Posts Tagged ‘Prop 19

17
Oct
10

Defining change

I don’t know what it says about me that my favorite film of the past few months is a glacially slow, uber-dreary Romanian film by Corneliu Porumboiu, Politist Adjectiv.  Well, okay, that’s not entirely true.  I know what it says about me; it says that I’m exactly the sort of overeducated liberal elitist that the teapartiers have been complaining about.  Oh yeah, and I’m probably corrupting the youth of America with my radical marxist and/or fascist agenda, too.  Infecting them with my fact-and-reason based ideology. Sorry about that.

 

Yup, lots of shots of this guy, standing and looking sad. Romanians really know how to sell a film.

 

I can’t really recommend a film that reaches its dramatic climax when one guy reads dictionary definitions to another guy, though.  As much as I approve of dialectics in the classroom, it doesn’t make for the most exciting cinematic experience.  By all means, though, look it up if you’re into that sort of thing.

So, I don’t think I’m going to be giving too much away by describing the film.  Just in case, though, spoiler alert:  It’s all about a cop who doesn’t want to arrest a kid for smoking a joint.  As he points out to his bosses, the marijuana laws in Romania are a little anachronistic.  For all intents, simple possession has been decriminalized all across the more liberal countries in Europe.  The cop in this story points out that people smoke openly in Prague and Paris, and he complains that the 3-7 year prison sentence that the kid will receive is going to weigh too heavily on his conscience if he goes through with the arrest.  He keeps repeating his opinion that the draconian marijuana laws in Romania are on the cusp of being changed, but his bosses disagree.  More importantly, though, they disagree with his underlying belief that he has the right to consider his own views and feelings.

If that sounds familiar, that just means you’ve been paying attention.  Eric Holder’s recent statement to former DEA directors on the hopefully/potentially immanent passage of just that sort of decriminalization in California has been getting a lot of press coverage lately.   Holder isn’t really saying anything surprising when he asserts the DOJ’s strong opposition to Prop 19.  Just like it isn’t surprising that the DOJ will appeal US district court Judge Virginia Phillips’s injuction on the “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy that the Obama administration has been trying to end, and just like it isn’t surprising that they’re also going to appeal U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro’s finding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.  As odd as it sounds, our current Attorney General seems to feel that it’s his role to enforce the laws that we have, rather than the laws that he and his boss want.

 

Remember when this doofus was the top cop in the country? Yeah, I didn't think so.

 

Frankly, I’m not sure I understand all the hand-wringing from the progressives about this entirely-unsurprising discovery.  Wasn’t their complaint about Bush that he wasn’t following the law?

 

...that is to say, it used to be, back when we weren't doing it.

 

Well, okay, there were lots of complaints.  But I’m sure I remember hearing that one, too, among all the rest.

I don’t know about the rest of the complainers, but I voted for Obama – in part, anyway – because I wanted a return to rational, honest governance, not because I though he would just approve whatever I thought was right.  I wanted government to follow the law, and to improve it when they didn’t feel like it was effective, rather than just making shit up the way the Bush Administration did.  And for the most part, that’s just what we’ve had.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been happy to see more dramatic change – for instance, finding a way to fix Bush’s banking catastrofuck without simply handing bankers all the cash they wanted, or closing Guantanamo despite the difficulties, or choosing not to read my emails, etc. – but all things considered, I’m not unhappy, and I don’t think I understand why more people don’t share that sentiment.

 

At least the spelled his name correctly.

 

Well, that’s not entirely true, either; I suppose I do understand why all those Tea Party folks suddenly discovered that they cared about deficits as soon as Obama took office.  I’m just really surprised that anyone takes them seriously.

As I can’t seem to stop myself from repeating, if anyone deserves blame for the terrible economy, it’s the republicans who tanked it for us all, and then  decided that they’d rather see the country go down in flames than appease the black guy who happens to have been elected president of the US.

 

Remember when it was so important that we have "an up or down vote"? Yeah, I didn't think so.

 

I’ll reserve a little of that blame for the weak-kneed democrats in the Senate who can’t seem to overcome the handicap of an almost historic majority to actually, y’know, pass any of that legislation that they were all elected to pass, but the two don’t really compare.

