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Feature: Gazing Into the Crystal Ball -- What Can We Expect in 2009?

In the other feature article in this issue, we looked back at last year, examining the drug policy high and lows. Here, we look forward, and not surprisingly, see some of the same issues. With a prohibitionist drug policy firmly entrenched, many issues are perennial -- and will remain issues until they are resolved.
gazing into the future of drug policy reform '09 (picture from
Of course, America's drug war does not end at our borders, so while there is much attention paid to domestic drug policy issues, our drug policies also have an important impact on our foreign policy. In fact, Afghanistan, which is arguably our most serious foreign policy crisis, is inextricably intertwined with our drug wars, while our drug policies in this hemisphere are also engendering crisis on our southern border and alienation and loss of influence in South America.

Medical Marijuana in the States

In November, Michigan voters made it the 13th medical marijuana state and the first in the Midwest. Now, nearly a quarter of the US population resides in medical marijuana states, and it is likely that number will increase this year. Legislative efforts are underway in Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York, among others, and chances are one or more of them will join the club this year. Interest in medical marijuana is also emerging in some unlikely places, such as Idaho, where one legislator has vowed to introduce a bill this year, and South Dakota, where activists who were defeated at the polls in 2006 are trying to get a bill in the legislature this month.

California's Grand Experiment with Medical Marijuana

As with so many other things, when it comes to medical marijuana, California is a different world. With its broadly written law allowing virtually anyone with $150 for a doctor's visit to seek certification as a a registered medical marijuana patient, and with its thriving system of co-ops, collectives, and dispensaries, the Golden State has created a situation of very low risk for consumers and significant protections even for growers and sellers.

With tax revenue streams from the dispensaries now pouring into the state's cash-starved coffers, medical marijuana is also creating political facts on the ground. The state of California is not going to move against a valuable revenue generator.

And if President-Elect Obama keeps his word, the DEA will soon butt out, too. But even if he doesn't, and the raids against dispensaries continue, it seems extremely unlikely that the feds can put the genie back in the bottle. The Bush administration tried for eight years and managed to shut down only a small fraction of operators, most of whom were replaced by competitors anyway.

The state's dispensary system, while currently a patch-work with some areas well-served with stores and other whole counties without any, is also a real world model of what regulated marijuana sales can look like. Despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth by pot foes, the dispensaries have, for the most part, operated non-problematically and as good commercial and community neighbors.

California's medical marijuana regime continues to evolve as the state comes to grips with the reality the voters created more than a decade ago. We will continue to watch and report as -- perhaps -- California leads the way to taxed and regulated marijuana sales, and not just for patients.

What Will Obama Do?

It will be a new era in Washington, DC, when President-Elect Obama becomes President Obama in less than three weeks. While the president cannot pass laws, he can provide leadership to the Congress and use his executive powers to make some changes, such as calling off the DEA in California, which he has promised to do.

The one thing we know he will not do is try to legalize marijuana. In response to publicly generated questions about marijuana legalization, his team has replied succinctly: No.
What will President Obama do?
One early indicator of Obama's proclivities will be his selection of a replacement for John Walters, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. While there has been speculation about some possible candidates, none of them very exciting for drug policy reformers, no candidate has yet been named.

President Obama will also submit budgets to Congress. Those documents will provide very clear indications of his priorities on matters of interest to the reform community, from the controversial program of grants to fund anti-drug law enforcement task forces to spending levels for drug prevention and treatment, as well as funding for America's foreign drug war adventures.

The conventional wisdom is that Obama is not going to expend political capital trying to undo decades of drug war policies, but perhaps the budget axe will do the talking. Goodness knows, we don't have any money to waste in the federal budget these days.

What Will the Congress Do?

