Confronted and Owned: Anti-Marijuana Zealot Bill Bennett

Let states enact their own marijuana policies
By Paul Armentano, Special to CNN
July 6, 2011

(CNN) — It is hardly surprising that former drug czar William Bennett would, in his op-ed, oppose any changes to America’s criminalization of marijuana. But it is surprising that he would lump Barney Frank and Ron Paul’s proposal to allow states the opportunity to enact their own marijuana policy with the effort to legalize drugs.

Let’s be clear: HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, proposed by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, does not “legalize drugs” or even so much as legalize marijuana. Rather, this legislation removes the power to prosecute minor marijuana offenders from the federal government and relinquishes this authority to state and local jurisdictions. In other words, HR 2306 is just the sort of rebuke to the “nanny state” that conservatives like Bennett otherwise support.

Barney Frank and Ron Paul: Get feds out of pot regulation

The House bill mimics changes enacted by Congress to repeal the federal prohibition of alcohol. Passage of this measure would remove the existing conflict between federal law and the laws of those 16 states that already allow for the limited use of marijuana under a physician’s supervision.

It would also permit states that wish to fully legalize (for adults) and regulate the responsible use, possession, production and intrastate distribution of marijuana to be free to do so without federal interference. In recent years, several states, including California and Massachusetts, have considered taking such actions either legislatively or by ballot initiative. It is likely that several additional states will be considering this option in 2012, including Colorado and Washington. The residents and lawmakers of these states should be free to explore these alternate policies, including medicalization, decriminalization and legalization, without running afoul of the federal law or the whims of the Department of Justice.

Of course, just as many states continued to criminalize the sale and consumption of alcohol after the federal government’s lifting of alcohol prohibition, many states, if not most, might continue to maintain criminal sanctions on the use of marijuana.

But there is no justification for the federal government to compel them to do so. Just as state and local governments are free to enact their own policies about the sale and use of alcohol — a mind-altering, potentially toxic substance that harms the user more than marijuana — they should be free to adopt marijuana policies that best reflect the wishes and mores of their citizens.

Does Bill Bennett believe that state and local governments cannot be trusted with making such decisions on their own?

Speaking during an online town hall in January, President Obama acknowledged the subject of legalizing and regulating marijuana was a “legitimate topic for debate,” even as he expressed his opposition. Yet Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, recently boasted that he would not even consider scheduling HR 2306 for a public hearing.

There might be another reason people like Smith and Bennett will go to such lengths to try to stifle public discussion of the matter. To do so would be to shine light on the fact that the federal criminalization of marijuana has failed to reduce the public’s demand for cannabis, and it has imposed enormous fiscal and human costs upon the American people.

Further, this policy promotes disrespect for the law and reinforces ethnic and generational divides between the public and law enforcement. Annual data published in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, and compiled by NORML, finds that police have made more than 20 million arrests for marijuana violations since 1970, nearly 90% of them for marijuana possession offenses only.

It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to unregulated, criminal entrepreneurs and allow states the authority to enact common sense regulations that seek to govern the adult use of marijuana in a fashion similar to alcohol.

In Bennett’s own words, “We have an illegal drug abuse epidemic in this country.” How is such a conclusion anything but a scathing indictment of the present policy? After 70 years of failure it is time for an alternative approach. The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011” is an ideal first step.

Editor’s note: Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML , the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and is the co-author of the book “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” (2009, Chelsea Green).

93 thoughts

  1. Anytime a politician says he or she wants to keep putting people in prison over marijuana, check their campaign finances (google their state name and the phrase, campaign finance, and you’ll see their state site). Every state site is different, but it’s usually possible to find the politician by name, or the words beer, beverage, distributor, wine, spirits, correction… any of those will often bring up interesting campaign money for people who _say_ they are all about keeping people safe, but _in_reality_ are taking money from corporations that make big money by keeping mj illegal.

  2. Here’s a much better op-ed from someone who actually makes sense and has the right perspective:
    Please, I urge NORML and everyone else to tweet this story and follow @GovGaryJohnson on Twitter and on his Facebook page. He truly stands for personal rights and has the courage to speak out about it candidly and tell the truth! We need him as President now!

