In 1937, at a time when modern Pharmacology was still in its infancy,
Congress- acting after less than two days of sketchy hearings- passed
the Marijuana Tax Act by voice vote. It was a ridiculous piece of
legislation that went nearly unnoticed at the time and then remained
obscure for nearly thirty years. It wasn't until aggressive use of
cannabis ("marijuana") by 'Baby Boomers' defiantly protesting the
Viet Nam War prompted newly-elected President Richard Nixon to
declare a second 'war' on drugs that growth of the present market
became sustained. His sudden new expansion of an old policy coincided
with several other developments in addition: the emergence of a series
of robust international criminal industries for cocaine, heroin, and
sundry other agents like the psychedelics, meth, crack, and a variety
of 'club' drugs, each with its own market, and all collectively
impacting domestic and global policies.
Considering only their domestic repercussions, criminal drug
industries have provoked huge federal, state, and local law enforcement
efforts to suppress them. For nearly four decades the support
lavished on the drug war by both political parties, all sitting
presidents, and every federal agency has been literally
unprecedented . Both the budget and influence of the two band new
agencies (DEA and NIDA), created to fight the drug war have grown
progressively; even as the Justice Department was devoting an ever
larger fraction of its resources to drug prosecutions and the Federal
Bureau of Prisons was expanding to house over 190, 000 inmates; over
half of whom (54%) are serving time for drug offenses. The record
federal expansion has been accompanied by a four-fold increase in state
and local prisoners, giving the US the dubious honor of becoming the
worlds' leading jailer, a lead we increase every month.
Yet the elephant in the national living room is that our lavishly
supported drug policy has never even met its own goals. The 'zero
tolerance' and 'drug free America' slogans of the Eighties were
quietly dropped in the Nineties for a more modest fifty percent
reduction in 'drug use' within a specified interval; only to see the
interval extended as it became clear the original reduction wouldn't be
achieved. Current emphasis has shifted to 'drug free' workplaces and
schools through use of yet another unproven strategy: aggressive random
Interestingly, that's a development which serves mainly to highlight
another weakness in a woeful policy: urine testing is best for
detecting marijuana. Just as the drug war was originally impelled
by youthful use of cannabis, its failure has always been underscored by
pot's continued popularity with adolescents; that many have remained
chronic users is supported by the steadily increasing number of annual
arrests and the relentless increase in seizures at our borders;
to say nothing of the numbers of plants being cultivated by
amateur growers in the nation's back yards, basements, garages and
closets. Then, there's the recent discovery of enormous 'grows' in our
national forests being being tended by Mexican aliens, clearly to
circumvent both border interception and land forfeiture.
All the above suggests that Congress has been enhancing punishments for
marijuana out of sheer frustration; yet 'pot' arrests are still treated
by the media as opportunities for word play and stale Cheech and Chong
humor. Along with the stubborn denial of policy failure at the federal
level, is the craven failure of non-government institutions to
come to grips with the enormous and indefensible injustice represented
by four decades of "marijuana" prohibition, a policy which, even as
this is written, is being enforced more aggressively than ever against
'medical' users in California. Nor are our scientific organizations
willing to criticize the obvious abrogation scientific principle by
government agencies in defending it. That news organizations were out
in front of 'science' in parsing the FDA's absurd April 20
communique on smoking pot is a telling case in point. Most
outrageous of all, at least to this writer, is that the campaign
against medical use in California is receiving passive assistance from
the self-appointed medical marijuana advocates who claim to speak for
'patients' and yet have completely failed to take advantage of the
opportunity Proposition 215 provided for studying them.
I have now been systematically interviewing chronic pot users for
nearly five years. What they have told me convinces me beyond any
doubt that NORML, ASA, MPP, and other medical marijuana supporters are
nearly as clueless as the feds; and equally susceptible to
doctrinaire thinking when it comes to adolescent drug initiation and
A new scientific controversy provides us with yet another chance to
take a look at the response of the 'scientific community' to the war on
cannabis. As is usual with such comparisons, because the critical
implication involves appreciating something which is NOT happening, it
may be less than obvious to those with a casual interest; and easier
for those with a vested interest to deny.
In a nutshell, Pluto was discovered in 1930 at a time when scientific
instrumentation and observations were more primitive than they are now.
Interestingly, the respected astronomer who first described it is still
alive and understandably don't want Pluto downgraded from its
planetary status. That's only one of several possibilities being
considered by the International
Astronomical Union now meeting in Prague. Because there are several
other implications of what will clearly be an arbitrary decision, its
ultimate impact will be more political than scientific–– yet still
within Union's sole power to amend.
They are the features which beg comparison with the 'war' on drugs.
Also, since neither national governments nor various police agencies
seem to have any stake in the outcome of the debate over Pluto,
the present discussion is a lot more honest and uninhibited than the
endless wrangle over cannabis; and so far, at least, no tax supported
federal agency has seen fit to sponsor 'research' to influence
it; nor has Congress, the White House, or the Supreme Court attempted
to do so either.
