in a passionate op-ed in friday’s washington times, former new mexico governor and republican presidential candidate gary johnson unleashed marijuana legalization into the mainstream national debate. unfortunately, many people were too distracted by watching the economy trip and fall down the stairs. nevertheless, future opportunities to bring the issue to the fore are assured; johnson is a viable republican candidate, and he is making ending the drug war a platform of his campaign.
for the first time in forty years, we get to seriously discuss, not how the drug war should be fought, but whether there should be a drug war at all.
johnson has been straightforward about his views on drugs before-- ending prohibition is a natural feature of his libertarian principles. but in his editorial he elaborates, framing the debate around money and security. the piece is titled, "Hitting the cartels where it hurts: Legalization of marijuana would end profiteering and violence," and it goes on to describe the drug war in terms of, well, actual war.
for such widespread and bloody upheaval, events on the southern u.s. border havereceived proportionally scant coverage by english language news sources. but, there is a war happening. the violence in mexico has escalated dramatically since 2006. that was when then-newly elected mexican president felipe calderon declared war against the cartels. the death toll, according to johnson, is now at 28,000 (his figure is conservative. stopthedrugwar.org estimates 40,000 people have been killed).
johnson distinguishes immigration from border violence, calling out the hazards and hypocrisy of marijuana prohibition.
Border violence... is a prohibition problem. Just as we did for Al Capone and his murderous colleagues 90 years ago, our drug laws have created the battlefield on which tens of thousands are dying. By doggedly hanging onto marijuana laws that make criminals out of our children while our leaders proudly consume wine at state dinners, we have created an illegal marketplace with such mind-boggling profits that no enforcement measures will ever overcome the motivation, resources and determination of the cartels.
along with the times op-ed, worth reading in its entirety, johnson released an ad that compares the tally spent on imprisoning marijuana offenders ($3,100,000,000, according to johnson) to the number of deaths from marijuana overdose (zero, according to everybody).
however, even as sanity begins to flicker in the mainstream, the obama administration is now charging against weed with guns blazing full force . gone is the avuncular moderate of 2009, willing to let medical marijuana smokers hang out and burn down in the basement. that year, the justice department released the ogden memo, formally promising to ignore medical marijuana users who were acting in accordance with state law.
but those golden days of civil indifference are over. now the obama administration is exercisingsomehard dick enforcementstraight out of the bush years. at the end of june 2011, the department of justice issued a memo targeting medical marijuana dispensaries. just last week,obama's drug czar, r. gil kerlikowski,**presented a new strategy that has the capacity to expand the drug war infinitely, merging the war on drugs with the war on terror (i think its called efficiency in government when two amorphous, unwinnable wars are consolidated into one).
meanwhile, the global economy is stumbling backwards and flailing for the bannister for dear life. it maybe that when it hits the landing, we end up so broke that we'll have to do as a nation what so many american families were already doing on the DL-- flip weed to pay the bills.
*do you know what this means? stoners and black people could end up voting republican 2012. i'm not saying it's a lock, but it's not the long shot it once was.