Stakes High In Cannabis Crackdown

Nov 21, 2011

There is an odd Alice-in-Wonderland-like qual­ity to the impend­ing show­down between California’s med­ical mar­i­juana clin­ics – legalised by state law to sell cannabis to any­one with a doctor’s cer­tifi­cate – and the United States Gov­ern­ment. The US Drug Enforce­ment Admin­is­tra­tion and the state’s four fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors – who warned recip­i­ents by let­ter in late Sep­tem­ber to stop sell­ing cannabis, clas­si­fied under fed­eral law as a Sched­ule 1 drug, hav­ing no med­ical value – are about to act against clin­ics, land­lords and cannabis grow­ers. “The Gov­ern­ment says it’s going after egre­gious offend­ers against local and state law,” says Dale Sky Jones, who heads Oak­s­ter­dam, America’s first cannabis col­lege. But she says pros­e­cu­tors are tar­get­ing reg­u­lated Cal­i­forn­ian stores. Nei­ther the DEA nor fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors wanted to talk about the crack­down, per­haps because lawyers have filed law­suits seek­ing tem­po­rary restrain­ing orders. Cannabis sup­port­ers fear the raids will drive patients into the crim­i­nal under­world.  And the crack­down sug­gests calls to end the four-decade “war on drugs” have fallen on deaf ears, despite its fail­ure to end global drug abuse. “It would be hard to point to any pub­lic pol­icy in the US that causes so much clear and obvi­ous fric­tion between the fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and almost a major­ity, population-wise, of states,” argues Allen St Pierre, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the National Organ­i­sa­tion for the Reform of Mar­i­juana Laws. At the Cato Insti­tute, a bas­tion of free mar­kets, a con­fer­ence this week on the war on drugs sug­gested it had failed and new poli­cies were needed. Senior fel­low Ted Galen Car­pen­ter argued the sav­agery of Mexico’s drug wars, with 42,000 dead since 2006, had made the US less safe. “If we want to sub­stan­tially reduce car­tel rev­enues we have to elim­i­nate that black mar­ket pre­mium. “Depend­ing on the drug, roughly 90 per cent of the retail price exists because the drugs are ille­gal.” Legal­is­ing cannabis would remove cannabis prof­its, said Jones.  “We would be strik­ing a larger blow at those car­tels than any law enforce­ment effort ever could.  What’s our exit strat­egy for the war on drugs?” The lat­est group to throw in the towel on pro­hi­bi­tion are California’s doc­tors, tired at walk­ing a legal razor’s edge between con­flict­ing state and fed­eral law. The Cal­i­for­nia Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents more than 35,000 doc­tors, came out last month in favour of legal­is­ing and reg­u­lat­ing the drug; the first major med­ical group to take this step. “It’s an uncom­fort­able posi­tion for doc­tors,” Don­ald Lyman, who wrote the CMA’s new pol­icy, told the Los Ange­les Times. “It is an open ques­tion whether cannabis is use­ful or not.  [That] can only be answered once it is legalised and more research is done.” Although the drug has some risks, the law has proven “a failed health pol­icy”.  California’s cannabis clin­ics offer a reform tem­plate like that of Por­tu­gal, which decrim­i­nalised illicit drugs in 2001. “The most impor­tant part of the Por­tuguese expe­ri­ence is it debunks the notion legal­i­sa­tion and decrim­i­nal­i­sa­tion would lead to soar­ing usage,” says Car­pen­ter.  “That hasn’t hap­pened.  That’s the No 1 argu­ment for mov­ing away from pro­hi­bi­tion.” He also notes that Por­tuguese crime rates are down. Even if the DEA does shut­ter pot clin­ics, any vic­tory could be pyrrhic.  St Pierre believes Washington’s “no quar­ter” stance on cannabis clashes with grass­roots real­i­ties.  He argues the US has crossed a Rubi­con, cit­ing more cannabis-tolerant baby boomers, a need for tax rev­enue in a deep reces­sion, easy access to cannabis infor­ma­tion via the inter­net and empa­thy towards the infirm who use the drug. His claim is backed by recent ini­tia­tives, protests and polls.  In March, 59 per cent of Los Ange­les vot­ers sup­ported a tax on the city’s 100 cannabis dis­pen­saries. Law­suits defend­ing the clin­ics esti­mate annual rev­enue from med­ical cannabis at US$1.5 bil­lion to US$4.5 bil­lion.  Cal­i­for­nia esti­mates annual sales tax at US$50 mil­lion to US$100 mil­lion. But the med­ical mar­i­juana law is impre­cise.  A Cal­i­for­nia appeals court ruled last week that local author­i­ties can ban clin­ics.  But an effort to close 100 San Jose dis­pen­saries last month was opposed by a 48,598-strong peti­tion, launched by the Cit­i­zens Coali­tion for Patient Care and backed by the United Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers union. The med­ical mar­i­juana issue has steadily moved into the main­stream since a Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers’ ini­tia­tive made it legal in 1996.  Today, 15 other states, plus the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, allow its sale. “There’s lit­tle doubt that, at least in the west, pub­lic opin­ion, and to some extent élite opin­ion, is mov­ing away from the pro­hi­bi­tion model,” says Car­pen­ter, who cites the Global Com­mis­sion on Drug Pol­icy and the Latin Amer­i­can Com­mis­sion on Drugs and Democ­racy. Last June, the com­mis­sion, chaired by Brazil­ian ex-President Fer­nando Hen­rique Car­dosa, peti­tioned the United Nations to end the drug war, which “crim­i­nalised tens of mil­lions”, and seek new poli­cies.  His cry res­onates through­out Latin Amer­ica where the insa­tiable US appetite for nar­cotics has reaped mis­ery south of the bor­der. While Mex­i­can car­tels exploit emerg­ing mar­kets in the Mid­dle East, East­ern Europe and the for­mer Soviet Union , the mature US mar­ket remains dom­i­nant. “We are liv­ing in the same build­ing,” said Mexico’s Pres­i­dent Felipe Calderon.  “Our neigh­bour is the largest con­sumer of drugs in the world and every­one wants to sell him drugs through our doors and win­dows.” Pro­hi­bi­tion is the car­tels’ ally, as it guar­an­tees the black mar­ket bonanza.  But reform is not easy. The main obsta­cle appears to be an obdu­rate bureau­cracy and timid lead­ers who fear being branded as “soft on drugs”. Car­pen­ter says: “Not too many are will­ing to be first over the bar­rier and take the inevitable hos­tile fire that will come their way.” His­tory offers a prece­dent.  The US aban­doned its pro­hi­bi­tion on alco­hol at the height of the Great Depres­sion, con­vinced repeal would cre­ate jobs and tax rev­enue. Now busi­ness leads the way, using that 21st cen­tury pop cul­ture icon, the tele­vi­sion real­ity show, with the impend­ing US debut of Weed Wars. It fol­lows every­day folk at the Har­bour­side Health Cen­tre in Oak­land, which boasts it is the planet’s largest cannabis retailer with 94,000 clients.  As cor­po­rates exploit cannabis maybe politi­cians will find the nerve to debate drug reform. Pub­date: Sat, 19 Nov 2011 Source: New Zealand Her­ald (New Zealand) Copy­right: 2011 New Zealand Her­ald Con­tact: letters@​nzherald.​co.​nz Web­site: http://​www​.nzher​ald​.co​.nz/ Author: Peter Huck

bf529c01fdgrow 1.jpg 150x125 Stakes High In Cannabis Crackdown

Orig­i­nally posted here:
Stakes High In Cannabis Crackdown

Related Posts

Share This

Leave a Comment