In This Prohibition Saga, Obama Plays Hoover

The guest column below published in the MetroWestDailyNews is from former NORML board member and Lifetime Award recipient Richard Evans —
From MetroWestDailyNews:
It was a curious coincidence last month, that as PBS was broadcasting the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary, Prohibition, describing the Hoover Justice Department’s last-gasp crackdown on alcoholic beverages in the late 1920s, prosecutors in the Obama Justice Department were announcing a crackdown on medical marijuana in California, threatening to confiscate the property of people “involved in drug trafficking activity,” which is fedspeak for providing pot for sick people.
After nearly a decade under the Volstead Act, the utter futility of enforcing public abstinence from alcohol was evident to all but prohibition’s stakeholders – chiefly police, prosecutors and bootleggers. Despite the draconian penalties imposed by the 1926 Jones Act, which turned Volstead violations into felonies, booze remained generally available. Similarly, despite the draconian penalties of the Nixon-era Controlled Substances Act, and nearly a million arrests annually, marijuana has proven itself ineradicable, and, indeed, has become a part of our culture.
The warnings from U.S. Attorneys in California come on the heels of similar threats from their counterparts in Rhode Island, Vermont, Colorado and other states whose medical marijuana laws authorize secure, large-scale cultivation facilities, such as that contemplated in the anticipated ballot question in Massachusetts. If they make good on those threats, one can only imagine the perp walks outside the federal courthouse: plumbers, equipment suppliers, bookkeepers, state functionaries and investors in suits – all the “conspirators” it takes to bring an agricultural product safely to a large, regulated market of doctor-authorized patients.
This clash does not arise from the disparity between state and federal law. Under basic principles of federalism, both the states and the federal government may prohibit marijuana, but neither is required to. A state is under no legal compulsion to enforce federal law, and is indisputably within its rights to determine who should and should not be arrested for marijuana by state and local police.
Rather, the conflict arises from the disparity between how the two sides view reality. Sixteen states (and a majority of the voters, according to many polls) recognize that marijuana has significant medical value for some patients, and that its benefits outweigh its risks. Federal law, on the other hand, peremptorily rejects such claims as hokum, declaring that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and cannot be used safely under medical supervision.
That marijuana is dangerous and without medical value is the dogma at the heart of federal prohibition. To admit otherwise would be to confess that arresting nearly 20 million people, and spending $10 billion in the war against pot, has been a mistake of gargantuan proportions. Admitting that mistake is unthinkable. What must not be, cannot be, to paraphrase the familiar German expression.
Compassion for sick people aside, there are two other reasons to take note of medical marijuana: jobs and revenue. When the voters of Montana, population one million, legalized medical marijuana six years ago, some 1,400 new jobs were said to have been created, largely in the building trades, equipment supply and solar installations, until the feds cracked down earlier this year. The New York Times recently reported that in California, more than $100 million in new revenue has been collected from the industry by state and local tax collectors.
Everybody knows what politicians want when it comes to marijuana: to change the subject. Whether a candidate believes that states should be free to enact, implement and enforce their own medical marijuana laws, free of federal interference, would reveal much about his or her view of states’ rights generally, and provide useful differentiation from the other candidates.
Not since Prohibition has the federal government been so on the wrong side of history. Now, with the Justice Department crackdown on medical marijuana, presidential candidates and others who purport to be leaders can pick a side and defend it.
Richard M. Evans is an attorney practicing in Northampton.

59 thoughts

  1. Caint Blame it on Barack…, terrible justice dept. Reference. Hoover should not be mentioned in the same light as a President

  2. I read something that said our government was making sick people pay extortion money for protection from the police. Now it appears they are still taking the money but there is no protection from the police anymore. Unreal!!! No matter who wins in 2012 the next 5 years are going to be rough.

  3. Marijuana. The only thing wrong with marijuana is the law. Change the Law!
    Marijuana MUST be rescheduled from ONE. I would prefer it was rescheduled right off the charts. Legalize marijuana. Use it for food, fuel, medicine, building materials, paint, chemicals, paper, insulation, numerous other uses to many to mention. Quit wasting OUR money and OUR freedom fighting a benign herb and a very useful plant.

