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Arizona: Government Money Used To Oppose Marijuana Legalization

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arizona marijuanaBy Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director

It is hardly a secret to any long observing advocate for cannabis law reform to recognize early on in their efforts to end cannabis prohibition that if it were not for government-federal, state and local governments-spending, there would be relatively few examples of private money being employed in the last forty-five years to try to maintain the status quo of cannabis prohibition.

The tens of billions spent annually to keep the Reefer Madness going in America largely is taxpayer-funded bureaucracies such as the so-called drug czar’s office, DEA, NIDA, SAMHSA, DARE, PDFAblahblahblah.

Even in the face of this tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars annually, still, a majority of the US public rejects the policy of cannabis prohibition.

Unbelievably, the drug czar’s office actually mandates that the office must use tax funding to publicly oppose cannabis legalization efforts-even though such is no longer a popularly supported public policy.

Add one more prime example of cannabis prohibitionists in government not yielding to the will of voters, and worse, rather than pool their own private funding to advance their no-longer-popular-views, they want the taxpayers to pick up the bill of their anti-cannabis advocacy.

Arizona voters approved a medical cannabis initiative in 2010. Many in the law enforcement community in the state, including prosecutors, have consistently opposed implementing the change of policies and/or still harass medical cannabis producers or patients.

They’re sore losers.

Now, consistent with large swaths of the country, Arizona voters are organizing once again in the state to place a full cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot for 2016.

What is the reaction from some in the law enforcement community in Arizona to the prospects of citizens again instructing their workers what public policies they want them to enforce?

Sure, law enforcement personnel are citizens too, and their opinions are as meaningful as any other citizens’, however, law enforcement personnel who oppose the public’s will on changes of public policy should never employ taxpayer funding to try to sway the populace or propagandize-on matters ranging from police wearing body cameras, to forfeiture reform to cannabis legalization.

Well that is not at all happening currently in Yavapai County Arizona, where the local prosecutor Shelia Polk thinks it wise and prudent to steer forfeiture money derived from the criminal justice system (with most of the proceeds coming to law enforcement from currently illegal drug profits seized in previous criminal filings) to propagandize to voters that they should not vote to end cannabis prohibition in the state.

Ever hear law enforcement roll out the tired ol’ line of “we don’t make the laws, we only enforce them?”

It’s largely a lie (I mean…prevarication).

Police and prosecutors (aided and abetted by fellow pot prohibitionists wearing white coats at NIDA, for example) regularly, using taxpayers’ money, actively seek to influence the outcome of public policy legislation, court cases and voter initiatives that seek to reform cannabis laws.

It is pretty simple at this point in the now five-decade-old public effort to end cannabis prohibition, if police and prosecutors want to defend the status quo of a failed and unpopular public policy, then, if they really cared about the issue, they’d put their own skin in the game by organizing as private citizens.

If prosecutors, cops, narcs, sheriffs and chiefs of police want to pony up their own money to try to stave off cannabis prohibition ending in their lifetimes-go for it.

Reformers will more than match them dollar-for-dollar and are always spoiling for a good debate about wisdom for rationale continuing cannabis prohibition…and we’ve got the public on our side, they no longer do.

What can not and should not happen anymore in the modern public policy debate about whether America should or should not continue another nearly eighty-years with cannabis prohibition enforcement are government officials and law enforcement personnel using their power of the purse and bully pulpit to try to persuade voters on ANY matters of public policy-let alone on policies where conflicts of interest are as obvious as prosecutors using government money to oppose the will of local voters who’re seeking to reform unpopular laws.

Cannabis law reformers can and will win a fair fight on cannabis legalization, but, the impending political victory will be delayed if government officials are permitted to continue to use taxpayer funding to oppose the very will of the voters.

Government for and by the people? Not when government officials are sore losers and want to use government funding to try to tip the scales of public opinion.

When government stops spending taxpayer dollars to keep cannabis prohibition going, the unpopular policy will die an ignominious and swift death.

Editor’s note: Thankfully, late yesterday AZ’s Attorney General came to reconsider this blundering policy of allowing government funding to be used to campaign against cannabis legalization efforts in the state.

Source: NORML - make a donation

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35 Comments

  1. There are indications of public health benefits in the decrease in fatalities associated with DUI’s in states with medical marijuana. Prescription drug opiate overdose deaths can decrease close to a third in states with longer term availability of medical marijuana. When there are indications that marijuana can save lives when it is available the question is not how long should we wait for the numbers to be right but rather how many more people do we wish to harm or kill with our efforts to continue prohibition? When thousands of lives are at stake I think it is best that we make this decision now or as soon as is humanly possible.

  2. The schedules do not have much to do with how dangerous a substance is but they are often presented by the government as doing just that. I think that they were an insane way to attempt to legislate the characteristics of the drugs without any evidence. Congress didn’t spend much time considering what they were doing:

    “A few days before the House of Representatives passed a federal ban on marijuana in June 1937, the Republican minority leader, Bertrand Snell of New York, confessed, “I do not know anything about the bill.” The Democratic majority leader, Sam Rayburn of Texas, educated him. “It has something to do with something that is called marihuana,” Rayburn said. “I believe it is a narcotic of some kind.

    That exchange gives you a sense of how much thought Congress gave marijuana prohibition before approving it. Legislators who had heard of the plant knew it as the “killer weed” described by Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger, who claimed marijuana turned people into homicidal maniacs and called it “the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.” Anslinger warned that “marihuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes” and estimated that half the violent crimes in areas occupied by “Mexicans, Greeks, Turks, Filipinos, Spaniards, Latin Americans, and Negroes may be traced to the use of marihuana.”

    Given this background, no one should pretend that marijuana prohibition was carefully considered or that it was driven by science, as opposed to ignorance and blind prejudice.”

    http://reason.com/archives/2015/05/18/marijuana-prohibition-is-a-moral-scandal

  3. Police officers should be focused on solving and preventing violent crimes, not making marijuana possession arrests. But in 2011, police arrested more people for marijuana than for all violent crimes combined. This is predominantly because the federal government has created an incentive to focus on marijuana arrests by using those arrests to determine how they distribute hundreds of millions of dollars of funding. Furthermore, even though blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly the same rates, blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana. These racial disparities in marijuana arrests exist in every region of the country.

    The Department of Justice can put an end to racially biased marijuana arrests and wasteful misuse of law enforcement resources by stopping the inclusion of marijuana arrests as a performance criterion for state and local law enforcement agencies applying for federal funding. We are spending more than $3.5 billion a year on marijuana arrests with no impact on use or availability. For the ten year period ending in 2010, someone was arrested for marijuana every 37 seconds, yet the majority of violent crimes went unsolved. In 2012, over 90% of all marijuana busts were for possession, yet during the same year, 92% of all reported burglaries, 74% of all reported rapes, and over 90% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved. By rewarding police departments when they focus on marijuana arrests instead of stopping violent crime, we are actually making our streets less safe and filling our jails with nonviolent drug offenders. Clearly, we need to rethink our priorities.

  4. 25% drop in Opiate overdoses, Burglary and Domestic Violence went down as well. It’s too soon to make any assumptions, one way or the other on these numbers. But the early indications sure are positive.

  5. The primary effort must be directed at getting cannabis off the FedGov “Schedule”

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