The medical marijuana industry is in danger of suffering yet another assault on its livelihood and belief system by the federal government. If the new attack is attempted, it will be spearheaded by Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Back in the 1980’s, Sessions said of the Ku Klux Klan that he thought they were OK, until he heard they smoked marijuana. He hasn’t changed.
In May, Sessions drafted a letter to congressional leaders. He was requesting them to repeal the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which protects cannabis dispensaries in legal states from federal prosecution. Sessions has been looking for a way to get around this and go after medical-marijuana businesses from the first day he got the job.
Even among his fellow Republicans this approach has been roundly criticized. It is largely viewed as out of touch with the times, representative of a 1982 way of thinking that the rest of the party has long since abandoned. But Sessions recently doubled down on it.
He expounded on his anti-marijuana view in response to a reporter’s question during a press conference in San Diego recently. Building on previous comments he’s made, Sessions in effect was stating that use of cannabis is automatically the same thing as drug abuse, and that cannabis is anything but medicine.
According to Reuters, Sessions reminded everyone in the room that the federal law banning the sale of marijuana “remains in effect,” and that “I’ve never felt that we should legalize marijuana.” That’s pretty unequivocal, which is good. The enemy at the gates is less to be feared, for he wears his banner openly.
The War on Drugs did not start with Nancy Reagan, or even close to her time, although she is the one to make the phrase immortal. It has been in the process of evolving from the very start. Regulatory legislature is never far behind anything useful, fun, or cool.
By the late 1800s, cannabis extracts were sold in pharmacies and doctors’ offices throughout Europe and the United States to treat stomach problems and other ailments.
Drug use for medicinal and recreational purposes has been happening in the United States since the country’s inception, and in fairness, it should be stated that this does serve some useful function. A certain amount of conservatism is good for a society. However, there is a line past which any philosophy becomes a perversion of itself. When science and reason fall by the wayside to suit some agenda, that agenda has already ceased to be worthwhile.
The War on Drugs has been one of the cruelest and most catastrophic policies ever conceived of by a government on its people. There are over two hundred thousand people in the federal prison system today, and a solid half of them are currently there for drug crimes. Between October 2012 and September 2013, 27.6 percent of drug offenders were locked up for crimes related to marijuana. It’s a sickening state of affairs, and no mistake.
The government has known from Day One that weed doesn’t really hurt people. Cannabis was originally introduced in North America as the common hemp plant during the seventeenth century. By the early nineteenth century we had an established and evolving medical commentary on the medicinal and intoxicating properties of cannabis.
However, this did not stop people like newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst from portraying it as a novel menace, dank and potent. One article in the San Francisco Examiner around the time included the phrase, “If the hideous monster Frankenstein came face to face with the monster marijuana, he would drop dead of fright!” Look below. That look hideous to you? Those are Animal Cookies, friends and neighbors. They may well have dropped Frankenstein, but not for good, and things might have improved between him and his bride.
Domestic concern over cannabis seems to have originated in the Southwest in the late 1800’s due to the same type of anti- Mexican sentiment that recently led to all the uproar over Trump unsettling the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals(DACA) Act. It began increasing after the First World War.
In the same year the war started, the first comprehensive attempt at federal drug enforcement was officially signed into law. Known as the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, it turned a few hundred thousand harmless junkies into criminals overnight.
In 1919 the Supreme Court upheld the HNA decision and applied more rigorous standards to it, outlawing addiction-maintenance for pleasure or comfort. Then as now, this led to national restrictions on physicians and pharmacists, who were widely(and unjustly) held responsible for America’s ever-growing problems with drug addiction.
This interpretation and enforcement of this unfortunate law effectively eliminated any legitimate role for the medical profession in treatment for Americans who had drug addictions until well into the 1960’s. The issue remained untreated and grew worse increasingly. Soon, a large scale problem had been manufactured right out of the blue- and the government was to require new powers in order to solve it.
The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was the next step in their solution. It was an agency of the United States Department of the Treasury, after an act of June 14, 1930. Its purpose was to consolidate the functions of the Federal Narcotics Control Board and the Narcotic Division, the agencies responsible for the enforcement of the aforementioned legislature.
Under the leadership of its first Commissioner, Harry J. Anslinger, whom Jeff Sessions is often compared to, the FBN took an unfortunate and draconian position regarding addiction. It is not a disease, they said, and the person with an addiction, therefore, was not a patient. If the addict was not a patient, then according to the HNA, he must be a criminal.
