Saturday, April 18, 2009

Investigating "Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding" Part I

I hope this is people’s first time reading that title. Struggling to title my blog I found the answer was right under my nose. I wanted people to understand why I believe marijuana will be decriminalized soon and not think I am crazy. Hidden deeper was a desire for others to understand me, or at least my perspective on life. Discovering that President Nixon appointed a commission in 1971 to investigate cannabis sativa led me to believe there was hope.

The Schafer commission was headed by Raymond Philip Schafer, a Republican governor from Pennsylvania. Nixon selected nine members of the bipartisan commission, while congress appointed the other four. Their task was to investigate our country’s laws regarding marihuana and drug abuse in the US. They wrote two reports addressing Congress, the President, and the public.

The report can be found here, from It is long and boring to read at times, but its findings are very interesting. Especially considering this was a conservative commission, Nixon hoped they would deliver the proof he needed to start his “war on drugs”.

The report shocked people who knew about its findings, and was deemed irrelevant for the rest of America. Amid rumors over the commission’s findings Nixon began blasting their leader and other members. Ruining the members’ credibility and casting their report to insignificance. It was successful, their recommendations were ignored and Nixon’s “drug war” started a business that would grow into wasting billions of taxpayers’ dollars.

Think that billion dollar figure was bizarre? The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has a projected 2009 budget of over 14 billion dollars. ONDCP director, the “Drug Czar” was elevated to a cabinet-level status in 1993. However, this policy was reversed recently by President Obama when appointing new director Gil Kerlikowske. The press release from the White House can be read here.
Kerlikowske is a military veteran with over 30 years of law enforcement experience; his previous position was Seattle’s chief of police.

Take a look at what ABC news says about the new “Drug Czar". Kerlikowske began his law enforcement career in 1972; his predecessor in Seattle was Norm Stamper. Stamper was a police officer for 34 years, is the author of “Breaking Rank: a Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing” and a strong advocate for marijuana policy reform. While our new Drug Czar’s views may not be as radical as Stamper’s, he is clearly open to the discussion. Seattle’s lowest law enforcement priority was the prosecution of small marijuana crimes; Washington is one of our 13 states with laws protecting medical marijuana patients.

The current administration’s recent statements and actions are indications of groundbreaking change in drug policy reform that should continue. I hope they will help lead our country down a scientific approach and a more sensible path to resolve this issue. Tomorrow I’ll be posting part II, with more details from The Schafer Report and about the ONDCP. Our politicians’ ignorance in the past has helped lead to our current “Drug War” crisis, don’t let America’s other problems blind you. Addressing and fixing our country’s drug problem will have a ripple effect across our Country and the world that no one can calculate.

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