Debunking the Myths About the Marijuana Lobby


MPP’s Executive Director, Rob Kampia, wrote an article for the Huffington Post this week discrediting three common myths about the marijuana lobby most often spread by prohibitionists.

It’s important for all of us to keep our eye on the prize by agreeing that marijuana should be legal for people 21 and older; we’ll put cartels and gangs out of business, and we’ll have reasonable restrictions on advertising.

None of this is new. Anyone who believes that alcohol should be legal should also agree that marijuana should be legal.

This is simple for most of us to understand. The only people who are trying to confuse it are those who are making profits from marijuana prohibition — international drug cartels and, unfortunately, so-called anti-drug nonprofit organizations in the U.S.

Click here to read the whole article!

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Organization of American States Report Urges U.S. to Reform Drug Policies


Last Friday, the Organization of American States (OAS) gathered in Bogotá, Colombia for the release of its $2 million report, ”The Drug Problem in the Americas,” which characterized marijuana as a relatively benign drug.

The 400-page study concluded that if the United States was sincere in its desire to reduce drug violence in the western hemisphere, then it would have to seriously rethink its stance on marijuana and look into more rational drug policies:

“It would be worthwhile to assess existing signals and trends that lean toward the decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale, and use of marijuana. Sooner or later decisions in this area will need to be taken.”

Jose Miguel Insulza

The discussion is long overdue, according to OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza, and most Latin American leaders – “whose countries suffer the bloody brunt of the largely failed U.S.-led drug war” – agree. Read the rest of this entry »

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Prohibition in Chicago: Different Day, Same Story


Like a lot of people, my morning routine involves clicking around a few major news sites to see what people are talking about that day. Disgusting cruise ships and exploding Russian meteorites aside, one of the stories that caught my eye today was a story about Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the notorious Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. Yesterday, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzman “Public Enemy Number One,” a title CNN notes was created for bootlegger and gangster Al Capone. Read the rest of this entry »

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Obama Administration Increases Drug War Spending


Earlier today, the Obama administration released its annual National Drug Control Strategy, detailing the methods and budgets planned to combat drug use for fiscal year 2013. The report stresses that more resources need to be spent on addiction treatment and prevention, and that an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” is unworkable. The report shows, however, that budget allocations for traditional law enforcement methods could increase by hundreds of millions of dollars, including domestic military operations. Government data from previous years have shown no connection between drug-arrest rates and drug-use rates.

While significant portions of the budget are dedicated to harm reduction and abuse prevention programs, many of the “drug war” methods that have proven ineffective over the last 40 years — particularly those used to enforce marijuana prohibition — will likely see funding increases this year. Domestic law enforcement is slated to receive $9.4 billion, a $61.4 million increase from last year. The Department of Defense Domestic Counterdrug support program will get nearly $150 million this year. Over $4.5 billion will be spent on federal incarceration of drug users and distributors. In addition, the Obama administration has requested the revival of the Youth Drug Prevention Media Program with a $20 million budget. Studies have shown that this program had the opposite of the intended effect on teens, and Congress allocated no money for the program last year.

“This budget is appalling. The drug czar is trying to resurrect those stupid TV ads, like the one where a teenager gets his fist stuck in his mouth,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. “The budget intentionally undercounts the federal government’s expenditures on incarcerating drug offenders, who comprise more than half of the federal prison population. And the budget dangerously proposes a massive escalation in using the military to fight drugs domestically. Congress should just ignore this budget and start from scratch. Specifically, Congress should not provide the Obama administration with any money to go after nonviolent marijuana users, growers, or distributors.”

The drug czar’s strategy would keep control of the marijuana trade in the hands of drug cartels and illegal operators, endangering communities, and creating massive death tolls throughout Latin America. In the past year, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, current and former Latin American leaders whose countries are being ravaged by drug cartels, and tens of millions of Americans have called for a more rational approach to marijuana policy. The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that making marijuana legal is not an option.

Check back for further analysis in the coming days.

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Prohibition Hurts Children Far More Than Marijuana


One of the most often-heard arguments against marijuana reform can basically be summed up as follows:

“But what about the children?”

Prohibitionists are quick to trot this one out whenever their other arguments have failed because it’s an easy way to elicit a strong emotional response. They claim that marijuana reform will lead to increased rates of use, developmental damage, and easier access to marijuana. Even talking about the issue will lead to higher rates of use, according to their arguments. Never mind that teen use rates tend to decrease in states that pass medical marijuana laws, or that licensed distributors would have ample reason to ID customers.

