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How Vested Interests May Trump Efforts to End the War on Drugs

President Obama's recent move to relax federal rules on the War on Drugs, especially concerning pot, was excellent news. Unfortunately, many special interests are likely to thwart these efforts.

Credit: AP

Good news from the Obama administration is very rare. And when there is one, someone spoils the fun.

Indeed, Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, recently said before Congress that she would ignore her boss’ wish to ease federal repression of pot laws in states that legalized it.

Beyond this blatant act of insubordination, Ms. Leonhart’s reaction shouldn’t surprise anyone. The War on Drugs, like so many other government policies, has entrenched many interests. For the DEA, it means more budgets and more high-tech tools and vehicles. So be ready for more resistance from this government agency.

Photo Credit: Matilde Campodonico/AP Photo Credit: Matilde Campodonico/AP

Also be ready for more resistance from police forces in general. After all, as much as 30 percent of law enforcement revolves just around pot prohibition. This can explain why the police lobby was very active against Proposition 19 in California, which would have legalized marijuana. In addition, there are numerous cases of cops using drug operations to steal from people; some even pretend that people have drugs and let them get away if they agree to pay a bribe. Justice Quarterly even reported that some drug bust operations were delayed in order to seize the maximal amount of money.

Alcohol and tobacco producers are also opposed to ending the War on Drugs. They too funded the anti-Prop 19 campaign. Alcohol producers also lobbied against Proposition 5, which would have put minor drug offenders in rehab rather than prisons. The reason is simple: marijuana is a substitute for both products, according to a University of California-Berkeley study.

It is also a substitute for drugs. Big Pharma is fighting tooth and nail to keep the War on Drugs alive, and could even be behind pot busts. Since pot seems to be more effective than prescription drugs to relieve symptoms from certain diseases – and is substantially cheaper – it’s no surprise Big Pharma is lobbying to keep the advantage it has. Indeed, they were able to patent things like Marinol, a drug that contains an artificial version of THC, the active ingredient in pot. However, it’s deemed less effective and yields more side effects like feeling “high” than the natural plant. But thanks to the arbitrarily illegal status of pot, inferior products like Marinol can stay on the market.

In this  June 24, 2013 photo, John Vitko picks strawberries in Warren, Vt. Vitko would like to grow hemp to feed his chickens. Vermont has passed a law allowing farmers to grow hemp used for everything from rope to clothing. But the law clashes with federal rules that ban cultivation of the plant that is a distant cousin of marijuana. Credit: AP In this June 24, 2013 photo, John Vitko picks strawberries in Warren, Vt. Vitko would like to grow hemp to feed his chickens. Vermont has passed a law allowing farmers to grow hemp used for everything from rope to clothing. But the law clashes with federal rules that ban cultivation of the plant that is a distant cousin of marijuana.


Credit: AP

Other inferior products are still on the market because of the War on Drugs. Every-day paper, for example, would have been surpassed by hemp (which is extracted from cannabis, a pot derivative) because it uses only 25 percent the land area of regular forests. This means that DuPont would have lost a handsome sum of money, as it had developed a new process to treat wood pulp, used to make paper, in the 1930s.

Fortunately, according to Jack Herer’s "The Emperor Wears No Clothes," DuPont had the means to suppress this undesirable competitor. Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury under Herbert Hoover and DuPont's chief financial backer, was able to get Harry Anslinger, who married Mellon’s niece, to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. He used his powers to blackmail the American Medical Association so they would produce a report faking the facts about the dangers of marijuana. This “report” completely buried another one commanded by former New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, which concluded that the anti-marijuana hysteria was completely blown out of proportion.

As you can see the War on Drugs has absolutely nothing to do with keeping drugs out of the streets, unlike what the DEA claims – besides it’s a miserable failure. Nor does it have anything to do with health concerns, as there is no report ever of a pot overdose and as tobacco is more deadly than every other drug-related death combined. Rather, it has everything to do with a convergence of special interests that want to keep their business afloat or want to increase their power as can be shown by law-enforcement lobby against pot legalization.

President Obama’s great achievements can be counted on one hand; let the relaxation of the War on Drugs be another one.

PierreGuy Veer is a Canadian-born libertarian now living in Idaho. His ideas have stirred up debates both in French and in English. You can contact him at pedg63@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @le_moutongris.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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