Still, it was gratifying to read that some people in law enforcement have an awareness of history, and understand what’s actually going on here.  I’m talking about the former San Jose Chief of Police, Joseph McNamara, who was recently spotlighted in an article from the stoner-friendly Huffington Post.  Here’s the money quote:

“As we saw with the repeal of alcohol prohibition, it takes action from the states to push the federal government to change its policies…”Passing Proposition 19 in California will undoubtedly kick start a national conversation about changing our country’s obviously failed marijuana prohibition policies.”

His view seems persuasive, and sensible.  It’s not like the Feds can just tell us that they’re planning to ignore their own laws, but at the same time, they’re not going to be able to oppose the will of the states if they all decide to decriminalize marijuana, and it’s starting to seem like all of the states are on the same page.

And all things considered, I’m kinda glad that the republicans have decided to abandon their traditional “states’s rights” argument rather than stand with the rational center of the nation on this issue.  Not because I woudn’t like to see the policy end that much sooner, but just because I don’t like the idea of sharing even a little ideological ground with these clowns.

 

Dale Robertson, head of TeaParty.org. Back before the Tea Party leaders knew well enough to avoid being photographed.

 

12
Oct
10

Prohibition is the issue

This Rand study showing that repealing marijuana prohibition won’t stop Mexican drug cartels from being violent will, no doubt, be making the rounds.

No, not that Rand study. I mean the slightly less-crazy one.

 

The pro-prohibition, anti-legalization crowd will, no doubt, seize upon this latest study to try to convince voters that they’ll be voting on issues beyond simply repealing prohibition when they vote on Prop 19; specifically, that they should consider their role in the overall structure and outlook of the Mexican drug cartels when they cast their vote.  In that regard, this argument will join the other straw-man arguments against Prop 19 that have been circulating more frequently as we approach this historic vote – you know, that ending prohibition won’t really produce more tax revenue, or that it won’t really keep kids off drugs, or that it won’t really help law enforcement officials focus on violent crimes, or that it won’t really reduce the population of non-violent offenders in our overcrowded prisons, etc., etc., etc.

 

I’m not saying this new study is wrong.  I’m just saying it’s beside the point.  Just like all those other arguments.

 

Enthusiastic Prop 19 supporters probably bear some responsibility in muddying the waters.  Recognizing that an end to a bad policy might be in sight, motivated activists may have added to the problem by promising more than they should have done, in an attempt to secure that long-awaited end to marijuana prohibition, arguable the dumbest front in our over-long war on drugs. Or  maybe Prop 19 opponents are smarter than I think they are, and this is all part of their nefarious scheme to inflate hopes, only to then turn and attack the weakest of the straw-man arguments that they, themselves, posed.  Regardless, as we get closer to the election, I think it’s important to recognize what the Proposition actually proposes to do, and what it doesn’t propose to do.  This short audio clip from Steve Proffitt on the Madeleine Brand Show (Prop 19 Explainer) very succinctly describes some of the realities (and some of the unrealities) of the initiative, but even that level of detail seems a little beside the point.

 

 

It’s worth remembering that even when a law is clearly written, and narrowly focused, it’s subject to legal challenges and amendments and alterations.  It’s relatively rare to find a law passed by initiative that doesn’t continue evolving long after it’s been approved by voters.  Voters don’t really have the power to dictate the aftermath, or the specific implementation – just the broad thrust of the proposed law.  In other words, you can vote to end the prohibition of marijuana by voting for Prop 19, but you can’t vote to control what happens afterwards.   But isn’t that enough to make it a law worth voting for?

Regardless of what happens afterwards, shouldn’t we all be able to agree – based on the evidence already in front of us – that marijuana prohibition has been a stupid policy, based upon demonstrably-false claims, producing demonstrably-bad results?  I’d remind those Rand scientists that, regardless of what the Mexican cartels might do if marijuana prohibition ends, they haven’t exactly been the best of neighbors during prohibition.

I'm not voting based upon what these guys will or won't do.