  4. “A state is under no legal compulsion to enforce federal law, and is indisputably within its rights to determine who should and should not be arrested for marijuana by state and local police.”
    Yet despite this, we have police departments who clearly go out of their way to enforce Federal law when it conflicts with a state’s law.
    Defund the police. They are not as accountable as deputies under a sheriff since a sheriff is (usually) an elected official.

  5. The Federal government will change the law with the right amount of public support. Shows like Ken Burn’s Prohibition is making this knowledge public and as we have seen from Gallup’s poll, public support is going up.

  6. It is always best to fight the beast,it’s just also a pain to keep repeating the beating. Dead dragons never return. WE THE PEOPLE have a great purpose,time and a just cause to fullfill. Keep fighting for the good of all people. Death to prohibition and Peace to all.

  7. EM: Pres. Obama has the ultimate say of what his Department of Justice does. If he doesn’t like what is going on then he could put a simple stop on their actions, replace the heads, etc…
    Joe: Really? Hmmm… I have to disagree with you as the current amount of Americans who support legalization is probably getting close to 50% (actual not just the poles) and for MMJ is even closer to 70% (it was more but is dropping as more people support legalization vs. MMJ) but the statistics for federal politicians who supports it = 0%, thats nothing, nada, no one. Well a there are certainly a few mavericks who do approve, but far to few, and the only logical explanation for this is that the conspiracy theories about crony corps having their hands in politicians pockets to ensure MJ stays illegal is true! If you have another logical explanation for this, please present it…

  8. The people have to have the will to make change. Everyone should grow plants in their front yard, that’s what it will take. If everyone refused to fly until they removed the body scanners and aggressive pat downs at the airport, they would be gone by the next day. The government will not let go of their control. We have to take it back.

  9. I have enjoyed a southern” lattitude ‘ sun on my back. ( for tanning purposes)
    It fells really good)….I guess i am a Sativa dominant as well as a short Indica hybrid for all intensive ……

  10. I think it is due time to state public referendum petitions in EVERY state for the end of prohibition.

  11. You watch. Obama is just waiting for his second term to do some real damage. He is going to decriminalize Cannabis and probably make real steps to end the drug war. He is just bidding his time…

  12. Making an excuse for Obama today? Not me, fuck him and his AG Holder. They know exactly what they are doing and if they don’t they should both be impeached for not controling their Republican Federal prosecuters. Yes, the choices are him or some fucking Nazi but sooner or later you have to take a stand and vote for your own safety whomever it may be. Damn, I wish we had a good OWS candidate as both parties make me puke.

  13. “Not since Prohibition has the federal government been so on the wrong side of history.”
    Boy, that sums it up nicely!

  14. E.M. – Hoover WAS a president. (Herbert, not J. Edgar).
    Obama could rein in the DoJ but he chooses not to. I guess he sees strategic value in alienating voters in states with a lot of electoral votes. No, it doesn’t make any sense to me either.

  15. i do believe that the prohibition enforcement unit of the us treasury dept was run by that lying beurocrat harry j. anslinger who in order to keep a govt job had congtress pass a law banning marijuana and lied about it to congress with the blessings of william randolph hurst…. hover, not a great example of honesty ran the bureau of investigation later to becom the fbi… it’s way past time for the federal govt. get the hell out of the people’s lives…