No, facts don’t really apply to this argument. It is very useful, however, when it comes to terrifying parents. According to the standard drug warrior mentality, the only way to keep kids away from marijuana is to arrest adults for using it. To do otherwise would “send the wrong message to our youth.”

Apparently, all this concern does not extend to children living on the U.S.-Mexico border:

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Texas law enforcement officials say several Mexican drug cartels are luring youngsters as young as 11 to work in their smuggling operations.

Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told Reuters the drug gangs have a chilling name for the young Texans lured into their operations.

“They call them ‘the expendables,'” he said.

McCraw said his investigators have evidence six Mexican drug gangs — including the violent Zetas — have “command and control centers” in Texas actively recruiting children for their operations, attracting them with what appears to be “easy money” for doing simple tasks.

The policy of marijuana prohibition is the primary reason cartels are able to bring in so much profit from distribution within the U.S., the reason they are in such brutal competition with each other, and the catalyst for using cheap and available child conscripts within our borders. Instituting more rational marijuana policies and bringing marijuana into a regulated, legal market would greatly diminish the power of the cartels, as well as their need to corrupt our youth. Licensed businesses, unlike cartels, must obey child labor laws and other regulations in order to stay in business.

Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and other prohibitionists don’t want to hear that, though. It seems as if they have no problem using imaginary children to scare people away from reform. Real children, however, are “expendable.”

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The Drug War’s Latest Collateral Damage: Ladies’ Golf


The drug war claimed another victim this week, this time in the form of organized professional sports. On Wednesday, February 2, the LPGA Tour announced that it would postpone the Tres Marias Championship, which was to be held in Morelia, Mexico. Tour officials stated that their security firm determined that safety issues surrounding the event are “too severe” to have the event this year, and in order to hold the event in future years, things would have to “improve dramatically.”

I’ll be the first to admit that losing one golf tournament is nothing to lose sleep over and it should be put into context (we all know the true tragedy of the War on Drugs). However, the fact that a security firm decided that the current state of affairs in Morelia, Mexico renders a LPGA tournament unplayable due to safety concerns should give everyone pause. Today Morelia loses a major golf tournament, tomorrow could see other industry follow suit. Once industry leaves, the only employers are the cartels that create the violence that drives away the business and the police who do battle with them. The cycle of violence continues. Rinse and repeat.

If American officials, who invest heavily in Mexico’s war against cartels, were to simply lift the prohibition on marijuana, we could see real change for our neighbors to the south. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that Mexican drug cartels derive 60% of their profits from marijuana sales to the U.S. market. With one policy decision, we could cripple the cartels’ bank accounts and their power structure, bringing an end to the violence that has devastated vast areas of Mexico. When that day comes, it will certainly be a fine day for golf.

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What Exactly Did that RAND Study Say About Cartels and Marijuana?


If you believe most headline writers, yesterday the RAND Corporation released a study that said ending marijuana prohibition in California would do little to take away profits from Mexican drug cartels. But if you take the time to actually read the study, you’ll learn that Mexican cartels make billions of dollars from exporting marijuana to the United States (not including profits from the marijuana they grow within our borders), that a statistic originally put forward by the U.S. drug czar’s office was based on little and “should not be taken seriously,” and that removing marijuana from the criminal market in California (just one state) would deprive the cartels several percentage points worth of their revenue.

In short, the report tells us what we already knew: the cartels make huge profits from illicit marijuana sales, the U.S. drug czar’s office is prone to spreading misinformation, and the passage of Prop 19 in California could be a first crucial step toward dealing a much larger blow to the cartels’ revenue.

Let’s address these points one at a time: Read the rest of this entry »

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Republican Senator: Mexican Cartels ‘Most Immediate’ U.S. Security Threat


Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said this weekend that “[t]ransnational drug trafficking organizations operating from Mexico represent the most immediate national security threat faced by the United States in the Western Hemisphere.”

Gee, if only there were some way to cut off their largest source of revenue …

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is reportedly using a $7 million surveillance plane to spy on marijuana grows in Colorado.

Glad to see they’ve got their priorities right.