Democrats now control not only the White House, but both houses of Congress. One area we will be watching closely is the progress, if any, of federal sentencing reform. There are now more than 100,000 federal drug war prisoners, too many of them low-level crack offenders serving draconian sentences thanks to the efforts of people like Vice President elect Joe Biden, a long-time congressional drug warrior. Several different crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity bills have been introduced. The best was authored by Biden himself, a sign of changing times, if only slowly changing. It is past time for one of these bills, hopefully a good one, to pass into law.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced a federal marijuana decriminalization bill last year. The best prediction is that it will go nowhere, but we could always stand to be pleasantly surprised.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), head of the House Judiciary Committee, has emerged as a strong critic of federal interference in state medical marijuana programs. Conyers could use his position to highlight that issue, and possibly, to introduce legislation designed to address the problem of federal interference.

One area where the Congress, including the Democratic leadership, has proven vulnerable to the politics of tough on crime is the federal funding of those anti-drug task forces. In a rare fit of fiscal sanity, the Bush administration has been trying for years to zero out those grants, but the Congress keeps trying to get them back in the budget -- and then some. We will be watching those funding battles this year to see if anything has changed.
Coca Museum, La Paz, Bolivia

With the death toll from prohibition-related violence topping 5,000 last year, Mexico is in the midst of a multi-sided war that is not going to end in the foreseeable future, especially given America's insatiable appetite for the forbidden substances that are making Mexican drug trafficking organizations obscenely wealthy. With the $1.4 billion anti-drug military and police assistance known as Plan Merida approved last year by the Bush administration and the Congress, the US is now investing heavily in escalating the violence.

The National Drug Information Center has identified Mexican drug trafficking organizations as the nation's number one criminal threat, and chances are the violence south of the border will begin to ooze across the line. That will only add to the pressure among law enforcement and political figures to "do something." But given the current mindset among policymakers, just about anything they may be inclined to do to "help" is unlikely to be helpful.

The cartel wars in Mexico are also having an impact on Mexican domestic politics, with President Felipe Calderón's popularity suffering a significant decline. The angst over the escalating violence has already provided an opening for talk about drug policy reform in Mexico, with the opposition PRD saying that legalization has to be on the table, and Calderón himself announcing he wants to decriminalize drug possession (although how that would have any noticeable impact on the traffic or the violence remains unclear).

Look for the violence to continue, and watch to see if the resulting political pressure results in any actual policy changes. Drug War Chronicle will likely be heading down to Tijuana before too long for some on-scene reporting.

The Andean Drug War

... is not going well. Despite pouring billions of dollars into Plan Colombia, coca production there is at roughly the same level as a decade ago. Cocaine exports continue seemingly immune to all efforts to suppress them, although more appears to be heading for Europe these days. During the Bush administration, the US war on drugs in Colombia has morphed into openly supporting the Colombian government's counterinsurgency war against the leftist FARC rebels, who have been weakened, but, flush with dollars from the trade, are not going away. Neither are the rightist paramilitary organizations, who also benefit from the trade. Will an Obama administration try something new?

Meanwhile, Bolivia and Venezuela, the only countries singled out by the Bush administration as failing to comply with US drug policy objectives, have become allies in an emerging leftist bloc that seeks to challenge US hegemony in the region. Both countries have thrown out the DEA -- Venezuela in 2005, Bolivia last fall -- and are cooperating to expand markets for Bolivia's nascent coca industry. Bolivian President Evo Morales acknowledged this week that some coca production is being diverted to cocaine traffickers, but said that he does not need US help in dealing with it.

And in Peru, where President Alan García has sent out the army to eradicate coca crops in line with US policy, unrest is mounting in coca growing regions, coca farmers are pushing into indigenous territories, causing more problems, and the Shining Path insurgency, once thought decisively defeated, has reemerged, although apparently minus its Maoist ideology, as a criminal trafficking organization and protector of coca farmers. The Peruvian government blames the Shining Path for killing 25 soldiers, police, and anti-drug workers in ambushes last year. Look for that toll to increase this year.
Afghan opium

More than seven years after the US invaded to overthrow the Taliban and destroy Al Qaeda, Afghanistan is the world's largest opium producer, and has been each year since the Taliban were driven from power. While US drug war imperatives remain strong, they are in conflict with the broader objectives of the counterinsurgency there, and any efforts to suppress poppy planting or the opium trade will not only have a huge impact on the national economy, but are likely to drive Afghan farmers into the waiting arms of the resurgent Taliban, which is estimated to make hundreds of millions of dollars a year off taxing and protecting the trade. That buys a lot of guns to point at Afghan, American and NATO troops.