  16. Thank you, Allen!
    This article is very well written, and that shows you put a lot of time and thought into it. Plus, you’re absolutely right!
    My next request to nudge things along a bit closer to the legalized side of the cannabis continuum is to see a new series of documentaries about how many jobs were lost and how much revenue was lost because the Feds swooped down in Montana and screwed the locals out of jobs and screwed the state and local governments out of revenues, as well as how those jobs and that money could have been used to improve their lot. I envision something on a state-by-state basis for states where medical marijuana programs have been implemented per episode, then on a later episode or episodes an extrapolation of that data to states, mainly in the East, that have their programs on hold because of the threats from the Feds. For example, how much could Delaware or New Jersey or Rhode Island benefit in terms of jobs and in terms of state and local revenues? What about other states without medical marijuana laws, such as Wisconsin, where public employees are being laid off left and right, and the right-winger prohibitionists are trying to bust up their solidarity and unions? How many jobs could be preserved, added? How much estimated revenue could be collected per annum?
    Jenji Kohan is doing a fantastic job on Weeds. Trish Regan is doing/did a fantastic job on her part, i.e. the Marijuana documentaries, etc. History and Discovery have been doing a fantastic job with their documentaries on the history of drug use and prohibition in the U.S. I haven’t seen the War on Weed yet, but I have seen the first episode of Weed Wars, and I love its subtext, i.e. jobs and revenues from the golden goose, marijuana. Maybe Ken Burns would stick his neck out to do the documentary series described? If not, someone else lesser know but with determination.
    We have got to keep the drumbeat going with reruns of the olds pro-pot shows, but more importantly with new shows and episodes so people who’ve seen the old already-run shows don’t lose interest and so new people are attracted to the new shows and the public in general is educated enough to make them even angrier about the Feds swooping in and fucking the locals out of jobs and fucking the state and local government out of badly needed revenues.
    Keep up the drumbeats. Put the pressure on the deadbeats in D.C.
    Have the supercommittee eliminate all funding for cannabis prohibition enforcement so that it becomes a non-priority, de facto lowest priority, and the Feds are stopped in their tracks. This will allow the eastern mmj states and new mmj states to implement marijuana legalization without the fear the Feds can do something. The Feds will be broke.
    The Beat Goes On
    by
    Sonny & Cher

  17. Marijuana can trigger schizophrenia
    A huge justification by the government for cannabis prohibition is contributed to the fact that “marijuana can trigger schizophrenia”. What they don’t say is that, and this comes from the co-founder of DNA, schizophrenia is most undoubtedly 100% a predisposition disorder (in your genes).
    Claiming we should ban cannabis, because a small percentage of the population will have issues with it triggering schizophrenia, is like saying we should ban peanuts because a small minority of the population can die from allergic reactions.
    Prohibition = FAIL

  18. The only politician with the balls to change things is Ron Paul. 2012 is coming, and this is our chance.

  19. Hurray NORML!! We have truth on our side. This is not about getting “high”, it is way bigger than that now. No more will we accept a giggle. Stop laughing. This is a serious issue that will show us where our political choices stand on “States rights”, “Privacy rights” and “Less Government” Answer our questions. Show us your core beliefs…. which is it? Tyrannical Prohibition or Freedom?

  20. hows about we push the fact that methamphetamine is schedule 2, and can be (and is) prescribed for children. they couldn’t defend this issue, they couldnt ignore it. if someone were to point this out publicly, say at a rally or debate, the person trying to defend this reasoning would be at a complete loss and loose quite a bit of credibility. Nobody can publicly say meth is ok to prescribe to children, but weed is out of the question, even for the sick and dying.

  21. There’s a warm feeling when I think about legal, regulated access to safe, organic cannabis. I’m so high!
    @Joe: You have a good point.

  22. The only reason marijuana isn’t legal. It will take money away from the corporations &The federal government. It enlightens the mind &The opens us up to think outside the box. They don’t want this. We must unite, & Someway get this into the media more.And when the Prohibition ends, we need laws to protect we the people, Our jobs our guns, people on pain management, miltary career, CDL drivers, and so on. It just shows to me that the federal government doesn’t care about the people, and only cares about the money. WAR is big business. Food 4 thought. TY

  23. @E.M.: The Justice Dept. is under the control of the Executive Branch and all US Attorneys serve at the President’s pleasure.
    Obama could stop these crackdowns with a single phone call to Attorney General Holder. He has not done so, which makes him just as much a part of this as any DEA stormtrooper with a battering ram.

