Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A New Prohibitionist Tactic

Over the last few years, since the advent of medical cannabis and especially since the ballot initiative to legalize cannabis in California, one of the main objectives of the prohibitionists seems to be to insult just about everybody. They're no longer belittling just the stoners and potheads like they used to. Now just about everyone is a target of their mistrust and suspicion. Frankly, I'm a little surprised by this new tactic. In a war, don't you want to win the hearts and minds of the people you're trying to subjugate? So what are they up to? Are they really crazy... like a fox?

What got me thinking about this was a recent statement by our beloved former Drug Czar, Barry McCaffrey, that struck me as a bit odd. Speaking about the possibility of legal cannabis in California, he said that he feared that virtually everyone would be under the influence virtually all the time. In particular, he said he fears that truck drivers, teachers, airline pilots, and even eye doctors would be using the drug while on the job. Aside from this being just plain ludicrous, I think the people of California should be very offended. And if I were one of those professions he named, I'd be pretty pissed. If I were a California eye doctor, I'd be thinking “slander.”

But this is not an isolated incident. I've since noticed others using this very same tactic. For example, the Reverend Ron Allen, who opposes the NAACP's endorsement of the legalization initiative in California. He is essentially saying the same thing about minorities that McCaffrey is saying about people in general: Legalization will lead to wild, uncontrolled abuse. It’s one thing when you insult a profession. But when you say that sort of thing about a race of people, I think they call that racism.

What I’m wondering is, why stop there? What about non-minorities and other respected professions? What’s to stop the Drug Czar himself from abusing cannabis if it becomes legal? I guess we’ll find out soon enough as medical cannabis is now legal in Washington DC. Surely we can expect Mr. Kerlikowske to get himself one of those "bogus" medical recommendations and start toking on the job. And lets not forget the DEA. What’s to stop them from swinging by a dispensary and picking up some Kush or Skunk on the their way to work? I mean, if you are going to start accusing people, why would you expect civil servants to make intelligent decisions about their drug use when even respected professionals, like doctors and pilots, won’t be able to?

So what are those crafty prohibitionists up to? Have they somehow stumbled upon the ultimate scare tactic? Or do they really believe that literally everyone is a potential stoner/pothead? Except for themselves of course? Because it really sounds to me like they are saying that the law is the only thing standing between civilization and zombie land (great movie). I surely must be misinterpreting something. No one could really believe such a thing. But I think there just might be a way to find out. Next time you hear a prohibitionist say that legalization will lead to people being high on the job, ask them exactly how high they plan to be on their job. Surely they consider themselves no better than a teacher or doctor, so they too should be expected to abuse drugs on the job. I’d love to hear a prohibitionist’s response to that question. Any reporters willing to ask it?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Whole Truth

When federal agents raid a medical marijuana dispensary or grower, as they’ve been doing and continue to do in California and Colorado, the victim of the raid is charged with a federal crime. Their case is heard in a federal court. No surprise there, as cannabis is illegal under federal law. And did anybody really expect the DEA to stop the raids just because the U.S. Attorney General and President said so? But I digress. Fair enough. You commit a federal crime, you go to a federal court.

But that’s where the fairness stops. You see in federal court, the “defendant” is not allowed a defense. OK, they’ve obviously committed a crime in the eyes of the feds. Unless they can get off on a technicality, it’s pretty hard for a dispensary owner to deny that they were selling and/or growing marijuana when they have a storfront that’s open to the public. So their only possible defense is that they were acting in accordance with state and local law. In one case, the victim a DEA raid had even been deputized by the City of Oakland expressly to shield him from federal prosecution. Sounds like a pretty good defense to me.

But that is exactly the kind of defense that federal judges do not allow. In all such cases to date, the defendants were not allowed to present evidence that they were in compliance with state laws. They were not allowed to mention medical marijuana or use a medical necessity defense. In other words, they were not allowed a defense, any defense, period. There is currently legislation pending that would change this, and would allow what most would consider a reasonable defense when federal and state laws are in conflict. But it’s not passed yet, and the raids continue. And once you are arrested and charged by the feds, you’re as good a convicted as things stand today.

Pretty screwed up if you ask me. But what I’d really like to know is how can these defendants take the oath before testifying? You know, the one that goes, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” If they take this oath and testified, wouldn’t they be committing perjury? They would, under orders of the court, not be telling the whole truth. In fact, they would be witholding pretty much all of the relevant truth. Of course if they do tell the whole truth, they would probably be found in contempt of court and a mistrial declared.

So if it were me, and I took the stand, and I was asked to take the oath, I would have to respectfully decline. I couldn’t, in good conscience, swear to do something that I was expressly instructed not to do. I wonder what would happen? Can a judge order someone to violate the law? I’d like to find out. Might make for an interesting precedent.

If you’d like to learn more about how the system works, Google the cases of U.S. v James Dean Stacy, U.S. v Edward Rosenthal, or U.S. v Charles C. Lynch. For more information about recent and pending cases, check out Federal Medical Marijuana Cases in California & elsewhere.