The truth is, no one knows exactly what the specific collateral effects of ending prohibition will be – all we can know is what we already have.  The feds might react angrily, or they might not – but the way the behave now isn’t good.   The individual counties and cities might create smart controls and regulations, of they might not – but the way they deal with marijuana use right now isn’t good.  The Cartels might double-down on marijuana production, or they might not – but they’re killing people for marijuana right now.

 

Stupid feds, murderous cartels, keystone kounties – none of that is addressed by the law that California voters will vote on.  The upcoming vote is about trying to end prohibition here and now, or not.  All the rest of the talk is just noise.

 

 

11
Oct
10

Experts in self-interest

George Skelton has a nicely-representative editorial on marijuana legalization in today’s L.A. Times.  That doesn’t mean it’s good, or insightful, or logical, or even especially notable in any particular way – just that it rehashes the opinion that the paper keeps rehashing, over and over, damning the same villains and citing the same experts.  It’s worth reading if you’ve never read one before, but otherwise it’s pretty much the same viewpoint that the paper keeps reprinting every week or so, just in a slightly different word-order.

How does this dumb story keep working?

If nothing else, though, repeating a dumb argument over and over again really highlights the tenuous foundations upon which the argument is erected, and in this case, that foundation is built upon the testimony of noted “experts.”  I don’t think much of Skelton’s editorial, but his use of expert testimony is worth noting.

Here’s George:

Would you buy a newspaper from this man?

Based upon his picture and his writing, I’m guessing that George must be Red’s older, less funny brother.  To be fair, though, he did make me laugh a little bit.  First off, when he framed the debate about Prop 19 this way:

Merely a quarter of buyers at medicinal pot shops “are truly in need of it because of a medical condition,” says attorney George Mull, president of the California Cannabis Assn., which advocates “reasonable regulation of medical marijuana.”

Mull opposes Prop. 19, illustrating a split in the marijuana community.

More on that split, later.  Mull, the attorney representing Amir Daliri, is further quoted as saying that “this whole [initiative] was set up by folks trying to make millions.”

And clearly, anyone who’s in it for the money can’t be trusted, right?

Skelton pretty much makes that argument when he follows up on Mull’s comment about just who is behind this nefarious scheme to decriminalize weed:

That would be primarily Richard Lee of Oakland, founder of “Oaksterdam University,” the nation’s first marijuana trade school. Lee says his medical marijuana dispensary, nursery and other pot-related merchandising generate up to $7 million a year, according to a Times article by reporter John Hoeffel.  Lee is in a good position to make a bundle off marijuana legalization. So far, he has spent $1.5 million to qualify Prop. 19 for the ballot and pitch it to voters.

Bear with me for a moment.  I’m no newspaperman, but something strikes me as odd about the way this argument is developing.   Skelton cites the L.A. Times report filed by Hoeffel about a month ago, quoting Lee’s own figure about making $7 million per year. That article largely focused upon Lee’s decades long political activism, rather than his business acumen, but let that one go.  I want to get back to the $7 million part.  Skelton ignores the subject of Hoeffel’s profile of Lee to focus on that dollar amount, after all, claiming that Lee’s real motivation behind the proposition is “to make a bundle off marijuana legalization.”

Now, call me naive, but the $7 million that Lee is already earning each year sounds like a bundle to me.   For that matter, the $1.5 million that Lee has already sunk into Prop 19 also sounds like a bundle, so I question the assumption that he’s just in it for the money.  Then again, I teach for a living, so I’m probably a poor judge of such things – pretty much anything that keeps me above the poverty-line sounds like a bundle to me.

Is this the stony face of greed in America?

Getting back to Skelton, though, and his claim about how Lee will make (more of) a bundle off of legalization.  Lee seems like a smart enough stoner, so I guess he could turn his little Oakland-based empire into something larger, but the opposite seems just as likely. I’ve read the proposition, and even though I see the flaws and potential problems that have been noted by my neighbors who are all voting to keep the status quo, it sure doesn’t seem like it was written to make Lee more money.

