Weed Wars

I am looking forward to Neptune doing its number on the US Moon (Sibly chart). On many different fronts it should bring home (Moon) the issue of drugs (Neptune). But if sanity is to prevail people are going to have to confront how insane it’s been so far.

Take the foreign policy disaster some wonk decided to call “The War on Drugs.” A farce from its inception under Nixon, this campaign was never anything other than a dark Washington power trip masquerading as a moral crusade. It made Columbia into a broken puppet state of the USA. Now the madness is exploding just over Texas’ and California’s border.

The “War on Drugs” has resulted in full-scale civic breakdown in Mexico. North Americans are beginning to hear about the beheadings, the torture and random civilian killings careening out of control in their neighbor to the south ; six thousand people were killed by the drug cartels in 2008 alone. Murders committed to make money off of $25-billion-worth of American pot smokers.

Remember the days when it was just hippies in the woods of Mendocino, growing a little green for the folk festival? What a meaning-change marijuana has undergone. Groves are now planted and guarded by immigrant traficantes. In order to get around the hassles of smuggling the contraband across the border, the cartels just grow their stuff here, where the market is, and smuggle north the gardeners and guards.

For those of us old enough to have very different connotations of this gentle herb, the irony hits hard and hideous. The smoke that accompanied the flower children to Golden Gate Park 40 years ago is now killing hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Narcocultura: Not your parents’ dope culture.

In March 2007 Bush promised ¼ billion over 3 years to Mexico’s president, Calderon — a pittance compared to what the cartels are raking in. The money will buy El Presidente a few high-tech surveillance planes, max.

There are so many layers of covert motivation behind Washington’s drug policy that our baffled congressfolk, few of them very bright to begin with, are having a hell of a time coming up with any semblance of rational justification for it. As the explosion of violence just south of the border raises stakes to a whole new level of urgency, the GOP is offering up their tried-and-true gambit that more money be used to repeat what didn’t work before. Thus despite any number of empirical contraindications, these clowns are demanding that the rest of the money they gave Calderon to play drug-warrior be spent beefing up the walls at the border. It’s dark comedy: American lawmakers are up against drug lords who use submarines to evade land barriers, and they want to throw the remaining money at making the border wall thicker.

Then you consider the tragically absurd criminal penalties handed out for those Americans caught with a pinch of weed — surely the least toxic drug in the history of drugs. You don’t have to be a sociologist to know that it’s not the potheads who commit violent crimes, but the alcohol users; not weed that causes cancer, but cigarettes. And both of those are legal as apple pie.

But Uncle Sam wants the right to throw them youngins in prison for getting caught with cannibis. Even if we leave aside the hypocrisy of a poicy that criminalizes a socially normative behavior, and the fact that it ties up law enforcement and the judiciary with frivolous cases that prevent the system from working on issues of actual public safety and welfare, the incarceration of pot smokers is ultimately a moral issue: jailing someone for having a joint in his pocket is a penalty so weirdly disproportionate it has been legally argued that it’s cruel-and-unusual punishment.

Finally, there’s the fact this policy doesn’t work. It’s been a resounding failure by any standard, except that of empowering one of the spiders at the center of this mendacious web: the prison industry, ever-more successful at getting punitive laws passed and archaic laws held. In no other way, shape of form is any societal or personally redemptive purpose served by this mass incarceration. It just ruins lives.

I suppose what will finally convince enough people that current drug policies must be scrapped is the ol’ bottom-line. That is, with marijuana laws as they are now, millions of dollars in incarceration costs are going down the tubes. One has the feeling that in the current financial climate, the public will think a little harder about the logic of this. Now that the big-time corporate criminals on Wall Street are getting off scot-free for real crimes – even being rewarded – as the economy tanks, perhaps the obscene injustice of harsh penalties for pot will strike a chord with more and more of the population.

We’re at the point where the one idea that could really work to heal this mess is starting to make its way from the fringes of society to the public forum: legalizing marijuana. It’s too sensible an idea to emerge from within the Beltway, but it’s getting traction at the local level. Tom Ammiano (State Assemblyman from San Francisco) has courageously put it on the California agenda. Consider what legalizing weed would render moot: it would immediately eliminate the cartels’ raison-d’etre. And think what legitimizing it would open up as a revenue stream: taxes from its sale could pump millions into broke state coffers. Even the decriminalization by California of the possession of small quantities of weed in 1975 saved the state a hundred million dollars every year. Imagine what this policy could do for a flat-broke country. Imagine what it could do for our sense of sanity.

Will Obama be on the side of the angels on this one?

Remember when the new prez asked all his wired fans to email in their suggestions? Among all the thousands of responses that poured into the White House blackberry, the number one idea was that he legalize marijuana. His reply: Ain’t gonna happen. Worse, he waved the issue away with a smile, in that isn’t-that-cute-those-naughty-young-people-are-making-a-joint-joke tone that is conventionally used to talk about marijuana; a substance which is — tee-hee — illegal.
I hate it when Obama plays dumb. He knows very well how surreally stupid the country’s “war on drugs” is; he knows how immensely serious is its impact on the budget. As we have recently seen him do in other instances, he’s covering — as all elected officials do — for the powerful interests he’d have to face were he to really respond to the issue. Of course, one can easily understand why he wouldn’t want to take on this battle right now, what with everything else he’s dealing with. But it is very disappointing to hear him do that winkingly dismissive thing, pretending to not know the truth.
Neptune transits disperse the illusions that have clouded public thinking in a haze of passive acquiesence. Let us be part of the consciousness that fans away the haze.
email
2 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Jessica Murray
Jessica Murray

Joseph,I was so relieved to hear that the mountains where you live are not touched by the violence. I agree with you about the decriminalization of victimless crimes. These self-defeating policies belong to a different age and a different world. Thank you for your generous feedback. I address cocaine in my upcoming April Skywatch. We will be under the Neptune conjunction all year. I expect drugs to be on everyone's minds, showcased along with healthcare (also Neptune).Jessica

Joseph
Joseph

Once again, your intelligence shines through in this piece. Where I live, in the middle of Mexico, in the mountainous Colonial heartland, we are (so far) untouched by the insanity at the border, but we watch it all with enormous interest, of course.Much of the problem, at least half, relates to cocaine coming up from South America. Personally, I think all drugs should be decriminalized -- do you? It would be great to get your take on the commerce in other, harder drugs, as well.Meanwhile, please keep your astute observations coming. By being a bright and articulate witness, you are a true agent for change in the culture.