My Fight to Protect State Legalized Marijuana

My Fight to Protect State Legalized Marijuana

On September 8, this landmark journal of all things cannabis published a vicious screed penned by Chris Roberts. I have never met, spoken to or even heard of Mr. Roberts, and he certainly never bothered to contact me before publishing his piece titled: “The Lesson of Roger Stone: The Weed World Was Hustled, Don’t Let It Happen Again.”

I wanted to pen this response immediately but had to delay because more pressing business came up. Those who are familiar with the ongoing federal-level struggle over the fate of continuing cannabis prohibition know that at the beginning of last month the fate of legalized medicinal marijuana in the United States became very precarious.

Since 2014, every appropriation passed by both Houses of Congress and signed into law by the president included an amendment explicitly denying funding to the Department of Justice for enforcing criminal prohibition or otherwise cracking down on marijuana in the states where it has been legalized. This amendment has broad bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, essentially a coalition of liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans including the Freedom Caucus.

Suddenly that protection was summarily stripped away by a small few in the establishment Republican party congressional leadership.

It seems after intense lobbying by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the House Rules committee, which has approved the attachment of this amendment for seven straight year, suddenly said they would not allow the amendment to be attached to the current appropriations. Recall that Sessions had actually formally written a letter to Congress asking them to vacate the previously passed amendment by not attaching the rider.

Sessions makes no bones about his plan to roll back the clock and abandon the ‘Cole Memo,” put in place Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder and named for the deputy attorney general who wrote it, which had the effect of ordering the DOJ to stand down on enforcement of contradicting federal law regarding possession, distribution and sales in the states where cannabis has been legalized by the state under President Obama.

Sessions’ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was only slightly more coy than his boss.

“We are reviewing that policy,” Rosenstein said. “We haven’t changed it, but we are reviewing it. We’re looking at the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, trying to evaluate what the impact is.”

The attorney general has been very clear. Our position and the position of the United States, because it’s reflected in law, is that marijuana is illegal… even if, under the terms of the memo, you won’t (currently) be prosecuted, that doesn’t mean what you’re doing is legal, or that it’s approved by the federal government or that you’re protected from prosecution in the future.

Things looked bleak, and with the congressional protection stripped away, a federal crackdown seemed imminent. This is all the more incredible because during his campaign for president, Donald Trump surprised many when he pledged to support the states’ right and authority to legalize possession and distribution of cannabis.

“ Medicinal?,” he said, “absolutely.”

It contradicts the President’s position.

When, however, President Trump reached a surprise emergency appropriation agreement with the Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, which included funding for Hurricane Harvey, members of the bi-partisan organization I co-founded—the United States Cannabis Coalition—sprang into action.

After an intense round of phone calls and meetings, and with the support of President Trump and Senator Schumer, the amendment was attached to the emergency appropriation for Hurricane Harvey. This has the effect of protecting millions of Americans legal access to cannabis for medicinal purposes at least until December. It was a close call, which is why I am just getting to write this now, 27 days after the assault on me by Roberts ran.

I watched both my father and grandfather suffer and perish from terminal cancer. Cannabis was the one thing that alleviated my father’s agony, so I made sure that he had access to it, an act of mercy that turned me into a violator of prohibition law.

Without hesitation, I would do it again, because at the core of this cause are compassion and a desire to see all human beings afforded the dignity and the essential right of self-determination, especially in the most personal of health and lifestyle choices.

My support for cannabis freedom has since been animated by much more than my long-held, live-and-let-live libertarian idealism. Now it is compelled by my firm conviction that freeing this plant from the tentacles of police state coercion is not just a societal imperative but also necessary to secure an essential human right that must no longer be suppressed by misguided government paternalism.

I am not a newcomer to this cause.

I have written, spoken, marched and rallied for drug law reform for 20 years. I spoke at a “Countdown to Justice” rally along with Russell Simmons and Rev. Al Sharpton demanding reform of New York’s draconian Rockefeller drug laws, among the most racist in the nation. I actively wrote and spoke for reforms to the New York law in 2006 and 2008. Those who sneer that I am a racist or other sort of bigot don’t know me and can rely on no facts to support this slur.

In his piece on me, Roberts attacks my service to President Nixon ignoring the fact that I have been sharply critical of his War on Drugs in two books I have written– Nixon’s Secrets (Skyhorse 2014 ) and Tricky Dick- the Rise Fall and Rise of Richard M. Nixon  (Skyhorse 2017), in which I criticize his disastrous launch of the War on Drugs.