 

I think you could make a much stronger case for the opposite view.  In fact, the writers over at HempNews did just that, offering a distinctly different take on the previously-mentioned split in the marijuana community that Skelton cites, above.  Instead of simply providing a platform for Lee’s opposition, as Skelton does, the HempNews people actually tried to examine Daliri’s opposition to the proposition, and they offer their take with a simple question and answer about the various positions those in the industry take on Prop 19:

Why are some…medical marijuana providers opposing it?  Famed Canadian Marc Emery, from his US prison cell offered the obvious explanation: money.

In the interest of full disclosure, HempNews takes a strong position in favor of the proposition.  More disclosure, I entirely approve of their position and their reasoning behind it – to end “the continued mass law enforcement campaigns against marijuana users and sellers” that they claim has led to “more than 61,000 people…arrested for marijuana possession in California in 2009 alone.”

In contrast, Skelton opposes the measure because he claims it will make California “an even bigger laughingstock to the nation.”  Yeah, okay.  Like the nation has room to talk.

Nazi, Scot, Nazi, Nazi...Which one is running for public office? If you said the guy in the skirt, then you don't know Republicans.

In fact, all of that nonsense aside, I’m more bothered by the way interested parties are routinely presumed by journalists to be experts, and precisely because they have a vested interest in the subject of their expertise.  Lee wrote the proposition on decriminalizing marijuana, but would anyone consider that act a justification to view him as an expert on marijuana legalization?  Certainly not.  He’s recognized as what he is – an advocate.  That’s even a point that he, himself, makes in that article that Skelton cites, but doesn’t seem to have read.

 

Amir Daliri runs his own pot shop, and to protect his business, he founded the California Cannabis Association to oppose the proposition that would decriminalize weed.  That means that he’s just as much an advocate for a political position as is Lee.  And so is the lawyer who he’s hired as a mouthpiece, and who Skelton treats as an expert.  Skelton goes on to cite other “experts” – Fontana Police Chief Rod Jones who opposes the measure and who’s opinions Skelton supports with data from the California state prison system, and retired judge James P. Gray, who supports decriminalization (and who is identified in the article as a libertarian “flame thrower”) – but the real problem comes with the concluding expert, the one with the final say on the matter.

 

Skelton ends his editorial by citing the expert testimony of Dr. David Sack, a psychiatrist and chief executive of Promises celebrity rehab centers.  Sounds authoritative, right?  Who better to weigh in on the problems posed by drug addiction than the people who earn a living off of them.  Here’s Sack’s expert opinion:

“Drugs cause tremendous hardships to children and families, and the risk of addiction goes up with exposure…Marijuana is clearly addictive, impairs judgment and increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents and interferes with brain  development, particularly in adolescents….The biggest concern I have is that legalization will create a societal validation that marijuana is not harmful.”

I bet that’s his biggest concern.  Seriously.  Because if that came to pass, he’d have to find a new scam.  And that’s precisely why he shouldn’t be treated as an expert on the subject.

Here’s how the scam works:  Whenever the drug warriors want to cite the dangers posed by marijuana as an addictive drug, they cite the vast number of young people sent to seek treatment for addiction to marijuana.  What they fail to mention is that those same patients are compelled to seek treatment by their brainwashed parents, or by the courts.  In other words, the proof that marijuana is addictive flows directly from a policy designed to prove that marijuana is addictive.  The circular logic behind this little dodge gets even weirder, though, because then, the people who cash in on this odd quirk of an even odder policy are treated as experts on the subject, precisely because they’re the ones who profit directly from the policy.  No wonder, then, that Skelton would treat Amir Deliri and his lawyer in a similar way.

Interesting religion, but it's no basis for sound social policy.

Of course, Skelton didn’t invent this shell-game; he’s just a convenient tool for a much bigger industry.  For decades now, the drug warriors have trotted out people like Dr. Sack to justify the billions of dollars of public funds that have been spent keeping marijuana dangerous, and keeping medical professionals on the public’s payroll by laws designed to produce the expert assholes ace in the holes necessary to maintaining the whole house of cards – the people with medical degrees who are willing to offer definitive medical opinions on the dangers of marijuana addition, just so long as doing so keeps them in business.

Do you really want this man to tell you how to raise your kids?

