Reefer Madness: Green Alert
Beware of mad, pot-cultivating terrorists
According to drug czar John Walters, head of the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy, Americans are suffering from a deadly malady known as "reefer blindness" -- an inability to see the pot through the trees or the "terrorists" at work there, cultivating their billion-dollar crops.
At least that's what he told reporters on July 12, during a visit to Shasta, Calif., to tout a federal-state-local law-enforcement task force effort to eradicate marijuana being grown covertly on public lands. The eradication effort -- code named Operation Alesia (reportedly, in honor of the Roman Empire's last battle with the Gauls in 52BC -- I'm guessing we're to imagine Walters as a modern-day Julius Caesar) -- is focused on destroying pot crops being grown in forests and other recreation areas -- including the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and on U.S. Forest Service land near Lake Shasta, reports the Redding Record Searchlight.
As of mid-July, law-enforcement officials (representing 17 agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the California National Guard) had exterminated more than 68,000 pot plants growing on public lands. But don't mourn the loss of so much green, says Walters, because the grow sites the camouflaged officers are eradicating are run by "terrorists" who are armed to the teeth and wouldn't hesitate to use their firepower on anyone -- including bird-watching, day-tripping hikers -- who inadvertently stumbles upon their covert operations. "These people are armed; they're dangerous," Walters told the Redding Record Searchlight. They're "violent criminal terrorists."
Walters has dusted off a moldy oldy to tout the eradication effort. Shortly after 9/11, the ONDCP first seized upon the alleged terrorist-pot connection in anti-drug TV ads that linked hapless recreational pot-tokers to well-funded Middle East terrorists. The ads were widely criticized and quickly disappeared. This time, the role of the dreaded terrorist, previously played by the specter of Osama, has been recast with the feds' brown menace du jour, Mexicans. "America's public lands are under attack," Walters told The Washington Times. "Instead of being appreciated as national treasures, they are being exploited and destroyed by foreign drug-trafficking organizations and heavily armed Mexican marijuana cartels."
How exactly these Mexican cartels would get such a grand foothold in this area of Northern Cali isn't clear. At press time, Reefer Madness was unable to come up with any concrete facts to support the ONDCP's assertions -- including that the cartels actually "construct, operate, and manage" between 80 and 90% of all U.S. pot "plantations." So, it may be true. I guess.
Still, even with the reported success of Operation Alesia, Walters hasn't exactly been able to trot out a face to put with the menace. At midmonth, authorities had yet to make any arrests in connection with the eradication efforts -- though that's not really surprising, officials told reporters, because those tasked with guarding the operations are stealthy and able to flee undetected. Nonetheless, Walters said the eradication effort in California is going to "cripple" these pot gangs. "This business we intend to put into recession, depression, and put its leaders into jail."
In other drug-policy-related news, it appears the nation's mayors have seen the light -- and now recognize how harsh a glare it casts on the federal drug war. During their June meeting, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution calling the federal War on Drugs a "failure" and calling for the creation of a harm-reduction approach to drug policy -- reframing the issue as one primarily about public health, reports Join Together, the Boston University School of Public Health program designed to support community-based drug treatment and prevention programs. The resolution, sponsored by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, slams the ONDCP -- and specifically Walters' anti-drug media campaign, which the mayors deem "costly and ineffective." Instead, the resolution calls for greater financial support for treatment programs, which the municipal leaders say are more cost-effective and key to ensuring public safety. "This conference recognizes that addiction is a chronic medical illness that is treatable, and [that] drug treatment success rates exceed those of many cancer therapies," reads the resolution. "U.S. policy should not be measured solely on drug-use levels or number of people imprisoned, but rather [on] the amount of drug-related harm reduced."
Amen! The resolution also condemns the use of mandatory-minimum sentencing in drug cases and calls for more local control over anti-drug spending and priorities.
Predictably, the ONDCP has completely dismissed the conference position. Drug czar spokesman Tom Riley reportedly called the resolution nothing more than a "grab bag" of positions, many adopted whole from those nasty policy-reformers at the Drug Policy Alliance -- those bastards! (Good point, ONDCP -- we all know how susceptible the nation's mayors are to random bad influences. I mean, hell, how can we be sure those dastardly Mexican pot cartels didn't mastermind this so-called "resolution"?) In all, the ONDCP doesn't give a hoot about what the mayors have to say: As Riley put it, "We don't think it's very serious."