Drug war profiteers attempt to stop marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado

By Kyle Harding, Opinion Editor


Last November, voters in Washington state, along with those in Colorado, expressed their desire to legalize marijuana.

For many voters, it had nothing to do with a personal desire to be able to buy weed, but a wish to see the state stop imprisoning people for an activity that does not infringe on the rights of others.

On March 4, nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Agency, along with other former government officials, religious leaders and anti-drug groups, penned an open letter encouraging the federal government to put a stop to this exercise of sovereignty.

The letter was published by Florida-based Save Our Society From Drugs, which claims to be “our nation’s premier advocacy organization fighting against permissive drug policy that attempts to negatively impact our society and future.”

While they list a number of reasons why they think marijuana is harmful, they provide no compelling reasons for why it should be illegal. Furthermore, they never address the inconvenient fact that banning something does not keep people from getting it.

However, the letter does raise an excellent point: “Sound drug policy must be rooted in evidence-based science, not driven by special interest groups who are looking to profit at the expense of our nation’s public health and safety.”

This is precisely why we should reject drug policy proposals from Save Our Society from Drugs. Its founders, Mel and Betty Sembler, made their careers running drug abuse treatment centers. They have also been contracted to run a federally-funded program to help businesses test for drug use. If anybody has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, it is the Semblers. If marijuana use becomes legal and socially acceptable, they stand to lose a lot.

Other signatories of the letter include the Colorado Drug Investigators Association, an organization of people whose jobs depend on the illegality of drugs, as well as organizations that represent companies that provide drug testing services. So it would seem that the special interests are firmly entrenched on the prohibitionist side of the debate.

The former DEA administrators who have signed onto this letter represent one of the worst sorts of government official: the benevolent paternalist. Only an authoritarian control freak would aspire to be the leader of a law enforcement agency with the explicit purpose of imprisoning people for personal behavior, a profession that is euphemistically referred to as “public service,” but is really just a way to lord power over the little people. They believe a government must regulate its citizens’ personal behavior in order to protect them from themselves. This is the same behavior that is on display in New York City with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s war on soda, and the absurdity of it is obvious in that context. It seems less absurd to most Americans to prohibit marijuana because we’ve been subjected to decades of propaganda conditioning us to believe that to allow drug use would be inviting societal collapse.

C.S. Lewis said, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” These former law enforcement officials may sincerely believe they are saving civilization. But in doing so, they want the federal government to ruin people’s lives. And to accomplish their goals, they have gotten into bed with a band of drug war profiteers.

Washingtonians and Coloradans who voted for I-502 and Amendment 64 should be angered that a group of career government bureaucrats and special interest busybodies who seek laws that help to line their pockets, either through government contracts or court-ordered addiction treatment, are attempting to influence the Department of Justice to nullify state laws.

Neither of our senators in Washington are members of the judiciary committee, but that does not mean it is a waste of time to contact them and tell them how you feel about the prospect of the federal government enforcing anti-marijuana laws here. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell can be reached at http://1.usa.gov/A6UvoZ and http://1.usa.gov/RhfWrM, respectively.

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