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How Regulating Marijuana Could End Mexico’s Drug War


Two must-read op-eds from last week explain why ending marijuana prohibition is perhaps the only effective way to curtail the everincreasing violence plaguing Mexico:

In The Washington Post, Hector Aguilar Camín, publisher of the Mexican magazine Nexos, and Jorge G. Castañeda, a former Mexican foreign minister who teaches at New York University, write that California’s Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana for adults, “may, at long last, offer Mexico the promise of an exit from our costly war on drugs.”

The debate here is not framed in terms of personal drug use but rather whether legalization would do anything to abate Mexico’s nightmarish violence and crime. There are reasons to think that it would: The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has said that up to 60 percent of Mexican drug cartels’ profits come from marijuana. While some say the real figure is lower, pot is without question a crucial part of their business. Legalization would make a significant chunk of that business vanish. As their immense profits shrank, the drug kingpins would be deprived of the almost unlimited money they now use to fund recruitment, arms purchases and bribes.

In addition, legalizing marijuana would free up both human and financial resources for Mexico to push back against the scourges that are often, if not always correctly, attributed to drug traffickers and that constitute Mexicans’ real bane: kidnapping, extortion, vehicle theft, home assaults, highway robbery and gunfights between gangs that leave far too many innocent bystanders dead and wounded. Before Mexico’s current war on drugs started, in late 2006, the country’s crime rate was low and dropping. Freed from the demands of the war on drugs, Mexico could return its energies to again reducing violent crime.

And in a piece published on FireDogLake and The Huffington Post, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson says U.S. officials need to stop funding Mexico’s drug war and instead “welcome the debate on marijuana prohibition,” — something our current drug czar has repeatedly spurned.

America’s policy for almost 70 years has been to keep marijuana—arguably no more harmful than alcohol and used by 15 million Americans every month—confined to the illicit market, meaning we’ve given criminals a virtual monopoly on something that U.S. researcher Jon Gettman estimates is a $36 billion a year industry, greater than corn and wheat combined. We have implemented laws that are not enforceable, which has thereby created a thriving black market. By denying reality and not regulating and taxing marijuana, we are fueling not only this massive illicit economy, but a war that we are clearly losing.

The latest Prop 19 poll shows the initiative ahead 47-43, so its likelihood of passing is still anyone’s guess. But if it does pass, Camín and Castañeda say Prop 19 will “enhance [Mexican President] Calderon’s moral authority in pressing President Obama” and allow the Mexican government “to more actively lobby the U.S. government for wider changes in drug policy.”

All the more reason for Californians to turn out and vote yes on 19 this November.

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Mexican President Calls for Debate on Prohibition While U.S. Officials Continue to Deny Reality


In late 2006, Mexican president Felipe Calderon announced a new government-backed military offensive against his country’s drug cartels, believing they could be defeated through sheer brute force. Four years later, more than 28,000 people have been killed, and the drug cartels are more powerful than ever, controlling vast manufacturing and distribution networks that have helped to bankroll kidnappings, extortion, human trafficking, and the corruption of an estimated 60 percent of U.S. border agents.

The majority of the cartels’ revenue – more than 60 percent, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy – comes from selling marijuana in the United States. Remember this.

Finally realizing the futility of the status quo, Calderon last week softened his position and said he was open to a debate about lifting prohibition as a way to combat the cartels and deprive them of their main source of income. (Officially, he remains an opponent of legalization.)

Then over the weekend, Calderon’s predecessor, Vicente Fox (who as a former president is more politically flexible than his sitting successor) went even further, saying he firmly supports ending prohibition as a way to quell the violence. “Radical prohibition strategies have never worked,” Fox wrote, explaining that he sees legalization “as a strategy to weaken and break the economic system that allowed cartels to earn huge profits.”

This line of thinking is not new, obviously. Other Latin American nations are realizing prohibition doesn’t work, and former leaders of Brazil and Columbia, as well as former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, have been among those calling for its end.

Meanwhile, as the war rages on in Mexico, street shoot-outs have become commonplace, journalists fear their own safety so much that they don’t even report the violence, and school children are being trained to duck and cover in order to avoid the crossfire.

But with Mexico awash in blood and its leaders desperately looking for solutions, our officials have offered nothing but the same failed options. With one hand, the U.S.  gives the Mexican government millions of dollars to continue funding its horrifically unsuccessful war, and with the other, our officials continue to deny the irrefutable reality that prohibition has not worked and another approach is needed — one that will stop handing the cartels a virtual monopoly over such a lucrative trade. Read the rest of this entry »

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