  24. since I don’t really keep up on presidential nominees, who’s looking like our best shot to get this prohibition stick out of my ass?
    [Editor’s note: Johnson, Kargen and Paul from the GOP side all support legalization, but none of them seem to have any real chance of getting the nod from GOP voters. Obama has publicly flipped-flopped on the issue of decriminalization and tepidly supports patient access (but, apparently, not unregulated retail access and large scale cultivation centers–like in CA, but to date not harassing CO, NM and ME, where medical cannabis sales are regulated).
    Once the GOP fields their nominee (and any other third party candidates are officially on the ballot in 50 states) and Obama square off, maybe there will be greater delineation between the candidates on cannabis policy that makes cannabis consumers’ choice about who to potentially support and/or vote for far more clear.]

  25. Again, You don’t have to control a majority to get your way in this country, you only have to control the point spread. If the Marijuana reform mpvement could reliably marshal even 5% of the vote in all elections state and Fed, Marijuana could be completely legal within about 10 years tops. By the way it really doesn’t a big difference who you elect president if congress won’t play ball. Congress makes the Law. If I were elected president I could no more legalize, or decriminalize, or medicalize, or whatever, anymore than Obama could give you Universal Health Care or Bush could privatize your Social Security. Congress is where the real action is. Marijauna is Congress favorite whipping boy because for some reason there’s no votes to be gained by being pro pot, and there’s no votes to be lost by being anti pot. Such has it always been. I don’t know why this is.

  26. Hey
    The main purpose is to present unwavering and steadfast drug testing methods which help to identified the drug abuse, products and services.Government should come with better policy and law which reduce the rate of drug abuse

  27. Albert Einstein quote on Hemp
    “The illegality of cannabis is
    outrageous, an impediment to full
    utilization of a drug which helps
    produce the serenity and insight,
    sensitivity and fellowship so
    desperately needed in this
    increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
    – Carl Sagan quote on Marijuana

  28. I saw that Newt is the current front runner as the GOP
    candidate. For anyone out there who cares about
    justice, freedom, and ending marijuana prohibition,
    here is where he stands on the issue. Hint – if you’re a cannabis user he may as well be the anti-christ!
    Newt Gingrich:
    When he was but a congressman from Georgia, Newt
    Gingrich penned a 1982 letter to the American Medical
    Association in support of access to medical
    marijuana. As Speaker of the House, Gingrich
    introduced the Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of
    1996, which would have set a mandatory sentence of
    death for anyone convicted a second time of bringing
    large quantities of illegal drugs into the U.S. As
    candidate for president, he flat-out claimed legalizing cannabis would bring about the end of civilization.
    On a March 2009 episode of The O’Reilly Factor,
    Gingrich said America’s drug-testing laws should be
    patterned after those in Singapore, where anyone
    who tests positive for drugs is automatically
    imprisoned in state-run rehab centers, and where
    convicted drug dealers are routinely hanged.
    I wish that we could make everyone in America aware of just how dangerous this guy is! If he wins he presidency it will truly be one of the saddest days in American history!

  29. Any more damaging things that favor legalization leaking out, such as Operation Fast & Furious or that the DEA launders drug cartel money under the guise of infiltrating to make the occasional bust and have the so-called cartel leader arrested so he can be replaced?
    What do Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks network have that can help expose the war on cannabis as the fraud, waste and abuse that it is? What damaging facts do they have? I’m sure the prohibitionist Swedes would love to shut him up for good, and even if they can’t kill him they’ll lock him up for a good long time. Are they just smearing Assange and trumping up the charges in order to do the bidding of the U.S.? The U.S. looks the other way when the dictators and potentates it basically installs commit much more horrid crimes that Assange is accused of. Anyway, politics makes strange bedfellows, and if they’re dicking him over like they dicked over Marc Emery, best be to get him to hand over incriminating evidence against cannabis prohibition.
    Voor wat hoort wat.
    Quid pro quo.

