01 April 2014

Now that California’s Prop. 15 has been defeated, the bottom line remains, in the words of author/activist Harvey Wasserman: “The simple truth about America's marijuana prohibition: Any law that allows the easy incarceration of any citizen any time those in power want to do it is the ultimate enemy of democracy. With 800,000 annual arrests over an herb used by tens of millions of Americans, it is the cornerstone of a police state.”



A few weeks before the midterm election, I blogged an open letter to Barack Obama, and a journalist friend faxed a copy directly to the president. Excerpt: “It seems that the theme emanating from the White House is ‘Eat, Pray, Be Disappointed.’ And yet, whenever I do feel disappointed, I always realize that the alternative was John McCain, with Sarah Palin just one Halloween ‘Boo!’ away from the presidency, and then I always feel a sense of relief. But you promised to end the raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. They haven’t stopped…



“Bob Woodward writes in Obama’s Wars about Colin Powell’s status as an adviser to you. He has finally changed his mind about gays in the military. As a stand-up satirist, I used to conduct an imaginary dialogue with him: ‘General Powell, you’re the first African-American to be head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and you come from the tradition of a military family. So you know that blacks were once segregated in the Army because the other soldiers might feel uncomfortable if blacks slept in the same barracks. And now that’s what they say about gays, that other soldiers might feel uncomfortable about gays sleeping in the same barracks.’ ‘Well,’ he replied, ‘you have to understand, we never told anybody we were black.’



“And, Mr. President, that was the forerunner of the same ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy that you promised to rescind, only you haven’t been acting like a Commander-in-Chief. Those who serve in the military are trained to follow orders. If they can follow orders to kill fellow humans, they can certainly follow orders to treat openly gay service people with total equality. Not only is the current guideline counterproductive, but also this display of trickle-down immorality must, on some level of consciousness, serve as a contributing factor to enabling the anti-gay bullying and torturing of innocent victims. The ultimate irony is that gays in the military are fighting, being maimed and dying unnecessarily, supposedly to protect the freedom their own country is denying them.” I received a message from a mother: “I am trying to explain this to my twelve-year-old son, who wants to know why, if men and women don’t share barracks in the military, why gay men and hetero men should share barracks, but then follows with ‘They should all sleep in the same place.’”



Gay rights and marijuana-smokers’ rights are both constitutional civil rights. Yet, Attorney General Eric Holder—having been pressured by nine former DEA chiefs, plus the president of Mexico--warned that if Prop. 19 was passed, the federal government would not look the other way, as it has done with medical marijuana.



Holder’s rationale: “Let me state clearly that the Department of Justice strongly opposes Proposition 19. If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens. We will vigorously enforce the [law] against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law.”



In a truly free society, the distinction of whether marijuana is used for medical or recreational purposes would be as irrelevant an excuse for discrimination as whether the sexual preference of gays and lesbians is innate or a matter of choice.