug trade.”

AP IMPACT: Cartel arrests did not curb drug trade
via San Luis Obispo Tribune

[Excerpt] Almost four years later, a grave Eric Holder called his first news conference as attorney general and announced where those phone numbers had led – to a sweeping investigation called Operation Xcellerator, which produced the largest-ever federal crackdown on Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, with 761 people arrested and 23 tons of narcotics seized.

Standing with Holder that day in 2009 was acting Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart, who declared: “Today we have dealt the Sinaloa drug cartel a crushing blow.”

But just how crushing was it? An Associated Press investigation casts doubt on whether the crackdown caused any significant setback for the cartel. It still ranks near the top of Mexico’s drug gangs, and most of those arrested were underlings who had little connection to the cartel and were swiftly replaced. The cartel leader remains free, along with his top commanders.

The findings confirm what many critics of the drug war have said for years: The government is quick to boast about large arrests or drug seizures, but many of its most-publicized efforts result in little, if any, slowdown in the drug trade.

For decades the drug warriors functioned with the full complicity of the press. That isn’t the case any more. And without a lapdog media, it is becoming glaring obvious to the majority of the public that the Emperor absolutely wears no clothes.

22 thoughts

  1. We will not have any major breakthroughs in public opinion until a major elected official publicly changes his/her position and supports drug policy reform.

  2. Thank you to The Nation! It’s about time somebody in the mainstream media held the federal government’s feet to the fire. The R’s are getting their tax cuts, and now legalize cannabis for the revenue to help pay for things! You got yours, and now I want mine!

    Okay, so cannabis revenues are projected to be only $41 billion per annum, and it’s gonna take somethin’ like $700 billion to jump-start the economy. Gotta start somewhere. Gettin’ rid of the new Jim Crow cannabis laws is a great start to getting equality, being treated as a Mensch. How much of that $700 billion can the U.S. get if it controls the Afghan cannabis production, as well as worldwide sales, you know, if the cannabis products are traded in dollars on a commodities exchange? A helluva lot more than just $41 billion per annum for domestic revenues alone. Kaching!

    Keep running the economy into the ground until they legalize cannabis.

  3. #5 Mrs. Rat’sRectum

    Please keep in mind that that $41 Billion per annum (which I believe is understated) only represents the medical | recreational use of cannabis — when the vast array of (mature, fully developed) commercial applications of hemp are factored in, we’re talking about $200 Billion per annum (IMHO). This doesn’t include the giant hole in the national budget that the (total) cost of the War on Drugs (actually, on People) costs per annum, which could be ended.

    The complete re-legalization of cannabis | hemp could very well represent the creation of 2 million jobs nationwide within 2 years, with the potential for twice that number once the hemp industries spin up. And all of this financial benefit could be derived without any additional incurred national debit as a stimulus for cannabis | hemp industries — the monies generated by the medical | recreational use of cannabis could (wisely) be used to initiate the new green revolution of hemp for commercial applications.

    http://www.jackherer.com/thebook

    Many | most of our politicians of every stripe have been bought and paid for by the very same crony industrial groups that stand to suffer in the short term financially with the resurrection of re-legalized cannabis | hemp.

  4. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is. Time is on our side – yes it is.

    EVERYBODY !!!!

  5. Why does The Nation’s website have a picture of bags of marijuana next to guns? The only associations between marijuana and guns are of those illegitimately involved with the drug war, or those who are redundantly fighting against it. Those guns should be placed next to alcohol where they would be most relevantly affiliated.

  6. Hey # 9 – where the fuck have you been the past 74 years? Time is on our side? Go post your bullshit on some other forum.

  7. Hey # 12- like I said to # 9 – where the fuck have you been the last 74 years? We’re winning?

    If this is really a war and they use guns against us, we are we not responding in kind?

  8. Marijuana prohibition is such a BIG failure that it is now America’s top cash crop. Nationwide sales have been estimated at $100 Bilion a year, about the same as beer. We have 3 options for who will control all the MJ trade and get all the money.
    1.Government, w/proper regulations and taxes to address social problems.
    2.Private business, w/proper regulations and taxes to address social problems.
    3.Organized Crime w/no regulations or taxes to address
    social problems
    We have chosen organized crime to make all the rules for the MJ business and to get 10’s of billions per year in profit. They dictate how it is made, distributed and sold. Organized crime determines potency, purity and labeling.
    This is the same choice we made in 1933 w/alcohol prohibition. Who should control the business and get the 10’s of billion per year? We can either have criminals like Al Capone-or responsible taxpaying citizens with roots in the community…TAKE YOUR PICK

  9. New’s reports that are “ballooned” of “busts” and “raids” only show’s weakness in the fact that, As stated several times throughout history, proving power through a metaphorical “pissing-match” of who can catch what and what can be retained as facts and what can be released as “facts”. Not to mention that the minute these enforcers and other anti-legalization advocates jump to make headline as an “example” to those who disobey the rules that were so “adamantly” enforced and created upon an unjust, unbiased, and uneducated cause and opinion created years before any “real” scientific research could be done, also to “prove” that what we as Humans(Americans) fund towards a “drug war” is all “worth-it”. Who doesn’t feel safe anymore with these sick and dying Human-beings taking a drug that is no more harmful than a fairly large percentage of prescription medications that in any case no matter if it’s ibuprofen to vicodin there is warning labels everywhere about what you can’t do and the dangers of essentially taking these “drugs”, but we still do it and at a larger risk than the occasional Smoke or Edible for relief. Why?

  10. I suppose it would be “just too simple and appropriate” to tell prohibitionists to take their little act down the road, and that [if] prohibitionists really want to oppose that firm suggestion, they would soon find out who the bigger dog is. Fortunately for prohibitionists – we are law abiding citizens who respect the rule of law. We are not so arrogant to break our own laws. We don’t shit on our own doorstep. Prohibitionists should seriously take that into consideration, before we hand them their hat, to cover their pointed little heads with.

Leave a Reply