I am also a witness in a new lawsuit filed against the federal government to overturn  the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug, testifying about conversations with one of Nixon’s drug warriors Myles Ambrose, the father of Nixon’s DEA in 1972.

My Fight to Protect State Legalized Marijuana
Carl Juste/Miami Herald/TNS/Getty Images

A handful, like Roberts, say I can’t speak out for legal cannabis because I worked for Nixon, Reagan and Trump?  When it comes to the failed, expensive and racist War on Drugs, both political parties are complicit and there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Just in terms of raw numbers of those prosecuted under our archaic federal drug laws, Obama and Clinton make Reagan and Nixon look like pikers. A close examination of Vice President Joe Biden’s record will show that he is perhaps the greatest drug warrior of all time. Hillary’s vice-presidential candidate, Tim Kaine is also a total prohibitionist. Let’s not forget that it was Bill and Hillary Clinton who brought us the 1994 crime bill, among the most racist tools of the War on Drugs.

Like I say, there’s plenty of bipartisan blame to go around when it comes to the nation’s current failed drug law experiment with the prohibition of cannabis

Despite all of this I am prepared to work with any Democrat, liberal or progressive who supports legalized cannabis and wants to avert the reigniting of the War on Drugs under President Donald Trump. I will do so under the auspices of the United States Cannabis Coalition, the bipartisan ad hoc organization I founded with trial attorney John Morgan.

Morgan selflessly financed and provided the strategy for an effort that was ultimately successful to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in the state of Florida. Morgan is in court right now trying to overturn a portion of the law which actually says the patient using marijuana legally may not smoke it. John Morgan is a hero who will not make a penny from the legalized marijuana business.

Despite loose claims to the contrary, I have indeed communicated with the president, on his initiative, as recently as a matter of weeks ago.

He re-affirmed his support for state legalized medicinal marijuana.

But I note that General Kelly has been a cheerleader for the coming Sessions crackdown. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tipped his hand as to the disinformation they will try to sell president when he said, “And I think there is some significant evidence that marijuana turns out to be more harmful than a lot of people anticipated, and more difficult to regulate than I think was contemplated by some of those states.”

This is, of course, nonsense.

The president must be reminded to keep his pledge to protect access to state legalized marijuana by millions of Americans including veterans who use it every day!

The fight between now and December seems clear. Sessions’ aggressiveness and his obvious plan to reignite the War on Drugs which has already cost taxpayers billions, destroyed families and lives and had no impact whatsoever on the level of illegal drug activity in the United States. It is clear this is in direct contradiction to the position of President Trump, who very clearly said he supported state’s rights when it came to the question of legalizing marijuana particularly for medicinal purposes.

After almost half a century as a participant in American politics, I know full well that politics ain’t beanbag. It is hardball that can become very personal and very nasty, with opponents often emotionally-invested in their ideological positions to the point of losing all perspective.

With the rampant polarization we see dividing Americans, stoked on by cynical muckrakers and ulterior-motivated partisans in the media, it is easy enough to fan the flames of discord and manufacture controversy.

But when it comes to the imperative of liberating our country, and if possible the world, from the scourge that is cannabis prohibition and the racist, reactionary, exorbitantly-wasteful, ignominious failure that is America’s “War on Drugs,” we cannot afford to be aiming fire at allies and friendlies.

In short, like the recent attacks on me coordinated by a small group of malicious ideological zealots jealously trying to guard what they believe to be their ‘turf’ in the emerging, expanding legal cannabis marketplace, Mr. Roberts’s assault is nothing less than a counterproductive embarrassment, at best.

I am seasoned enough in the ways of political warfare to no longer be phased by those who would make me the focus of their seething hatred and churlish vituperation, no matter how hyperbolic, insubstantial or false it may be.

Admittedly, I am inclined to return in equal measure any attacks made in the public square by demonstrably-partisan, purposefully-dishonest public or media figures. I am often inclined to escalate the pitch of such battle, occasionally to the point of being farcically-outrageous and provocative.

In the days of Vaudeville, this type of dramatic exaggeration was called “shtick.” Sometimes it works famously, sometimes it goes over like a lead balloon, either misinterpreted or misunderstood. Nothing better demonstrates the downside of my own “shtick” better than the tiny handful of regrettable Tweets I made in past years, in which I used words deemed insensitive if directed to members of various identity groups.

