The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass a resolution today declaring illegal marijuana cultivation on federal lands to be an “unacceptable threat to the safety of law enforcement and the public,” and calling upon the nation’s drug czar “to work in conjunction with Federal and State agencies to develop a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to permanently dismantle Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating on Federal lands.”
Speaking on the House floor yesterday, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) agreed with the goals of H. Res. 1540, but said the only way to accomplish such objectives would be to eliminate “the failed policy of prohibition with regard to marijuana and replac[e] it with regulation.”
“I have no doubt that marijuana plantations, as the resolution states, pose a threat to the environmental health of Federal lands, that drug traffickers spray unregulated chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers, but I submit that the best way to address that is to incorporate this into a meaningful and enforceable agricultural policy for the country with regard to the regulatory structure for the production of marijuana,” said Polis, whose home state of Colorado has emerged as a national leader in the regulation of medical marijuana. “… As long as [marijuana] remains illegal and as long as there is a market demand, the production will be driven underground. No matter how much we throw at enforcement, it will continue to be a threat not only to our Federal lands, but to our border security and to our safety within our country.”
Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, today joined Rep. Polis in endorsing the underlying rationale of the resolution and suggesting that accomplishing the goals detailed in legislation will require an entirely new strategy by the federal government.
“Passage of this resolution will send a clear message to the drug czar and others that our current strategies for combating illegal marijuana production are not working and that a new direction is needed,” Fox said. “There are two choices here: continue the failed prohibitionist policies that encourage Mexican drug cartels to keep growing marijuana on federal lands, or embrace a new path that would acknowledge the reality that marijuana is not going away, but its production and sale can be sensibly regulated in order to reduce the harm caused by its illicit production on federal lands.”
UPDATE: The bill passed overwhelmingly yesterday, with the only “no” votes being cast by Reps. Polis, Barney Frank, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.
Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko — who, as we’ve discussed in a previous post, receives hundreds of thousands of federal dollars annually to pursue eradication efforts — told the Redding Record-Searchlight that the vote “sends a very clear message that Congress recognizes the impact and the problems with illegal marijuana growing and dangers on public lands.”
But unless Congress and the drug czar’s office agree to consider regulating marijuana in order to shut down its illicit production, there’s little chance all this chest-thumping will lead to any new, more effective strategies. In the perceptive words of Scott Morgan, “If you don’t want Mexican gangsters growing marijuana in the woods, then it’s time to allow people who aren’t Mexican gangsters to grow marijuana somewhere that isn’t the woods.”