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Editorial: Drug Busts as Taxpayer-Funded Media Lobbying/Electioneering Campaigns

David Borden, Executive Director, 10/20/06

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David Borden
One of the news items today was a report from Colorado of a major marijuana bust. The Denver DEA office and District Attorney announced they had roped in 38 dealers, and held a press conference to brag about it.

The timing was questioned by the group Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), the sponsors of a marijuana legalization initiative on next month's statewide ballot. SAFER's press release called the press conference "an orchestrated political event," implying that the local drug warriors by staging this bust at this time and publicizing it were really trying to influence an election starting 19 days later with early voting starting only four days later. (SAFER also pointed out that there are listings in Denver for at least 347 dealers of alcohol -- a more dangerous drug than marijuana according to SAFER and according to any reasonable reading of the science on the issue.)

In my opinion the timing does indeed cast suspicion on the enforcers' motivation. Did Colorado narcs use the pretext of a drug bust to in reality conduct a media/lobbying/electioneering campaign at the expense of the taxpayer (as well as the expense of the people busted)?

If so, it wouldn't be the first time such a thing happened. In 1991, I'm told, the federal courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia, was in danger of being shut down for budgetary reasons, its operations to be merged into other nearby facilities. Enter "Operation Equinox," which saw 12 fraternity brothers taken down on drug charges. The court got publicity and an apparent reason for being, and is alive and thriving today.

In California this summer they actually came right out and said what they were doing. A July press release from Attorney General Lockyer's office about how “44 task forces led by the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement... arrested at least 115 individuals and seized at least $11.9 million worth of drugs as part of a one-day nationwide crime sweep," stated that the operation “promoted the continued funding of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program that supports local and statewide drug enforcement. The federally funded program has suffered deep cuts over the last few years.”

In the advocacy business, when we stage media-worthy events that we hope will affect the legislative process, it's considered lobbying. Were these 38 Coloradans, 115 Californians, the 12 UVA frat boys and others on numerous other occasions really pawns in the political games played by people who hold the power to incarcerate? That can be hard to prove, but it's pretty clear that that dynamic exists, and sometimes it isn't that hard to prove. Indeed, the prosecutor who seeks high-profile prosecutions and large numbers of convictions to bolster his or her political career is a well known creature, and one of the most powerful in government.

Let's hope this odious tactic backfires on Colorado's narcs -- on November 7!

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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if these actions make children safer and give public awareness. Than there shouldn't be a problem.

Anonymous 3:27's comment is

Anonymous 3:27's comment is typical of the two-dimensional thinking common to prohibitionists and their enablers.

The sad fact is that the dangers to children are vastly lessened when access to drugs (such as the drug called alcohol) is restricted via a regulation regime, not through the wide-open, anything-goes black market created by the prohibition laws, themselves. Which is the 'elephant in the living room' that apologists for drug prohibition always try to ignore when speaking about the dangers of illicit drugs to children. I wonder why they are so reluctant to do so? Perhaps because if they did, it would render their entire argument invalid? - nemo

Medical marijuana

What if a child or grandchild of a Medical Marijuana patient is one of the "take downs" in these "lobbying busts". Then someone, who may not be able to use any of the currently "acceptable" medications-for reasons of allergy, or severe reactive side effects;cannot receive the only medication that gives them relief from intractable pain. Where is this in our national "morality"? These are also real issues in this struggle.

Anonymous 12:41

I agree with 12:41. A black market will rise for anything that people want and are willing to get. No matter how many laws you stack against it. We tell children not to use drugs and lie about the reasons why. I read a list of side effects of THC on a website. However, I could not find the research supporting any of their claims. The MERK manual (if you have any sense at all you should know what this is) list no addictive properties except mental and maybe upper respiratory conditions in the absence of alcohol. I am sick of the lies we were told about this drug.

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