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News (Media Awareness Project) - US MA: OPED: In This Prohibition Saga, Obama Plays Herbert
Title:US MA: OPED: In This Prohibition Saga, Obama Plays Herbert
Published On:2011-12-04
Source:Metrowest Daily News (MA)
Fetched On:2011-12-13 06:07:46

It was a curious coincidence last month that, as PBS was broadcasting
the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary called "Prohibition" --
describing the Hoover Justice Department's last-gasp crackdown on
alcoholic beverages in the late 1920s -- prosecutors in the Obama
Justice Department were announcing a crackdown on medical marijuana in
California, threatening to confiscate the property of people "involved
in drug trafficking activity," which is fed-speak for providing pot
for sick people.

After nearly a decade under the Volstead Act, the utter futility of
enforcing public abstinence from alcohol was evident to all but
prohibition's stakeholders -- chiefly, police, prosecutors and
bootleggers. Despite the draconian penalties imposed by the 1926 Jones
Act, which turned Volstead violations into felonies, booze remained
generally available. Similarly, despite the draconian penalties of the
Nixon-era Controlled Substances Act, and nearly a million arrests
annually, marijuana has proven itself ineradicable, and, indeed, has
become a part of our culture. The warnings from U.S. Attorneys in
California come on the heels of similar threats from their
counterparts in Rhode Island, Vermont, Colorado and other states whose
medical marijuana laws authorize secure, large-scale cultivation facilities.

If they make good on those threats, one can only imagine the perp
walks outside the federal courthouse: plumbers, equipment suppliers,
bookkeepers, state functionaries and investors in suits -- all the
"conspirators" it takes to bring an agricultural product safely to a
large, regulated market of doctor-authorized patients.

This clash does not arise from the disparity between state and federal
law. Under basic principles of federalism, both the states and the
federal government may prohibit marijuana, but neither is required to.
A state is under no legal compulsion to enforce federal law, and a
state is indisputably within its rights to determine who should and
should not be arrested for marijuana by state and local police.

Rather, the conflict arises from the disparity between how the two
sides view reality. Sixteen states (and a majority of the voters,
according to many polls) recognize that marijuana has significant
medical value for some patients and that its benefits outweigh its
risks. Federal law, on the other hand, peremptorily rejects such
claims as hokum, declaring that marijuana has a high potential for
abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment and cannot
be used safely under medical supervision. That marijuana is dangerous
and without medical value is the dogma at the heart of federal
prohibition. To admit otherwise would be to confess that arresting
nearly 20 million people and spending $10 billion in the war against
pot has been a mistake of gargantuan proportions. Admitting that
mistake is unthinkable. What must not be, cannot be, to paraphrase the
familiar German expression.

Compassion for sick people aside, there are two other reasons to take
note of medical marijuana: jobs and revenue. When the voters of
Montana, population 1 million, legalized medical marijuana six years
ago, some 1,400 new jobs were said to have been created, largely in
the building trades, equipment supply and solar installations, until
the feds cracked down earlier this year. The New York Times recently
reported that in California, more than $100 million in new revenue has
been collected from the industry by state and local tax collectors.

Everybody knows what politicians want when it comes to marijuana: to
change the subject. Whether a candidate believes that states should be
free to enact, implement and enforce their own medical marijuana laws,
free of federal interference, would reveal much about his or her view
of states' rights generally, and provide useful differentiation from
the other candidates. Not since Prohibition has the federal government
been so on the wrong side of history. Now, with the Justice Department
crackdown on medical marijuana, presidential candidates and others who
purport to be leaders can pick a side and defend it.
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