Although they amount to the massive grand total of maybe a dozen or so Tweets out of the more than 32,500 I have posted, as of this writing, these intemperate textual misfires have been absurdly and unjustly inflated into the stuff of broad, sweeping, permanent condemnation of me as a racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic bigot.

Suffice to say, those who can accommodate such disingenuous, exaggerated, and yet absolutist conclusions about anyone on such thin grounds is not worth the effort to try to reason with or convince otherwise. Half the shit ascribed to me by critics like Media Matters is stuff I never said.

The tiny yet noisy splinter of cannabis world participants who have made me the object of their narrow partisan puritanism and economic junkyard-dogging have revealed far more about who and what they are than anything they believe their hyperventilated defamation campaign revealed about me.

Despite all the grandiose, self-righteous presumptions about waging some sort of high holy moral crusade to purge the cannabis “industry” of anyone they unilaterally deem undesirable… cannabis deplorables, if you will—troubling enough as such an authoritarian proclamation of omnipotence is, in itself—the ‘Purge Stoners’ laid bare their true motives, their true nature, and the duplicitous partisan tribalism that animates them, above all else.

From all of the coordinated mania and manufactured hysteria emanating from the Purge Stoners it is very clear they believe that:

  • they are the exclusive owners and sole gatekeepers of cannabis as a political cause, a business activity and an emerging global marketplace,
  • they speak for the entire wide world of cannabis activism and enterprise,
  • their own rigid ideological dogma and hyper- partisan zealotry are not just the one and only true faith allowable in the cannabis world, but are in fact synonymous with it,
  • they wield the unilateral power to decide who or what is politically and ideologically acceptable in the cannabis world and, conversely, who and what should be effectively lynch mobbed out of it, by their say-so alone, and
  • the tandem causes of cannabis liberation and ending the drug war are not only secondary but, in reality, wholly subordinate to their own narrow political and economic self-interests.

I summarily reject their presumptions.

I will not be buffaloed or intimidated or silenced by disingenuous partisan zealots, laughably posing as social justice crusaders, while cynically employing exclusionary tactics and sowing distrust and division at a time when unity is so critical.

Let us not kid ourselves that these are not the same people who have been quite busy manipulating political processes around the country, using cannabis reform as cover for engineering market advantage for themselves at the expense of others not as well-heeled or politically-connected, many of whom kept cannabis alive and accessible through the darkest days of prohibition.

This is the cozy little bunch that eagerly marched to the front of the cannabis reform parade that was organized, grown and sustained for most of the last 40 years not by progressive statists of their ilk, but by principled libertarians who happily embraced any and all new allies, irrespective of political or ideological differences.

Inclusive libertarian ethos are what made it possible for people of such disparate political bent to collaborate successfully to advance a worthy, shared cause as freedom of choice in cannabis, for whatever use a responsible adult may decide.

Now that the decades of struggle for cannabis liberation have achieved a critical mass in popular support and economic sustainability, the phony masks of inclusive activism and shared reward have been torn away from the self-dealing schemers among us, allowing us all to see their true faces—those of greedy, ruthless control freaks. This is all too apparent in their insidious push for protectionist market barriers and prohibitionist penalties that they have deceitfully presented to the public as legitimate, necessary regulation of legal cannabis activity.

Irrespective of bogus insinuations intended to cast doubt on the authenticity of my evolution into a solid libertarian, the fact is that I abhor the very premise of prohibition, regardless of whether it is accomplished by criminal penalization or by excessive administrative impositions favoring a small few wealthy and connected opportunists.

But Chris Roberts doesn’t like my libertarian conservative politics or much else about me. He objects to my support and 40-year relationship with the president. He fails to recognize that it will take Republicans and Democrats who are experienced in ways of the swamp to educate the president about what Sessions and his new Chief of Staff General John Kelly (who wants marijuana outlawed because he said it’s a gateway drug) are up to.

Roberts was fond of quoting different maxims which I employ in political life, including the closing line of the Netflix documentary Get Me Roger Stone, in which I said I relish the hatred of my opponents, because it means I am being effective.

If the cost of liberating cannabis is the hatred of such bystanders as Mr. Roberts, I welcome it.

[Disclaimer: This is an op-ed and not endorsed by High Times or the High Times staff. After last month’s article, we felt it was important to give Mr. Stone an opportunity to express his views at his request.]

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