Even though I have little time for this sort of thing, there are some
news items which so perfectly illustrate the absurdity of our drug
policy that I must point them out. One such appears in
Californian. Consider what's reported there: at a time when the
economy is threatened by inflation, we are engaged in a losing (and
unnecessary) war against 'terror' and the tax burden has been cruelly
shifted to the poor and the middle calss, our police 'heroes' in the
front lines of the drug war are still able to get away with
simultaneously admitting they are not up to the job and complaining
they don't have nearly enough money to do it.
One is also forced to wonder when the drug policy 'reform' community will
finally get around to asking the cops and feds to explain that
Oh, yes. Don't forget that although we are worried about global warming
and the diminishing global supply of petroleum, NASCAR tacing is now
Just over a year ago, on August 10, 2005 my friend and associate,
Dustin Costa was arrested in his own home by six California 'peace'
officers with drawn guns. At first they seemed a motley group indeed,
but to anyone familiar with the details of the case, there was a
certain cruel logic in that police overkill because they represented
every California police agency with the most remote claim to
jurisdiction in Merced, CA where the bust was carried out; however,
they were really on a mission from the DEA, because they were there
to arrest Dustin on federal drug charges and take him into
federal custody at the Fresno County Jail. He has been there ever since––
completely ignored and nearly forgotten by the medical marijuana
'movement' that claims to represent him
What makes his case a nearly unique and especially obscene miscarriage
of justice is that, at the time of his arrest, he had been out on bail
on state charges for the same offense, a substantial 'grow' intended
for medical use. He had already made eighteen court appearances and was
orchestrating his defense so adroitly that no trial date had even been
set. Clearly the development that had changed the equation enough to
allow his controversial arrest was the Supreme Court's June ruling in
the Raich case, which approved federal prosecution of those
charged with violating its drug laws; even in states with 'medical
marijuana' laws. Although the Supremes clearly hadn't considered the
issue of double jeopardy, there were posts from lawerly types to
'reform' lists pointing out that as separate 'sovereigns' each
government was entitled to pursue its own case.
So much for fairness and collusion.
Although Dustin has been held under extreme conditions in a hell-hole,
he has continued to work for what he believes in and has been
interviewing many of his fellow prisoners (nearly all of whom are short
term county jail prisoners). The following letter is an example of how
well he has been using his time to understand what is happening and
refine his message:
Received From Dustin Costa, dated August 9, 2006
Very few of those now attempting to restrict use of 'medical marijuana'
in California claim it isn't medicine. Even such recent enemies as
Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin and San Diego District Attorney Bonnie
Dumanis now claim to support its use by the 'seriously ill.' However,
the most powerful, influential, and perhaps most self-interested 'dog'
in the state-wide fight over medical use remains the federal
government, which continues to insist that marijuana has no medical
value whatsoever, and further, is both a dangerous drug and a menace to
society. Because of the dangers it represents, they claim, anyone using
or supplying it deserves a long term in prison. The government then
offers local police additional resources to make sure medical marijuana
offenders wind up behind bars. They claim, and perhaps even believe,
that they only want to make America a safer place to live.
Wouldn't it be ironic if we were one day to discover that the real
menace to society has been our federal government? Wouldn't it be a
real twist of fate to discover that marijuana has the awesome potential
to make America a safer place?
What if you were to discover that the government has borne false
witness against marijuana, beginning with Congressional testimony in
the Spring of 1937, and that the deceit and suppression of truth
continues to this day?
Would you be surprised to learn that the biggest victims of the
government's big lie are suffering from debilitating mental conditions
like ADD, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, autism,
depression, and the whole range of anxiety-related disorders?
Did you know that people with those conditions now make up 70% of
America's prison population?
America currently has 2.2 million people behind bars, a number which is
growing at the rate of 1000 each week. 80% of them are there through
the war on drugs. In the 38 years since the drug war began, America has
become the largest per-capita jailer on Earth. Would it surprise you to
learn that most of those new prisoners are those with potentially
the most to gain from marijuana; who, if allowed to self-medicate with
it, wouldn't be 'criminals' at all?
Imagine what it would mean if it turns out that marijuana is one of the
wisest choices for treating adolescent mental disorders and also 'safer
than aspirin and more effective than Ritalin?"
The logical implication would then be that the government has been
relying on the false information it has gathered and spread with
our tax dollars to further its agenda of incarcerating and
brutalizing our poorest and most defenseless citizens in a campaign
that relies heavily on fear, bigotry, and hatred.
It is that campaign which has transformed our prison system into
our principal source of 'Mental Health Care.' If you agree with that
policy, then you also agree with Mark Pazin, Bonnie Dumanis and the DEA.
P.O. Box 872
Fresno, CA 93712
I'm sure Dustin would appreciate feedback my readers.