 

Like I said before, plenty of my neighbors have told me that they’re going to vote against Prop 19, because they worry that decriminalization will lower prices for the crop that allows them to live out here, on their own terms.   I sympathize, and I’ll be a little sad if those worries really do come to pass, but I can’t help but think that there’s something shameful about knowingly voting to maintain fraudulent policies and practices, just to make money.  That’s a better rationale than the one that Skelton offers in his editorial, but not much better.

 

13
Sep
10

Free the D.E.A.

Another law enforcement group – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition – comes out in favor of Prop 19.

(But silly acronyms? They're A OK!)

Today’s article in the L.A. Times focuses on former Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray who’s watched the War on Drugs fail from his courtroom. Pointing out the obvious – that cops who don’t have to waste their time looking for pot could waste their time doing something else – the Judge goes on to say something else that’s pretty obvious:  Police officers, sitting judges and drug enforcement officials can’t be trusted to tell the truth, even when the truth is obvious.

Here’s the money quote:

Gray, the retired judge, said he believes that many in law enforcement support legalization but are afraid to say so because of political pressure on the job.

“They have a political job, so they can’t tell the truth,” Gray said. “People are free to speak out honestly only after they are retired.”

I'm still getting paid overtime for this, right?

Wait a minute – we pay people to lie to us, and they lie to us because we pay them?  You know, instead of voting for Prop. 19, maybe we should just fire all the cops and judges who spend most of their time incarcerating people for drug possession.  They’d finally be free to tell the truth and live honorable lives, and we’d all save tons of cash.  It’s a win-win situation.  Now how can I get that on the ballot?

25
Aug
10

Less is less (no matter what the Feds say)

Gil Kerlikowske and the usual suspects over at the ONDCP have recycled their hysterical, illogical arguments in today’s L.A. Times, this time in support of the continued criminalization of marijuana.  Reefer Madness in the house, yet again.  I’ve outlined my opposition to their arguments in the past – the logical fallacies, the self-serving untruths, the ridiculous defense of the status quo, etc. – so I won’t re-hash those points.

Well, are you, punk?

I did notice something new this time, though.  Responding to the carefully-defensive wording of Prop 19, the drug warriors have come up with a new dumb argument that rivals even the dumbest of their previous arguments.  Kerlikowske is arguing that decriminalization will not only NOT free up all of those law enforcement officers currently wasting their time busting people for weed, to go after real crime, but that it will create even more drug policing work.   Less is more, apparently.  Can “up is down” be far behind?

You could say the devil is in the details (though I think he’s actually writing press releases for the ONDCP).  Regardless, here’s what Kerlikowske is talking about:

In their attempt to seem like reasonable people who don’t actually want to corrupt the youth of America, the Prop 19 backers went to great lengths to assure voters that they only want to decriminalize the evil weed for adults.  You can check out the full text for yourself here, but basically, they’re saying just what we say about cigarettes and alcohol, spelling out the punishments that would apply to adults who provide minors with weed, with the added prohibition about imbibing around minors.  Translation: No weed for kids, no getting high around kids.  Doesn’t seem so very objectionable, right?

Here’s what Kerlikowski and his writers have to say about that seemingly-reasonable proposal:

Another pro-legalization argument is that it would free up law enforcement resources to concentrate on “real” crimes…Law enforcement officers do not currently focus much effort on arresting adults whose only crime is possessing small amounts of marijuana. This proposition would burden them with new and complicated enforcement duties. The proposition would require officers to enforce laws against “ingesting or smoking marijuana while minors are present.” Would this apply in a private home? And is a minor “present” if they are 15 feet away, or 20? Perhaps California law enforcement officers will be required to carry tape measures next to their handcuffs.

I could point out that cops pick and choose the laws they want to enforce depending upon their mood, and if they so choose, they could enforce a whole raft of onerous, burdensome laws that would take up all kinds of time and effort.  For example, they could choose to enforce that bit about “arresting adults whose only crime is possessing small amounts of marijuana.”  But then, as Mr. Kerlikowski so disingenuously points out above, that would be a pretty ridiculous burden.  And from the sound of things, they don’t seem to have any problem ignoring that law.  After all, when the head of ONDCP tells you that cops don’t bust people for small amounts of weed, I guess you have to believe him.

Will life imitate art?