It should be noted that there were many financial and trade-based reasons for the passing of these laws, but the big reason it scared the regular people so much is the way in which the addicts themselves were portrayed in the emerging national narrative. A great deal of disinformation was spread about these people, and the reality of their conduct was not a considered factor to the people in charge of pumping it out.
People with addictions generally were considered members of a criminal underclass. Mexicans who smoked marijuana were greatly feared. It was said that the drug gave them “unholy strength, and a bloodthirsty nature”. Black jazz-players and exotic Chinese opium-dens were caricatured and demonized as well. These fears were fed to the public systematically, fanned, and encouraged. Racism and drug laws have gone hand in hand from the start.
The HNA was passed and upheld for the same reasons described by Lee Atwater when describing the “Southern Strategy” he intended to get Reagan reelected with in 1984. The process by which rich whites take advantage of the malcontented poor ones, i.e. Trump voters, is deserving of the greatest attention we can give it. These are the techniques they use to keep us split up and squabbling.
Alerting people to the growing threat supposedly posed by cannabis was of paramount importance if the law was to have its desired effect. So a series of propaganda films were made on the subject. The most famous of these was 1936’s “Reefer Madness”.
After a lurid national propaganda campaign against the “evil weed,” Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937(MTA). The statute effectively criminalized marijuana, restricting possession of the drug to individuals who paid a simple possession tax, for which you were then issued an official government stamp.
Anyone was allowed to have marijuana, so long as they had their Marihuana Tax Stamp. And all you had to do to get one was to go down to the courthouse with your pot and register it. The only trouble was, before you had the stamp, your grass could get you sent to prison. So once you got there, instead of a stamp, you’d get a hefty jail sentence. The first person in America to be caught with marijuana after the passing of the MTA was one Samuel R. Caldwell, of Boulder, Colorado. He was sentenced to four years hard labor at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.
Locking up drug offenders is one of the big stories behind mass incarceration. The other is that prison is a finishing school for people who have made bad choices to end up becoming lifelong criminals. Young people get into trouble with drugs, and have to go sit in the same holding cells as murderers and pederasts. They end up doing things they never thought they would have to, just to survive.
Once in the system, it’s hard to get back out. “The increase in U.S. incarceration rates over the past 40 years is preponderantly the result of increases both in the likelihood of imprisonment and in lengths of prison sentences,” the National Research Council wrote in one report regarding this matter.
At present, the war on drugs paradigm and the brutally unnecessary enforcement agencies created to uphold and maintain it are under greater attack than perhaps ever before. This is especially true for marijuana prohibition. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska have passed state-level legalization measures. A developing legal market for marijuana is already thriving and healthy. Voters in Washington, D.C., have moved to do the same, despite pushback from Congress.
All of this has been made possible so far by federal adherence to the a bipartisan legislature which has blocked the use of federal funding to be used in the prosecution of cannabis companies. But in the end, it’s only a Band-Aid, and there are ominous signs that the tide may be shifting. All the chaos going on everyplace gives Sessions plenty of cover from the public eye, as he goes weaseling out the ammo he needs to shut down legal-weed operations.
The House Rules Committee last month blocked a vote on the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment. This may adversely affect exemptions for pot businesses in legal states. This amendment has to be voted on and added to the budget every year. The blockage of this vote by the House may keep the amendment out of the 2018 budget, paving the way for Sessions to wreak havoc by using federal dollars to prosecute medical-cannabis businesses.
And this is where we have to ask ourselves: Where do we draw the line? We have passed the point of no return. We are going to stand up together and let the government that we are done letting our children be dragged off to monster factories, over a joint. We’re done letting this natural and fun activity be dragged through the mud, and even used as a weapon to hurt liberals with. The whole thing was designed in the first place, as a strategy to hamstring the lives of voters who Nixon saw as reliably Democratic, according to White House tapes.
Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman said, “We had two enemies- the antiwar left, and the blacks. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs themselves? Of course we did.”
The 1830’s were now quite some time ago, and it is time for the country to move on. Two hundred years worth of debate, about a question that was answered before humans could write, is a good deal more than enough. Jeff Sessions is going to have to learn right along with the rest of the Trump administration that the 1980’s are over.
America has bigger problems, when it comes to its prison system. It needs to be doing all it can to remedy the fact of more than 700 Americans for every 100,000 being prisoners. We’re not going back to kicking holes in people’s futures over this kind of thing. Cannabis is a gift from the heavens, and we are very grateful for it. To Jeff Sessions, Mr Attorney General, sir, I respectfully request, on behalf of the entire cannabis community, that you just leave us alone.