Cannabis prohibitionists are apparently feeling very desperate these days as legalizing marijuana has become a mainstream issue now supported by a majority of Americans and a super majority wants states to be free from federal interference when implementing their own laws. There have been many wild claims about marijuana from Harry Anslinger to William Bennett to Newt Gingrich to Kevin Sabet, but I had hoped that we had gotten to a point in our national discourse where we could have rational discussions about the best way to regulate cannabis. Enter Paul Chadot, former Drug Czar advisor under both the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations, and any hope of a rational discussion gets thrown out the window.
The Huffington Post’s recently published piece, “Obama’s Drug War: After Medical Marijuana Mess, Feds Face Big Decisions on Pot,” triggered a discussion on HuffPost Live that featured Paul Chadot.
From “Obama’s Drug War:”
As president, Obama did his best to laugh off questions about marijuana. His own experience with weed had been positive, having spent his high school years hanging out with the “Choom Gang,” a bunch of his stoner buddies in Hawaii. A young Obama coined the term “roof hits” to describe the act of sucking in pot smoke floating near a car roof, and was known to hog extra hits from a joint by jumping around a circle of smokers, snatching the weed and saying, “Intercepted!”
The Drug Enforcement Administration and federal prosecutors, however, found nothing funny about it. “I believe there’s this notion out there that the marijuana industry is just full of organic farmers who are peacefully growing an organic natural plant and that there’s no harm associated with that,” U.S. Attorney Melinda Haagtold San Francisco public radio station KQED last March. ”And what I hear from people in the community is that there is harm.” Marijuana, Haag said, could stunt brain development in children and act as a gateway drug to other substances. It may also, she warned, lead to armed robberies at dispensaries and grow operations, putting innocent bystanders at risk.
Whatever the Justice Department ends up deciding might matter less than whether the prosecutors choose to follow instructions. Regardless of memos emanating from Washington, it appears that the prosecutors are the ones truly calling the shots.
The HuffPost Live segment then brought out this exchange:
When asked by HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim why we keep marijuana illegal, Chabot responded: “Why do we keep heroin, LSD, prostitution, child pornography illegal?”
“Drugs destroy lives,” Chabot continued. “We have more addicts in this country today than we have had in a long time. It’s a shame, when there are so many issues in the community that we could be working on, there’s organizations of people who are not just trying to legalize marijuana but all drugs across the board.”
Reefer Madness fear-mongering is alive and well, apparently. The cannabis law reform movement has battled racist propaganda, a proposal to call for the death penalty for marijuana providers, a call to force cannabis consumers into rehab and now a comparison of marijuana to child pornography. I actually think that such rhetoric actually helps the ongoing movement to end cannabis prohibition. Scare tactics and fear mongering seem to be much less effective now that everyday Americans have more experience with marijuana, or have friends and family with positive experiences. With medical marijuana, decriminalization and legalization measures being debated (and often passing) across the country, Reefer Madness rhetoric simply isn’t going to work anymore. The more nonsense that prohibitionists like Paul Chabot spout, the closer we are to ending cannabis prohibition as our policy proposals to license and regulate cannabis, similar to tobacco and alcohol, can only seem more reasonable to mainstream voters in comparison.
Republished with special permission from the National Cannabis Coalition