  3. Id say Bill Bennetts wife is still receiving funds from the jesus lovers, oh excuse me, the moral majority as they like to be called. She/They run an anti-dont do drugs thingie or something along those lines. The Bennetts are nothing more than Wahington D.C. butt lickers who are too lazy to axtually go out and earn a living.
    They’ll be against drugs in America as long as it is paying for their cigaretts, liqior and gambling debts.
    Nothing more than a hypocrite, not to be given any credibility, Next.

  4. 47. Jason
    Is that really what you would have us do with congress people – sweep their shit under the rug – and – kiss their ass. We are not out to save the prohibitionist’s ass – we’re out to expose them for what they are – and – throw their asses out of office. Fairness is the Doctrine – but – you tell me – who has been fair? We’re not saying this behind their backs – we’re right up in their face. Jason – with all due respect – you wouldn’t last 2 minutes in Washington before they would eat you for lunch.

  5. 55. Lory Kohn
    “You think giving each state control over cannabis is the way, huh?”
    We don’t have to think – the Constitution and the U.S.Supreme Court already provides for sovereign states to control substances in their state. It’s the law of the land. Let us law abiding citizens obey the law of the land.

  6. Here in Iowa I help Carl Olsen, who you should know a lot more about, to have standing before the courts as Iowa has very carefully obeyed federal Regulatory law. We do NOT need to disobey the law if it rationally reflects the will of the people. The love of our own law is a terrible casualty to the psychos like Bennet and their lust for slaves. We are setting Iowa up to have schedule two by the Science. Then we are after the regulatory law change to get the legality of pot as medicine established. This will Not get me my pot… Which I Will Have, bennet, you puke. It will set us up to force Iowa, as a state, to do what all the voter initiative states have failed to do, God bless your courage! You have NONE of you, taken your state out of schedule one for pot. You can Not get the DEA to change from schedule one when you are telling the world you think, at state law level, that pot will kill you. Little Iowa will make the ground tremble! We will get schedule one at state level with Zero access because we get to do the warp two turn and blast these bastards into the twenty first century at the DEA. Baby steps to History! No, we aren’t fast, but we are very accurate. You will love this when we pull it off!

  7. amendment, please, we will get schedule Two at state level and then sue Iowa again to force it to sue the DEA to admit that a state, one state is all it takes!! has called pot medicine by pure science and then the correction at law to agree that pot is medicine. Nobody has done this yet. Oregon does not qualify because schedule two was Forced onto the state board of pharmacy. here in Iowa I appeared three times ranting them and the dreadful Office of Drug Control Policy thugs took my name and face as we stood before the soldier in this, the Day. Be warned bennetoids! we have staked ourselves to the ground! there is no running! this is till we win. period. Federal regulatory law is the secret brothers and sisters! Do not think we will let this end at schedule two! Pot has No business in schedule two! they jail just as bad for two as one here. Schedule Carrot or we Keep Bringing IT Bennet!!

  8. Thank you to ConservativeChristian 48, 51, 52 for the proof.
    As someone mentioned, can we get someone in the mainstream media or on cable news to talk about this issue? Gary Johnson backing up Frank and Paul? Paul’s son, too? MMJ has more support on a state count than gay marriage, and the federal level is doing more for that.
    The public is getting all worked up into a frenzy by all this reporting on the disagreement about raising the debt ceiling. They could be okay with leaving legalization up to the states as budget cutting measures so as not to have the debt ceiling result in the military and its industry not getting paid and to avoid all the financial ripples throughout the financial markets.
    Think about it. You could Noam Chomsky manipulate things in the western media.

  9. 57,58. UrpGag
    I don’t know if we all are over-looking the obvious. Cannabis must first be – “DEFINED.” The definition must be based on “Scientific Conclusion.” The truth is in the science.

