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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Blood from a Turnip - by Citizen Jay

     You may have heard that the Attorneys General of Nebraska and Oklahoma have decided to sue the State of Colorado over its enactment of Amendment 64, which constitutionally gave its citizens the right to possess and cultivate Cannabis. Recently, Kansas decided to throw its hat in the ring too, joining Nebraska and Oklahoma along with a slew of sheriffs from both inside and out of the State of Colorado who think the Supreme Court needs to weigh in on the issue. So just what is their beef anyway? 

     Well, if you look at the published legal analysis available about the situation (OY!) you see the “injured” states are claiming that Colorado’s suddenly legal Cannabis market is putting a strain on their finances and criminal justice systems—creating in essence an “interstate nuisance.”

     Nebraska and Oklahoma say that Colorado’s system of Cannabis distribution does not adequately ensure that their states won’t be affected. This is their “nuisance.” They claim that their states are adversely impacted by Colorado’s constitutional amendment and argue that Colorado’s law is pre-empted by the Federal Controlled Substances Act. They are asking the Supreme Court to force Colorado to obey the Controlled Substances Act.

     But just what is this really about?  It’s about putting people in jail and extorting them for money. It’s about the threat to a corrupt system populated by complacent if not complicit individuals (both private and public) who have become dependent on the idea that their income relies on the persecution and prosecution of others.

     Think about it. Just who are these law enforcement people actually angry with? Who is it that they are arresting over Cannabis? It’s their own people. It’s not like Coloradans are travelling to these states to sell Cannabis. No, it’s their own folks who gamble to cross state lines to find relief from a plant.
     The opponents of Cannabis legalization would like to frame their arguments in strict legal terms, of course. They’d like to remove any moral imperative from the equation. To them, it’s simply a matter of law. And in their minds, there are no people involved in the decision making process at all. They want to argue the validity of Colorado’s Cannabis law with regards to the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause that allows the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether a state’s internal laws might affect the commerce of other states or the Nation as a whole. It’s a peculiar argument to be sure, when you consider that we’re talking about an “illegal” substance.

     Some legalese: the precedent that the prohibitionists’ argument rests on comes from a 2005 California case, Gonzalez v. Raich, in which the SCOTUS ruled that under the Commerce Clause the U.S. Congress may criminalize the production and use of home-grown Cannabis even where states approve of its use for medicinal purposes.  The crux of their final argument was that an in-state legal, medical Cannabis market must by definition (because they have no actual statistics) contribute to the interstate trade of illicit Cannabis, thus assuming it affects interstate commerce in general.  In other words, diversion of legal Cannabis products out of medical/recreational states into the underground markets of prohibition states affects the prices of Cannabis in those states and thus it falls under interstate commerce. 

     See? They are saying that our legal pricing is affecting the pricing of their illegal market and somehow that justifies the government coming in and closing down the legal market in order for them to better control the pricing on their illegal market. It makes no logical sense! In their view, it’s better to simply maintain both underground markets in favor of a legal market.  Why?  So they can continue to make money on the imprisonment and extortion of their own populace.  You know, that whole “protect and serve” thing…

     So, by using Gonzolez v. Raich as the basis for their case, the opposing states are trying to confine their argument to the theoretical--strictly economics. But there is another side to this story, the human element. Because what we’re really talking about here is not the price of Cannabis, but the costs born from the prosecution and incarceration of Cannabis consumers.  And these states are fast approaching their budgetary limits.

     It is common knowledge in the Colorado Cannabis Community that travelling through neighboring states is a risky proposition simply because of your license plates. As much as neighboring law enforcement likes to claim they don’t “profile,” the anecdotal evidence is just overwhelming. So, something as simple as going to visit family potentially becomes a nightmare when you get pulled over and berated for hours about whether or not you’re carrying Cannabis—even when you’re not.  And this story is told again and again, and not just from inside our community.

     One of the main reasons Colorado changed its stance on Cannabis in the first place was to save resources—both time and money—for our law enforcement agencies. Years before Amendment 64 was even a glimmer of thought, Coloradans told our law enforcement to make Cannabis a non-priority. We got tired of wasting our resources over such a petty, ridiculous, and lost cause. We saw the benefits and savings right away and that paved the way towards reasoned legalization in our state. Our neighbors could learn a lot from our example instead of continuing to pour their limited resources towards their own lost-cause prohibitions.

     Ultimately, what they are complaining about is running out of time, money, and officers to pursue all of those “bad” Cannabis consumers. And make no mistake, the vast majority of the people harassed and arrested for Cannabis crimes are simple folks transporting for themselves and their immediate circles. These are tourists coming back from vacation with a little souvenir or people in pain wanting natural, effective relief free from the pharmaceutical slave masters who hold undue sway over their own wellbeing. They are parents looking for a last ditch effort for their kids.

     The vast majority are not hardened criminals looking to move huge quantities. They are not the ones trying to supply an overwhelming underground market whose very existence relies on the incredibly unjust and blind prohibition those cops cling so dearly to. No, they’re just folks like you and me who get targeted by predators looking to score big.  The cops get praised for their “effectiveness” in catching dangerous drug consumers.  The prosecutors get praised for taking more dangerous people “off the streets.”  But that’s not what’s really going on here. The cops are looking to confiscate property for themselves and their departments from ordinary people, not drug dealers. The prosecutors are looking for federal dollars to continue to fund their persecution of small time offenders. They’re not just going after large drug kingpins. It’s completely circular! And you’ve got to ask who it ultimately benefits? None of these law enforcement groups are actually concerned with public safety, most assuredly not yours.

     And now their problem is that they can no longer afford to keep looking for and putting their own people in jail.  Their local jails are full of non-violent Cannabis consumers waiting for their days in court. The system is maxed out and they’re finding it hard to keep paying for it. It’s just not paying off the way they’d hoped, I guess. Spending all that money on what is essentially a petty offense without the expected pay-offs from huge hypothetical forfeitures is costing them dearly; but there is only so much blood you can squeeze from a turnip, eh?

     It’s a losing battle even if they win.  Because at this point in the game there is really not much the federal government can do to put the Cannabis genie back in the bottle short of military intervention. It’s gone too far, gotten too big (and now the oligarchs have started to pay attention). Recently, the Obama administration weighed in by sending a letter to the Supreme Court asking them not to take up the issue. Not that the Administration is necessarily on our side or in favor of Federal legalization, but because they know the legal morass the case represents.

     In the end, what these people are really fighting against is time. Because time is on our side and as I’ve said a million times if you don’t like Cannabis you’re not going to like the future. I suspect that by the time this case ever makes it to the Supreme Court, if it even does, the issue will be moot.  2016 promises to be a watershed year for Cannabis legalization. The tide has already turned and the AGs from Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas have missed the boat. 

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