Alternatively, I could point out that Kerlikowski is basically calling all cops stupid – and not just a little stupid, either.  I dunno, but when the head of one of the largest law-enforcement agencies tells me that the po po have to use a tape measure to figure out when something is happening in the presence of another person, it makes me wonder if we should allow those guys (and gals – equal opportunity stupidity here) to carry guns.  After all, if they’re that stupid, they just might forget which end goes bang.

Really, though, it’s all the rest of us that he’s calling stupid.  Because he’s assuming we’ll believe him when he says that decriminalizing weed will force cops to bust more people, instead of less.   That’s not just a little stupid, either.

07
Jul
10

Interest, if not approval

Sure, newspapers are increasingly irrelevant, but I still found it telling that the L.A. Times website  devoted an entire “section” of the online paper to Marijuana today.

The upcoming election is the proximate cause, as this article on the potential benefits of Proposition 19 makes clear.  Here’s the hair-standing-on-end/hair-pulling upshot:

The Santa Monica-based, nonprofit research institute [Rand’s Drug Policy Research Center] predicted the cost of marijuana, which runs between $300 and $450 per ounce, could plunge to about $38 by eliminating the expense of compensating suppliers for the challenges of operating in the black market.

Scary, right?  Or enticing?  I guess it depends on where you stand.  At least the Rand Center had the good sense to follow-up by admitting that they don’t really know what they’re talking about:

The researchers noted that projections for marijuana use and tax revenues hinge on estimates of use, prices, how use changes with price, taxes imposed and evaded, and numerous other factors. The report is peppered with caveats about the assumptions researchers had to make.

One of the most amusing aspects of the study is that the savings come from legalization, but the assumption is still that the product will be grown in “1,500 sq foot houses.”  Why, exactly?  Once it’s legal, and inexpensive, why would anyone grow it in a house?

Oh, and there was no mention of the actual costs involved in producing the product, just the proposed market value. That’s the more troubling element, to my mind, signaling an ever-widening gulf separating those who grow (and those who know something about them) from those who don’t (and don’t seem to know that they don’t know something).   Hardly a new development, I suppose, but it’s something that’s about to become politicized in a new way.

Someone get Neil Young and John Mellencamp on the phone, cause it’s starting to feel like the 80’s all over again, and there’s a new class of farmer in need of aid.  On second thought, that didn’t work out so well for the farmers back in the 80’s, so maybe we could use a better model.   It makes me wonder, was there a time when people cared about food production, or was our interest just limited by our technology and our income?  It seems like the reason that most of the food most people in the US consume (that used to be grown by members of communities) is now grown by machines and humans who emulate machines is that most of those food-buyers don’t have a clue about how their food is produced, and frankly don’t much care.  That’s not a beneficial attitude for anyone still pulling for the humans.   And I don’t see much of a distinction here between growing food and growing cannabis, at least in the price structure supporting the individual grower.

Beyond all the variables that the Rand center can’t figure, the one clear (though unstated) finding the study supports is that the purchasers of the product aren’t much concerned with the interests of the growers of the product.  At least those farmers back in the 80’s had the sympathy of the people putting them out of business.  Emerald Triangle growers – you’re on your own.  And never mind L.A.; you don’t even have much support from your own community.  I’m always a little surprised to read comments from residents of the Emerald Triangle (like the ones on Kym’s recent post on the benevolence of community members who happen to grow) that feed the perceptions of those who don’t actually have any contact with the grower community up here – guns and pesticides and deforestation and water pollution and mexican mafias and so on – because they seem so unreal to me.

I’ve tried my hardest over the past year to meet up with as many growers as I could, and even the scariest of those folks don’t seem to fit the stereotype.  I’m not saying they don’t have guns, but – seriously – who doesn’t have guns?  My old neighbors in L.A. were all armed to the teeth, too, and all they had to protect was their iphones and xboxes.  I’m much more sympathetic to the view that Kym takes, and mostly because I’ve met lots of growers who donate to their community and I haven’t met any of the ones who do all the bad things they’re all blamed for.  I know there are some bad actors out there, but I suspect that they’re a tiny minority.  And I’d bet that we’ll see way more abuses once we run the individual farmers out of the business.