Tuesday, April 21, 2009

21st Century Prohibition - Changing Tide?

I've been trying to get the next post in my series "21st Century Prohibition" done but this shit is changing daily. I've never seen it like this. It's like trying to change a diaper on a baby while its crawling around the room.

Now, I have no illusions as to the possibility of legalization of marijuana. I still believe that relief from Prohibition is still quite a ways away. I'm not even convinced that it will happen at all. Times change, the pendulum swings back and forth; we've been close before only to have our hopes dashed and the tide surround us. A friendly administration is great, but we need a lot to happen before the doors open on cannabis shops on Main Street.

But this article from NPR is hope wrapped in promise. All I can say is it's a great game to play but I'm waiting for real life.
"Imagine if you turned on the radio and heard this: "From NPR News in Washington, I'm Carl Kasell. After 70 years of prohibition, marijuana becomes legal today for personal consumption throughout the United States for persons 21 and older …"
The article goes on by interviewing certain people who have a vested interest in Marijuana Prohibition, pro and con. As I said, it's an interesting game but some of the assumptions reach a little far into fantasy to be a serious look ahead. As this segment about the Mexican drug cartels...

"With the spiraling drug mayhem in Mexico, some Latin American leaders looked at legalizing marijuana as a way to deny the murderous cartels a portion of their profits. When it was banned, marijuana was the greatest source of income for Mexican traffickers. Now that it's cultivated domestically and sold legally, surely that has crippled the cartels?

"These are crooks. You're not gonna take 'em out of the criminal activity business," says Robert Almonte, who worked narcotics for 25 years with the El Paso Police Department, just across the river from the ruthless Juarez Cartel. "Because drugs are legalized, they're not gonna say, 'Let's go back to school and get an honest job.' "

I don't think anyone is so naive to think that the cartels will just pack up and go fishing when prohibition is lifted. I would consider the cartels even more dangerous in a post-marijuana world than before because they will recoup their losses elsewhere. Cocaine, krank, heroin, and pharmaceuticals will take up the slack of the loss of revenue from pot. That shit is far more deadly and the profits more stark. If anything, the lives of the Mexican people will take a turn for the worse because more of them will be needed to process the drugs rather than merely growing them. That is, if the Mexican government stays as corrupt and toothless as it has been the last 50 years. Corruption is so embedded into the Mexican government, it might take a revolution to weed out the criminals. However, I'm sorry to say that revolutions south of our borders haven't a great track record of freeing the people. They mostly just change the sign over the door, nothing inside changes.

The New York Times has posted an article about "4/20" and the reemergence of the marijuana culture. They too speak of the changing attitudes about cannabis. Allen St. Pierre, one of the Pot Warriors at NORML, wrote a great article at NPR on the 17th. He makes a great point that I try to reiterate: Pot has its demons too.
"Cannabis is not harmless; no drug is, including aspirin. However, with no measured "lethal dose" and no fatalities on record, cannabis, as compared to alcohol, pharmacologically speaking, is a remarkably safe and nontoxic drug."
There are those who make the case that we don't need another vise, especially at this time of economic downturn and widespread pain and anxiety. Legalize pot and you'll have the whole country stoned. But people are people, we are who we are and if we spark a spliff for a bit of herbal peace then so be it. The thought that the whole country will turn to potheads over night reminds me of the fears that were made when they began to reconsider the first Prohibition.

Al Smith, the famously Catholic governor of New York in the early 1920's ran for president in 1928 as a 'wet' candidate. He favored the repeal of the 18th Amendment which outlawed the sale of alcohol. Herbert Hoover, the man many folks hold responsible for the Great Depression, was content to keep things the way they were. As the election grew closer, Smith, the Democratic candidate was gaining support in a large part through his opposition to prohibition. However, he was a Catholic so this was exploited by the Republican Hoover - go figure. Hoover won the election and prohibition lasted through his term and into the next. Even so, during the campaign, Hoover had to acknowledge the tide changing away from prohibition by promising to appoint a commission to study the its ramifications.
"There have been more sustained pressures to enforce this law than on the whole has been true of any other federal statute, although this pressure in the last four or five years has met with increasing resistance as the sentiment against prohibition has developed . . . . That a main source of difficulty is in the attitude of at least a very large number of respectable citizens in most of our large cities and in several states, is made more clear when the enforcement of the national prohibition act is compared with the enforcement of the laws as to narcotics. There is an enormous margin of profit in breaking the latter. The means of detecting transportation are more easily evaded than in the case of liquor. Yet there are no difficulties in the case of narcotics beyond those involved in the nature of the traffic because the laws against them are supported everywhere by a general and determined public sentiment (Sinclair, 1962: 367-368)."
(from "History of Alcohol Prohibition" by the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse)

Even though this made the case for repeal of the 18th Amendment, 10 of 11 commissioners still opposed it. It wasn't until Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his campaign for president in 1932 that repeal of this amendment was included in his platform. In short, although public sentiment was clearly in favor of repeal, the event itself took years to accomplish. People went out and partied, there was revelry all over, but the Depression was in full swing and people had other things to think about, like survival. Repealing the 18th Amendment didn't destroy America.

So, the likelihood of the end of marijuana prohibition is still far away. But we are still fighting the good fight. States are seriously considering changing laws for medical marijuana and the growing of hemp, each good steps toward legalization. In Colorado, a pro-marijuana ad was broadcast on TV

(the giggle at the end was edited out for broadcast, but it was a cute touch anyway.)

What are we looking at? This August in Seattle, Hempfest will be enjoy the fruits of a somewhat friendly administration and, perhaps, the greatest scrutiny of any past gatherings with regard to the new attitudes toward marijuana. Although the theme of this year's festivities will be on industrial hemp, the talk in the crowd will be centered on when the ball drops on legalization. I caution people against getting too optimistic. I hope to be in the midst of the fray during this whole affair, as well as at Hempfest. I also hope to reconnect with some of the Warriors I've mentioned in this series. I fell out of favor long ago and have been trying to re-establish my cred for awhile now. Voicing opinions is like speeding down a winding road - both require some steering. I forgot that.

Here's a few facts that I've stated but this video puts it out in a frame that I may not have made here. It's the MPP party at the Playboy Mansion last year. This year's party is in June.

Hmmm, my invitation must have got lost in the mail.

The tide is turning. The winds of change are blowing in our direction now but that may not be the case tomorrow. I've been on this roller coaster before. We need real change to happen, that means advocacy at the top and real legislation at the federal level. It can't be just an issue for old hippies and cancer patients. Mom and Pop America have to join the team. Real change takes bold steps by people who would normally not make them. In Congress, we can get one side of the aisle on our side but the other side is in no mood to cooperate. Republicans, true to form, will do everything in their power to scuttle this agenda. They have no soul and care nothing for those who would benefit from legalization.

The media is also not quite on our side. They deal in the sensational, not the informative. News outlets like Fox News and CNN will show every bad angle, every misstep made by the Warriors as we try to get our message out. They don't want the truth, they only want the shock. They want the car wreck, even if they have to grease the road to get it.

So this is up to us. All of us. Each person who feels that marijuana prohibition is wrong has to take a stand and do their part in bringing about its demise.

Note: OK, I did say that Legal Eagles was to be the next part. I'm getting there. This shit isn't as easy as I thought. Stay tuned!

So Mote It Be,
David A.