Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Our answer to the NYT about Marijuana Research

July 20,2018 In the New York Times there was an Op-Ed by David  Leondhart encouraging new studies about the safety of marijuana. 

My question is why.  Over the last 30 years there have been literally tens of thousands of studies done by academic institutions, criminal justice policy organizations, medical research institutes, not for profit groups and the federal government. 

You may pick and choose the results that fit your agenda.  No matter what your agenda is, you will find a study that supports it.  In the meantime, there are over 550,000 arrests per year for marijuana offenses.  Although they are not all charged and prosecuted, this interface with law enforcement is often the first encounter for young people and severely compromises their future.

It is estimated that marijuana prohibition may cost up to $ 42 billion dollars per year to investigate, arrest, prosecute and incarcerate.  That does not include the cost of the constant studies funded by government to examine the effects of marijuana use.  What is the purpose of this obsession to study, control and punish those who use this substance that has been legalized to some degree by over 30 states?

The most unfathomable fact about marijuana prohibition is that it still remains on the Controlled Substance Act as a Schedule I drug.  This is a classification that tells us that marijuana is more dangerous than OxyContin, fentanyl and methamphetamine all of which are Schedule II drugs.  All our federal government agencies and regulatory bodies apparently see no contradiction to this official designation. 

There are nonviolent people serving sentences of life without parole for marijuana   offences.  This is happening at the same time that hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in marijuana business enterprises.  Those doing the investing include past and present elected officials. This is a contradiction that is not fiscally responsible and does not speak to justice and respect for the law.

It appears that the constant data demands never result in action.  Administrative agencies and regulatory bodies have researched, studied, set standards and procedures and recommended change throughout this time.  They have been focused on gaining control and making recommendations that are minuscule and have to be studied and amended and approved by other regulators and agencies till there is no space for actual reform. 
In the meantime, the power of the justice department and law enforcement agencies continues to grow and expand as does the prison population.  This is why I don't fear major disruption of federal agencies. They have failed in the most profound way to assure that there is not egregious prosecution, sentencing and incarceration for marijuana and all other nonviolent drug offenders.

There are many stake holders who would like to maintain the status quo.  They are public employees, law enforcement and prison private contractors, pharmaceutical companies, alcohol and spirits enterprises and surprisingly not for profit and for profit organizations with contracts for recovery and re-entry. 

There may be many reasons to continue to study the risks of marijuana and do nothing to make the law compatible with reality, but I maintain the major factor is economic.  Marijuana prohibition is a big government program.