  10. “We don’t have to think – the Constitution and the U.S.Supreme Court already provides for sovereign states to control substances in their state. It’s the law of the land. Let us law abiding citizens obey the law of the land.”
    “Control” is the operative word. 80% of dispensaries forced out of LA in 2010. Same thing will happen this year in Denver — fees are triple what they were last year. Surveillance cameras going in this week. Big Brother loves states’ right. Keep voting for limited statewide initiatives then complain after they enact weird rule changes as if you didn’t empower them to do it that force business owners out onto the street. Read the link I provided and tell me how great state control is.

  11. If by “(for adults)” you mean ANYTHING other than 18+ you deserve to be slapped and have some sense beaten into you. You are an adult at 18. No ifs, ands or buts about it. PERIOD.

  12. Wait until the stars start falling off the flag! Maybe that’s exactly what they want – kill the country, its Constitution, and most of all God. Doesn’t anyone see the pattern here. Better learn how to say – “Yeth Masta.”

  13. 61. Lory Kohn
    “The law is the law.” There are NO EXCUSES for the feds to break it – but – they sure as hell do – don’t they. Lory – “Power is the name of the game with the Lords of the Modern World.” I can tell you this without the slightest hesitation – California and Colorado are up their noses and out their asses – and – they don’t like it – why? – because so goes California – so goes the world.

  14. If you want to kill a creature that is trying to kill you, start at the head not the tail. Lop off the head of prohibition ( not the tail ) and the rest withers. Have you noticed that most of the opposition are not sick or disabled?

  15. 64.American Genesist
    The feds rarely show their faces around Colorado. The state Department of Revenue provides more than enough mischief for me and anyone else like me who can walk to 30 dispensaries to realize what an epic mistake it is to try and effect legalization state by state. It’s great if you don’t mind walking around with a ball and chain. Repealing prohibition is the only way to stop the insanity once an for all. MLK had a nice little term for going state by state: taking the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. The herbal rights movement could do a lot worse than emulate the civil rights movement.

  16. If I control what you can and can not consume, I own you, you are my slave. Sadly, and un-Constitutionally, slavery is alive and well in this country. There was a time when there was no illegal drug use in this country. But that just wasn’t good enough for some folks. If there is a God in heaven those folks will surely burn in hell for their crimes against humanity. Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot. There is no money to be made simply leaving people alone. The mess caused by the drug war these folks started and wage to this day is un-Godly, un-Constitutional, insanity.

  17. Its quite surprising that most republicans don’t support this new bill. I thought they didn’t like big governments all up in our business…… can anyone say AGENDAS? Cause that’s what it seems to me

  18. 65. Bobby D. Denning
    Bobby Kennedy was the tail – John Kennedy was the head. To eliminate the tail they cut off the head. We’re very familiar with that mafia concept.

  19. 66. Lory Kohn
    If you’ve ever become acquainted with a task force raid – you would recognize that every agency in the world is represented. What I didn’t notice was a animal services vest – maybe because the first thing they do is shoot the dogs.
    “Repealing prohibition is the only way to stop the insanity once an for all.”
    You’re absolutely correct. There is no question about that. Go for it!
    “Taking the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”
    Now there’s a scary phrase. Gradualism is a drug – a drug used effectively by Fabian Socialists – of which Obama is one. That’s too easy to figure out.

  20. Question: Who hasn’t tried cannabis? Anyone in the world who hasn’t tried it should be proud to stand up and say “I’m ???? and I have not tried it.”

  21. I will gladly debate in public any one person or panel of persons that feels that the government has the right to choose for me, in anything.

  22. The point you’re missing is that dispensaries/collectives/coops/clubs invite task force raids by agreeing to play under the ever-changing MMJ laws which have always been at odds with federal law. Wanna avoid that? Open an ice cream parlor. Or get on the bigger better more noble cause of prohibition repeal.
    btw, 8 out of 10 parts have now been now posted for “Ten Reasons Why MMJ is Cannabis Commerce’s Ball and Chain” over at The tranquilizing drug of gradualism is Part 6.

  23. I see myself as a spiritual man! According to my Constitutional Rights, I can practice the religion of my choosing! In the Holy Bible, in Genesis 1:29, the 29th thing that God Almighty had to say to man!!!
    “I give you every green, seed baring plant on the face of the WHOLE Earth. They will be as food for you.”
    Now, who are you? You think that you as a government, can take away a Gift that was Given as Provision for me by God Almighty Himself? Who are you to argue with God?

