Mises Daily Articles
The Pot-Pushing "Terrorists" Under Your Bed
The Bush administration barely waited for the smoke to clear at "Ground Zero" before trotting out a yearlong, multimillion dollar ad campaign alleging that US pot smokers financially sponsor international terrorism. Not surprisingly, after the initial "shock and awe" of the ads wore off, viewers resoundingly rejected the feds' dubious charge. The White House eventually pulled its half-baked media campaign after several internal evaluations discovered that it reportedly inspired "pro-drug" beliefs among teen viewers. Talk about blowback.
Well, what's old is new again. Faced with mounting public criticism over the Justice Department's decision to shutter several locally authorized California medical marijuana dispensaries, Drug Czar John Walters recently traveled to Northern California to oversee police efforts to eradicate clandestine marijuana crops growing on public lands, and to label California's pot farmers as "terrorists."
According to a published report in the July 13 edition of the Redding Record Searchlight newspaper, the Czar proclaimed, "[T]he people who plant and tend [these marijuana] gardens are terrorists who wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties."
While Walters's hyperbolic statement was no doubt meant to piggyback on recent terrorism fears fueled by US Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, the allegation nonetheless reeks of desperation and dishonesty.
First, who exactly are "the people" Walters is referring to? Arguably, many pot growers in California are none other than — well — Californians, who would no more be motivated to assist Al Qaeda with their plans for "causing mass casualties" than you or I would.
Naturally, White House officials spin a different tale — alleging that most of the folks who conspire to grow pot on public lands are actually members of Mexican drug cartels who have entered the country illegally. It's an interesting theory. Problem is, we'll likely never know if it's true because law enforcement rarely arrest or prosecute anyone for growing pot on federal property. (While pulling up illicit pot gardens is easy, law enforcement have found the task of actually tracking down the people responsible for these clandestine operations to be far more difficult.)
But what if — for the sake of argument — Walters is correct and, in fact, some if not most of the individuals responsible for the grow-ops in question do have ties to Mexican drug gangs? Isn't it then possible that some members of these cartels could ally with, say, Al Qaeda?
Sure, it's possible. Then again, if this scenario is of such great concern to the Drug Czar, then it's high time he finds a new line of work. Here's why.
While a small portion of the profits from the black-market illicit drug trade, including perhaps the commercial sale of pot, could theoretically be used to fund certain terrorist groups around the globe, this fact is not the result of pot per se, but the result of federal drug policies that keep the plant illegal — thus artificially inflating its price and relegating its large-scale production and trade almost exclusively to criminal entrepreneurs.
By contrast, legalizing the commercial sale and use of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol would dramatically and almost immediately bring an end to the more egregious and adverse black-market effects of the plant's criminalization — such as the production of pot by criminal enterprises (regardless of whether they're Mexican or American), its clandestine cultivation on public lands, and most certainly, any (albeit dubious) ties to international terrorism.
Such a policy would also likely result in the added benefit of limiting the drug's use among young people, who under prohibition, report that they have easier access to pot than beer or tobacco.
Of course, legalization would not entirely eliminate the black market demand for pot, but it would certainly be preferable to today's blanket, though thoroughly ineffective, expensive and impotent, criminal prohibition. And perhaps it would finally put to rest the White House's bizarre notion that there are pot-pushing terrorists lurking under all of our beds.