NORML Executive Director sets the record straight about marijuana prohibition, addiction, and more.
I spoke with Allen St Pierre, Executive Director of NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) while he was appearing at Portland's HempStalk last weekend.
NORML has been a driving force of marijuana advocacy, medicinal marijuana, and law reformation on state and federal levels since its formation in 1970. In 1999 they adopted their current mission statement, "...to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty."
Marijuana arrests currently comprise one-half (49.8 percent) of all drug arrests reported in the United States.
Our discussion follows, with the video below.
BK: One of the quotes in a report that we heard is that it's harder to kick marijuana, more people are actually in addiction clinics for marijuana, than for heroin. What kind of reponse do you have to a statement like that?
ASP: When prohibition uses that data point, it's usually a very good demonstration of how disingenuous they are because they all realize, as I do, that it's a Hobson's choice in America; if you get arrested for marijuana, you have a choice to either go to jail in the criminal justice system, or rehab. I would choose rehab in a moment rather than go to jail.
So, that is a very false analogy that is used, that cannabis puts people into rehab when they're simply choosing to go to rehab rather than jail. And that's been going on for about 15 years, so anybody that ever uses that statistical point is usually a disingenuous soul.
BK: I know that you're fully aware of what's going on in San Diego, San Diego County. And every group that I know of is standing up against that, and the attorney that's standing behind it. What's your take on the state not standing up for its people over the federal government coming in?
ASP: It is vexing. We have been the entity that has sued San Diego, San Bernadino and Riverside County now, four times, and won every single time- we haven't lost yet. And yet, the elected politicians don't want to listen to the will of the voters, they don't want to listen to the will of their own courts.
So it does tell you that even in a state like California where in some places you can buy marijuana 24/7 in a vending machine, people are still victims of geography. They can still be in a locale that is dealing with archaic thinking about marijuana. And it is bizarre to me to not see the state of California force those municipalities to conform with state law instead of constantly trying to get the federal government to come in and intervene.
I have never seen anywhere in my life other than in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi in the 60's that called on the federal government to over take the laws. It's so rare to see, and back then it was for all the good purposes of integrating the schools. Today, it's to discriminate against medical consumers.
BK: So, does this all come down to money? I mean, every thing seems to be rooted in money, in revenue, in meeting budgetary allowances. So, do you think that's really what this is all about? Why? Because science isn't behind them.
ASP: No, science? This was never a discussion around pharmacology, that's for sure. I wrote an article some years ago and it has within it the narrative that there are five pillars of pot prohibition. Police. Government agencies that are obviously completely created to create prohibition like the DEA, the Partnership for a Drug Free America, NIDA, National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The third entity, back in the 70's there really were parents groups against marijuana. Today almost all those groups are exclusively funded by the federal government. They're organs of the federal government. Groups like National Families in Action, CADCA, PRIDE, which stands for Parents Resource Drug Education.
So, they're the third entity. The fourth one are the drug and alcohol and tobacco companies that clearly, clearly play both ends of the middle on this.
And the last one, the fifth pillar is one most people never think about, but I can assure you it's one of the most powerful most nefarious in Washington D.C., and that are essentially high tech and military contractors that are trying to come up with multi-billion dollar silver bullet high-tech solutions on ways to drug test people, on ways to have new types of satellite that detect where marijuana is being grown. To put what are called "ion scanners" in every single public school in United States to determine whether or not children have been exposed to marijuana.
And they're out there, trying to get these billion dollar contracts mainly arguing that marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug.
So, those are the five pillars of pot prohibition. It's not priests, its not nurses, its not public health officials per say, its not parents groups that aren't part of the government. It's really those who profit from prohibition.
September 14, 2009
Video can be found Here
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DEA vs. Cannabis: a Vexing Subject Says NORML's Allen St Pierre