Monday, February 18, 2013

Entrenched Entities Oppose Legal "Pot"

With each passing year, attitudes about marijuana change in this country. The changes are usually small, but represent progress toward the legalization of the gentle herb that never should have been illegal in the first place. Two states have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana (Washington and Colorado), and several other states have legalized its medical use. I expect it will become legal in more states in the near future for both purposes.

This is a good thing. Legalizing marijuana would be a boon for the economy, creating many new jobs from the farm to the factory to the retail sales. It would also give government at all levels access to new tax revenue from the sale of marijuana, and it would mean that hard-working and tax-paying Americans are no longer criminalized simply for enjoying use of the herb (that is far less dangerous than any other drug -- even those that are currently legal).

But it will not be easy to legalize marijuana. That's because there are several entities in our society that benefit financially from keeping it illegal. These entities are not interested in the good that can be done by legalizing the harmless drug. They only see that they would lose a stream of money (most of it from taxpayers) that they currently enjoy. And they will fight ruthlessly to keep the laws from changing.

My fellow blogger over at Thurman's SOAPBOX has listed some of these groups -- the ones that benefit the most from continuing to criminalize their fellow citizens who choose to smoke pot. Here is his list of the enemies of the common sense legalization of marijuana:

1.) Police Unions: Police departments across the country have become dependent on federal drug war grants to finance their budget. In March, we published a story revealing that a police union lobbyist in California coordinated the effort to defeat Prop 19, a ballot measure in 2010 to legalize marijuana, while helping his police department clients collect tens of millions in federal marijuana-eradication grants. And it’s not just in California. Federal lobbying disclosures show that other police union lobbyists have pushed for stiffer penalties for marijuana-related crimes nationwide.
2.) Private Prisons Corporations: Private prison corporations make millions by incarcerating people who have been imprisoned for drug crimes, including marijuana. As Republic Report’s Matt Stoller noted last year, Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest for-profit prison companies, revealed in a regulatory filing that continuing the drug war is part in parcel to their business strategy. Prison companies have spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians and have used secretive front groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, topass harsh sentencing requirements for drug crimes.
3.) Alcohol and Beer Companies: Fearing competition for the dollars Americans spend on leisure, alcohol and tobacco interests have lobbied to keep marijuana out of reach. For instance, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed campaign contributions to a committee set up to prevent marijuana from being legalized and taxed.
4.) Pharmaceutical Corporations: Like the sin industries listed above, pharmaceutical interests would like to keep marijuana illegal so American don’t have the option of cheap medical alternatives to their products. Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”
5.) Prison Guard Unions: Prison guard unions have a vested interest in keeping people behind bars just like for-profit prison companies. In 2008, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association spent a whopping $1 million to defeat a measure that would have “reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison.”

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