  30. Hey: NORML/Cannabis Culture/George Soros/Barry Cooper/Ed Rosenthal/Montel Williams/Rick Steves/anyone else with influence and money involved in marijuana legalization –
    How about organizing a mass selling of marijuana to everyone who signs up for it. But… here’s the trick – you wait until 10,000,000 people sign up to ship. Once the ten millionth person signs up, that would trigger a mass mailing to everyone who signed up. Then the government is stuck with prosecuting ten million people, which would be impossible. They would be forced to grant amnesty. You wouldn’t even have to be the one who sold the marijuana. Just endorse whatever ‘mystery’ website it is that people could log onto, and then they’d know it was legit. Make the purchase 1.1 oz, so it would definitely be a felony (thereby making it impossible to carry out the prosecution of the buyers), and make the price $50 or so, so the seller would have plenty of reward for taking such a huge risk.
    Also, even before the marijuana was shipped, you could force the governments hand. They would be forced to talk about how they plan to handle a mass demonstration of civil disobedience. They would be forced to admit powerlessness. They would lose before things even happened.
    So there it is. All that’s left now is to find 11 million ounces of marijuana (and buyers), and someone brave enough to sell it that you could endorse.
    [Editor’s note: OK….this maybe the most pointless silver bullet to end Cannabis Prohibition NORML’s heard yet. No organization or individual is going to fund or participate in a massive weed deal as a means to end 74 years of Prohibition.
    Rather the plan on a large and impractical weed deal, consumers and activists need only 1) be in regular contact with their elected policymakers about their opposition to Cannabis Prohibition and 2) don’t vote for politicians that support arresting cannabis consumers. These two actions changes laws, selling cannabis en mass as a protest does not.]

  31. Barack Obama is just another puppet in the system. He can’t call anyone or change anything. Imagine that the president is arrested for going against the U.S Government for wanting Pot4All. We do not have a say on who is president. He or she is elected by the electoral college not by our votes. We have no control over this. I thought that Americans knew this. For those thinking about Ron Paul he is one that would never win as the U.S Government continues to place him in an Idiot pile. Although he has stated many beautiful things he would take away social security from the elderly as he has already stated this. I am not for or against but knowing what I know, things will not change till Old Man Government dies or retires.

  32. Same for Mr. Obama he promises 420 freedom and what happened? He got slapped with the No Marijuana 4U system. California gets hit with the closing of MJ Shops as well as many other states. I must say I voted for Barack thinking he may push us forward and away from this war on the Cannabis plant. look at me and you’d never guess I have had over 18 mini and 1 major stroke. Yet because of Cannabis my body shows no adverse affects and Cannabis has stopped my cycle of strokes and fear of dying so early.

  33. There is a candidate that does not switch his stance and avoids abuse of power like the plague. These are not empty campaign promises, Ron Paul has been doing this for YEARS. He is running on the Republican ticket, but make no mistake, he has always held LIBERTARIAN values. Please do your part, vote for Ron Paul in the primary and do your part to get these war mongering, Constitution trampling, civil right violators OUT OF WASHINGTON.

  34. @40 jlk – I applaud you for thinking outside the box! Making suggestions such as the one you made might not be workable in our current world. But, coming up with suggestions of that nature could cause others to consider variations of it that just might work. One of the things I personally love so much about cannabis is that it greatly enhances my creativity. I have to admit that my cannabis influenced ideas are not always practical, but sometimes they are and sometimes they just need a bit of re-working.
    I say keep the ideas coming! I appreciate that NORML advocates staying in touch with your elected officials and voting out the prohibitionists, but that hasn’t worked in all the preceeding decades of prohibition. The main reason we are finally seeing a wee bit of light at the end of the tunnel is largely due to the internet. It has nade it much harder for the govt to continue their lies and for the truth to get out there for those who choose to find it.
    We really need new ideas and we have to organize and work better together as a group to finally force our govts hand regarding their narrow-minded stubborness on this issue!
    So – please keep the ideas coming!

  35. #21 it doesn’t “cause” schizophrenia. It probably cannot “trigger” schizophrenia either. Rather, schizophrenia tends to develop at a particular rate in those who have it.
    Should people who have schizophrenia take marijuana? No, it aggravates their symptoms. Schizophrenia makes one feels very confused and these folks can have a very weak grip on reality. There are people with all sorts of medical restrictions. Like people who have seizers cannot drive or drink booze; schizophrenics shouldn’t take marijuana. Can some patients safely use it? Probably.
    Anything and nothing can set off schizophrenic break from reality. No correlation to marijuana. So this doesn’t have anything to due with keeping people safe; it is just another weak excuse for keeping marijuana black listed.

