Marijuana madness

So here’s my prediction: during the next decade there will be a huge crackdown on marijuana users. Evolving technology for drug testing, criminal law and political opportunism will converge, creating the perfect conditions for a crack-down more severe than any before.

Now you may think things are going in the opposite direction, and this does appear to be the case. States have passed medical marijuana laws, penalties for possession have been drastically reduced, and dispensaries have popped up all over the state. People register as users, get doctor prescriptions and carry marijuana user cards; what could get more legal than that?

But let’s look at the recent behavior of our Democrat administration in the White House and how quickly things can change when it comes to law enforcement and marijuana. Having executed a full 180-degree turn, this administration is now pursuing an aggressively anti-medical marijuana agenda, threatening even the property owners who have leased buildings to dispensaries. This is old-school “law and order” stuff, and seeing it play out in this administration gives us a glimpse of how draconian things might be if the right-wing controls the White House and both houses of congress.

Virtually everyone can agree that marijuana is part of mainstream American life. It’s found in every city, every county and every state. It’s used by a broad spectrum of individuals: teachers, students, professionals, working stiffs, rich and poor…you name it. This does not make it good for you, or necessarily positive; it just means that, like alcohol, people like it and like how it makes them feel. I’ll leave it to others to debate the moral, societal or personal issues, I simply point out that marijuana is a fact of life.

That being the case, why do I predict a crack-down? For that answer, we need to look past marijuana itself and consider the larger systemic issue, namely power. Marijuana policy is, and long has been, one of the most effective tools of the powerful, and its ubiquitous presence makes it so. In the 1930s, Harry J. Anslinger, the nation’s first drug use enforcer, waged a campaign largely based on the fact that marijuana grew in abundance along roadways and railroad tracks. Targeted as an evil weed, marijuana helped justify the growth of anti-drug law enforcement and the expansion of nationwide and federally controlled law enforcement, in general. It is this apparatus that remains, has grown and supports one of the most successful economic engines of our modern capitalist society: law enforcement and all the power and fortune that accompanies it.

Law enforcement demonstrates access to raw power; you can see it in the behavior of some cops who use violence against peaceful protest gatherings. It has the power to inflict physical pain, detain, arrest and confine. Behind this sits a huge economic apparatus of cops, lawyers, courts, prisons and prison guards, now increasingly being privatized for the benefit of corporations and their shareholders. The combination of privatization (driven by shrunken government starved of funds) and fundamentalist capitalist theology that ignores citizens while exploiting labor, will again use marijuana to assert and retain power and control. Logic and culture will not be relevant in the coming marijuana madness; all that shall matter is that even more money and resources will accrue to the benefit of the most powerful in society.

Sorry to bring you down.

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