Here’s a cast of criminals in marijuana prohibition

by DGO Web Administrator

This whole illegal weed game didn’t just happen by itself. There were real villains behind it: Harry J. Aslinger and his cronies, Richard Nixon and his allies in the culture wars of the Vietnam Era. And there is a new breed of prohibitionists who continue to play the game in the 21st century.

The main opponents to legalization, be it recreational or medical, can be classified into a few groups: Police unions, prison guards, individuals and corporations with a stake in the private prison industry, pharmaceutical companies, alcohol companies, and tobacco companies. These are the coteries who consistently lobby against ending prohibition, each, of course, for their own interests (read: $$$). Joining these organizations is one individual who consistently reaches into his very deep pockets to oppose ballot initiatives nationwide: Sheldon Adelson.

I have equal parts open-hearted sympathy and closed-fisted disgust for Adelson, the octogenarian casino magnate from Las Vegas whose personal fortune is estimated to be of the order of $30 billion (to clarify, if this sentence reads as if I’m saying I’d kind of like to punch an 83-year-old in the face, yes, that is accurate). My pity for him extends from the fact that he lost a son to a drug overdose in 2005. My the source of my contempt is the fact that this tragedy came not at the hands of cannabis (obviously), but cocaine and heroin. His response has been to vilify a plant that is seen by many to be the antidote to hard drugs by donating nearly $200 million (including buying a newspaper to use as a bully pulpit) to lobby against legalization efforts in areas far beyond his home state, all while making a personal fortune off of the activities which happen in his gambling dens. This is a fifth of a billion dollars that could have been used in efforts to educate and treat people plagued by the substances which killed his flesh and blood. For that, Adleson, I call you out.

In a stroke of good news, Adelson’s Nevada was one of four states that passed a recreational legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot. This is bad new for another group which resides in the “Making Money by Reprehensible Means” category: Private prison stakeholders. The privatized prison industry, at its core, is a system which commoditizes the incarceration of human beings in order to turn a profit. There are few more nauseating ways to turn a buck, so I am going to leave well enough alone with these folks. If you have the time and inclination, read up on this crap and draw your own conclusions.

Next up is Big Pharma. They’re the reason our troops remain in Afghanistan, to guard the poppy fields. They’re the financial backers and primary benefactors of the national opioid epidemic and the group that convinced the FDA to approve candy-flavored amphetamines for school children and Oxycontin for children as young as 11 years old. I don’t even know how to begin a rant against the Real Drug Cartel. They know cannabis is medicine and they know what this safe, relatively side-effect-free medicine will do to their bottom line if legalized, so they throw lobbyist after lobbyist at Capitol Hill and continue their monopoly. Lump in the manufacturers of tobacco and alcohol products as organizations that follow the same path as the pharmaceutical companies, for similar reasons.

I have basically run out of steam here. I have little energy left to go after police officers and prison guards – they reside at the bottom of the pole in this struggle to overturn an immoral system that has roots in dishonesty, racism, and the love of lucre. They are fearful of losing their livelihoods and conditioned (as we all have been, to some degree) to demonize cannabis.

But, most importantly, I want to end on a positive note. Cannabis is a gift, easy to produce, infinitely versatile, endlessly generous. This plant has continued to not only survive, but thrive, even in the role of the explicitly-stated enemy in our United States’ “War on Drugs.” The tide of this battle against Mary Jane has risen in the favor of legalization, but the only realistic way to finally silence those who would use any underhanded method possible to fight legalization is by a nationwide statute passed by Congress. We have the opportunity to push toward that final goal. Educate yourself, advocate for this change in federal law, and don’t forget to take the occasional smoke break to remember how lucky we are.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected].


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