  36. The reason your local police support Prohibition, even when it conflicts with state law is simple. The Feds dump money on them. It’s legal bribery, and it has worked beautifully.

  37. In regards to the “pointless silver bullet” assessment of my idea:
    If the idea would work on paper and in people’s imagination, then it could potentially work in real life.
    Assuming that it is possible for it to work, and the only obstacle to making it happen is finding a seller/organization with 11 million ounces of marijuana, I would refer you to the various cartels of Mexico. Each of which is greedy enough enough to step up to the plate, and likely willing to be the last organization to make the deal happen (before someone else does – and takes the last $500,000,000 available in the weed business). So do they have 11 million ounces? Who cares. They could take what they do have and cut it until they have the necessary amount. Since Uncle Sam counts it all the same anyway, it wouldn’t matter if it were 10% marijuana and 90% switchgrass.The point is to create such a huge mess that the only way out is to legalize. 10 million instant felons would pretty much qualify, don’t you think?
    So the remaining hurdle would be:
    Ensuring they ship when they are supposed to – which could easily be managed by arranging the customers payments to be held in an account and awarded to the first cartel to deliver.
    Setting up an account to receive the funds and hold them until they are ready to be awarded – again easily done through the use of Bit Coin or some other electronic currency.
    Maintaining a legal distance from the activity for the organizers of the whole deal – NORML is chock full of lawyers last time I checked.
    So again, there you go.
    DISCLAIMER: These ideas are merely a discussion of what is possible and not actually an attempt to influence anyone to commit a crime. Unless of course the DEA considers the idea so plausible that they wish to arrest me and give the idea further credence/publicity, as well as make me a legend in the legalization movement for coming up with such a bitchin’ idea. In which case, bring it on!
    [Editor’s note: There is not a single lawyer among 600 on NORML’s Legal Committee that is going to embrace this truly detached from legal/political reality silver bullet as every phase of your suggestion is nothing but a series of felonies that are not only readily actionable for law enforcement (and the IRS) but little more than pure legal jeopardy for non-profit organizations, the lawyers who’d be advising them on committing the felonies and the individuals who’d both sell and buy the cannabis.
    How exactly would this actually change existing laws?
    You’re incorrect to believe that all of a sudden the 95% of Congress that strongly supports Prohibition is going to pass another CSA sans cannabis because of a poorly conceived publicity stunt.
    There are simply no easy short cuts or trickery that is going to effectively end 74 years of Cannabis Prohibition except for citizens 1) lobbying their elected officials at all levels of government to cease their support for Cannabis Prohibition laws and 2) citizens need to stop voting for politicians that support Prohibition (instead, electing reform minded politicians).
    Well under 1% of cannabis consumers, cultivators and sellers are involved in the modern reform movement to end the very laws that oppress us all. Clearly, more cannabis consumers need to be involved in their own liberation–this will have positive effects on reform–as compared to gimmicks and silver bullets that don’t actually advance reforms in a recalcitrant Congress, or in most statehouses.]

  38. @44 Don – Thanks for the encouragement! Some ideas are contagious, and oversimplifying things can get people excited without good reason, so I understand the editors note. On the other hand… “WHAT IF?”
    We put man on the moon. Go outside and look up and try to understand how unlikely that was. Suddenly working a deal with 10 million pot smokers/a mexican cartel/and an electronic currency might not seem so impossible.

  39. @21 and 45 – Based on what I’ve read, countries that have allowed recreational marijuana (Amsterdam, Portugul) and states that have allowed medical marijuana have not shown any increase in cases of schizophrenia. It’s just one of the many many lies that the DEA promotes in order to try to maintain/grow their evil organization.

  40. Funny how pot is schedule 1, with no medical value, then why is our government patenting certain chemicals in pot.big pharma has a lot to lose since they sell 10mg pot pills for 1200.00 for 60 pills. that`s one months supply at two a day. money talks this game no matter who`s life is ruined.

Leave a Reply