  24. It should be noted that Nixon’s hatred of the counter culture, i.e. “Grateful Dead fans in tie-dyed tee shirts” was such that he was determined to see to it that his enemies wouldn’t live to see decriminalization. Sadly, the result is that today therapeutic MJ is victim of a burning, wild-eyed political grudge. Toss in corporate opposition to the wonderful potential of industrial hemp and the damage it could wreak on Big Petrochem patents and the enemies’ list is formidable indeed.
    Of course Nixon wasn’t just vilified; he was positively savaged (and deservedly so) even when he was still “honest.” Who knew that he was so thin skinned or (as with Kissinger) that he’d eventually return as a “senior statesman” or, continue to influence policy even after his death? (Not surprisingly, those of his ilk who remain in power are equally committed to an intractable, “never give ’em the satisfaction” posture on decrim)
    I’m not optimistic about relief through legislation, and I’m hoping that either the entire corrupt federal mafia collapses (this is my wish and not necessarily shared by NORML) or we wait until the last Nixon-era crony finally dies. (don’t hold your breath waiting for any to retire)
    No amount of remedial constitutional consciousness raising or facts about official corruption/growth of organized crime could have forced essentially the same batch of politicians who passed the 18th amendment to repeal it with the 21st. It was juries and their “not guilty” verdicts for victimless alcohol possession/consumption-related offenses that forced the issue. (Congress didn’t want jurors to get in the habit of judging bad laws on their merits) But that cannot be relied upon now because of our two-tiered justice system. As long as sons of privilege (like George W. Bush) can slip the nooses intended for poor and powerless targets of onerous enforcement, i.e. “official forfeitures to highwaymen/entrepreneurs and their Rolex Sniffing dogs” there’s little hope for relief.
    While the police are flipping Chuy’s car hoping a seed will roll out federal drug warriors and political big shots are flying overhead in business jets and receiving suitcases brimming with freshly rinsed and sweet smelling cash from the long list of foreign and domestic opponents of decriminalization.
    And the issue of jury stacking by court clerks (who repeatedly recall those who convict and seldom summon those from juries that exonerate) is another issue that deserves sunlight. (The “problem” undoubtedly received thorough reviews in most jurisdictions after a “rogue jury” freed OJ Simpson)
    Intensive jury selection now begins before the summons is mailed and as with casinos the odds are supposed to favor the house. But, it only takes one “rogue juror” to monkey wrench a criminal prosecution. Of course we wouldn’t want to resort to that to frustrate a zealous anti MJ prosecutor’s case, would we?

  25. 80. Darius
    Do I hear an echo from a Genesist brethren? I’m sure that you would enjoy the following passages as well. “Keep the Faith – Defend the Garden.”
    Genesis I:11,12.
    Genesis I:29,30,31.
    Genesis IX:3.
    Ezekiel [The Prophet] XXXIV:29,30,31.
    Exodus XXX:22-29.

  26. the hotel lobby will allow more blogging briefly but for right now everyone with cottonmouth follow me but, you’ll have to bring your own money…

  27. Marijuana reform could have occurred decades ago. I see so many similarities to today’s push for reform and the one in the sixties and seventies. The children of the sixties were great at being angry,calling people names, demonstrating and being defiant. What we accomplished by this was the alienation of the “average Joe”. The phrase we lived by was “tune in, turn on and drop out”. Unfortunately, what we should have done was use the weapons furnished us by the constitution and selected someone who shared our views and voted. Right now the polls show that a huge percentage of the population if not a reliable majority favor reform. Use the system as our founding fathers intended. Nurture the people who already believe, politely persuade and educate the uncertains and let those who oppose the cause alone. I had a college debate coach who told me ” don’t enter into a debate with a fool, they are impervious to logic”. Don’t repeat our mistakes. An election is upcoming. Let’s make it count.

