It’s April 20, and this year we actually have something to celebrate on 4/20: it looks like we’re on the verge of making some major steps towards legalizing marijuana and lifting the stigma that makes a sizable chunk of us criminals. Colorado looks likely to fully repeal marijuana prohibition in November with the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. A marijuana supply superstore—the so-called Walmart of Weed, just opened a location in Washington, DC.
But it’s not all roses (or should I say buds) out there: powerful interests are still aligned against legalization. There’s a lot of money and many careers at stake. And entrenched interests are hard to overturn. Here are some past and present marijuana enemies that are making legalization an uphill battle.
Nixon created the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse to perform a study on the health and legal implications of marijuana. Pot was even briefly listed as a Schedule I, the most serious class of drugs, until the study was complete. When the study finally came out, it found that pot was not dangerous and should be legal. Called “Marijuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding,” the report said the supposed dangers were all misinformation, and recommended repealing prohibition. Nixon instead kept it illegal and launched the War on Drugs.
Gabriel G. Nahas
A one-time anesthesiologist and author, Nahas was largely responsible for the misinformation cited in the report just mentioned. Nahas’ methods for testing marijuana’s effects included “suffocating monkeys for roughly 5 minutes at a time in volumes of smoke far greater than what the average person would consume in proportion.” He later wrote a book “Keep Off the Grass,” a key tome in the anti-marijuana propaganda wars.
As drug czar for the Nixon Administration, Dupont actually began advocating for legalization. He later reversed course, and as late as 2010 wrote an article for CNBC called “Why We Should Not Legalize Marijuana,” in which he relies on the old health misinformation to actually applaud jailing people for pot: “An encounter with the criminal justice system through apprehension for a drug-related crime frequently can benefit the offender because the criminal justice system is often a path to treatment.”
In 2010 Arizona voted to legalize medical marijuana. Governor Jan Brewer, a marijuana opponent, quickly moved to prevent medical marijuana facilities from going up despite the vote, claiming that mixed signals from the Obama administration made her nervous that the state would get raided by Feds. She sued to block the facilities, but the Administration asked to have the case dismissed, saying it was a state issue. To be fair, the Administration has been sending the Feds in for busts in California, so Brewer’s argument wasn’t totally unfounded. But she has continued to oppose marijuana acceptance wherever possible, just this month signing into law a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries on college campuses.
Last but certainly not least: Barack Obama. We know from this picture as well as his own books that Barry has enjoyed his fair share of Buddha. Yet despite early indications of a lenient attitude toward marijuana enforcement, the Administration has reversed course and waged war on pot. They’ve done everything from sending federal agents to raid and close medical marijuana dispensaries in California to devising a tax rule that will effectively use the IRS to attack weed by taxing the industry out of existence.
It’s unclear exactly why Obama has chosen this route. His Administration seems to have been leaning in different directions over the past few years. He easily could pivot again and favor a more progressive policy. With a majority of the country now in favor of weed legalization and what’s sure to be a high-profile vote on the ballot in Colorado this November, he could use election season as an opportunity to ingratiate himself with legalization advocates. I wouldn’t hold my breath (wink wink). but you never know.
And, yes, we published this at 4:20pm. Did you expect anything less?