  28. @84 – That is why I support Gary Johnson. If he gets elected, marijuana prohibition ends day 1. If he gets enough support, we could see the end of prohibition in less the 18 months(1 year 5 months and 27 days to be exact).

  29. 86. Elwoodsquest for full freedom
    Remember 4-20 @ 4:20. They’re not listening to words -physical presense most always gets attention.

  30. George Santos a proponent of legal marijuana says “Law enforcement agencies today spend
    many billions of taxpayer dollars annually trying to enforce this unenforceable prohibition.”
    Taking the U.S as a whole, we spend about $68 billion a year on our prisoners. A total of about one third of those men and women imprisoned are locked up for nonviolent drug related crimes. Around half of these criminals are those who are marijuana users. This means about one-sixth of the prisoners in our country are in jail for charges related to marijuana. If we were to legalize marijuana that would be the U.S could spend $11.3 billion less on Americans tax payers’ money.

  31. George Santos a proponent of legal marijuana says “Law enforcement agencies today spend
    many billions of taxpayer dollars annually trying to enforce this unenforceable prohibition.”
    Taking the U.S as a whole, we spend about $68 billion a year on our prisoners. A total of about one third of those men and women imprisoned are locked up for nonviolent drug related crimes. Around half of these criminals are those who are marijuana users. This means about one-sixth of the prisoners in our country are in jail for charges related to marijuana. If we were to legalize marijuana that would be the U.S could spend $11.3 billion less on Americans tax payers’ money.

  32. Dan Richeson here, I have started a little project and I am seeking others who can provide critique to the overall concept, some possible editing and networking. The concept is simple enough, instead of waiting for our elected officials to “give us our rights” we will formally declare them with a declaration of rights singed en-mass, sent to elected officials AND the United Nations (the first few paragraphs are from the UN universal declaration of rights). I envision a mass mailing at around April of next year. If you are intrested visit my face book page you should be able to find “DECLARATION OF RIGHTS OF CANNABIS USERS”. I have been posting it around so you might see it else where too.
    If you are well informed and have similar intrests then I would like to hear from you.
    Dan Richeson
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
    Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
    Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.
    Main Body
    Whereas for too long now it has been observed that disregard and contempt for human rights has been allowed to exist in the body of politically motivated law that outlaws the possession, cultivation and use of cannabis by adults. The signatories of this Declaration wish to live in peace in this society, have been engaged in constant communication with their elected representatives individually or as part of groups. The actions of the government in this regards demonstrates continued contempt and disregard that we the undersigned feel that we have NO RECOURSE but to regard our government and some of our fellow citizens as hostile towards our declared rights and indifferent to the tyranny, oppression and terrorism that we have too long had to deal with.
    Whereas by this declaration we provide the opportunity and impudence to engage with representatives in good faith negotiations which will lead to peaceful co-exisistance.
    Whereas we the undersigned do hereby declare that IT IS OUR RIGHT to cultivate, possess and use cannabis AND that any law that says otherwise will be treated by us as the tool of tyranny.
    Whereas we the undersigned in declaring our desire to realize our liberties and our desire to live in peace also recognize that the point is near where our rights and liberties will have to be defended.
    Whereas we the undersigned are willing to do all we can to avoid conflict we hope that this WARNING also provides our fellow citizens and our representatives the impudence to also seek peace and understanding within our society.

  33. The War on Drugs keeps slobs like Bennett and the other DEA, FBI and Homeland Security in pointless careers incarcerating Americans for what was once legal in this country. With the formation of the Narcotic Bureau in 1937 there was a sudden but obvious change of heart by the director of that agency now called the DEA. But in reality nothing changed except for the formation of this overbearing agency and it’s need to prove it’s value.
    Consider how many of these useless slobs would immediately be unemployed if marijuana were removed from it’s Schedule 1 classification and decriminalized nationally.
    It’s all about money and always has been.
    Our country became a police state long ago. It’s time to elect true representatives of the people rather than these slaves to the almighty campaign campaign dollar.
    Most of our politicians in Washington could be indicted for major crimes if they were all closely investigate. Bribery, corruption, influence peddling to name a few.

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