President elect Obama has vowed to reinvigorate the US war in Afghanistan by sending 20,000 additional troops, and NATO has reluctantly agreed to attack the drug trade by going after traffickers linked to the Taliban or various warlords -- but not those linked to the government in Kabul. Last year was the bloodiest year yet for coalition forces in Afghanistan; look for this year to top it.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Call for repeal of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA)

Debaters debate the two wars as if the civil War on Drugs (WOD) against Woodstock Nation did not yet run amok. A failed program that costs multi-billion dollars; without accountability, oversight, milestones, or exit-plan; surely deserves debate, but the silence has been deafening.

Continuing the vendetta against all present at the peaceful public assembly of Woodstock Nation in August 1969, and their families, and their associates, cannot be good for the parent society. Foreign enemies are at the gate, circle the generation-gap wagons. The negative numbers that will have to be used to bottom-line our legacy to the next generation can be less ginormous. Woodstock Nation is a multi-ethnic subculture with proud contributions to the history and culture of America and of the world.

Woodstock Nation deserves most-favored status as trading partner. The witch-hunt doctor’s Rx is for every bust to numerate a bigger tax-load over a smaller denominator of payers. Spend more on prisons than on schools. My second witch’s opinion is herbal remedy. Homegrown is free so family budgets would have more discretionary income to stimulate the economy. Empty prisons could become homeless shelters with a bus stop. Homeland Security could use eradication choppers. Broken families must regenerate and be revalued as Americans who did nothing wrong. The USA incarcerates a higher percent of its people than any other country on the face of the earth. Over half of all inmates were convicted under the CSA. If we are all about spreading liberty abroad, then why mix the message at home?

If we could have learned from history, we wouldn’t have been condemned to repeat it. We could have studied why we had laws against Quakers, why the court accepted the testimony of teenage girls, channeling invisible spirits and devils, to send 19 innocent people to the gallows for witchcraft. In 1693, the court stopped accepting spectral evidence, gaols emptied, life renewed. The leader of the accusers confided 14 years later “it was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time, where I justly fear I may have brought upon myself and this land the guilt of innocent blood; what I did was ignorantly.” Now it is the WOD that ignorantly continues the devil’s work. Do now what the 21st Amendment did for alcohol prohibition. It is on the people to lobby their delegates for repeal of prohibition. Our sufficient reason is that substance-prohibition never was constitutional.

A clause about interstate commerce provides the required pretext of constitutionality. Any excuse is surely better than none. So, how is that interstate commerce going, which needs the CSA so much? The CSA mantra is eradicate, do not tax, the country’s number-one cash crop. When supply is dry, robust demand bids prices up. Gifted with margin to frustrate interdiction, peddlers’ bags do not carry coals to Newcastle. The founders’ purpose to authorize federal meddling in interstate commerce was not to undermine national security and impoverish the treasury, yet that is the only justification given for the drug war charter. Justice Thomas’s dissent in Gonzalez v. Raich is well-taken.

Expert witnesses for the scheduled substances didn’t present exculpatory evidence in hearings or in debate on floor. Nixon’s operatives promised to supply supporting evidence later. Later, the Commission evidence did not support. No matter, civil war against Woodstock Nation was in force. No amendments can assure due-process under an arbitrary law that itself never had any due-process. Marijuana has no medical use, period. Open and shut cases clog the kangaroo courts. Lives are flushed down expensive tubes.

The CSA is anti-science. Redundantly, there is no accepted use, nor will there ever be, when all use is not accepted. Research by Myron Stolaroff, Alexander Shulgin PhD, and Rick Doblin PhD is shut down. LSD was universally hailed as a breakthrough drug until the CSA halted research. In 38 years there has not been any new LSD research done. America’s drug policy should seek light from, not ignore, experts who are familiar with the scheduled substances at first-hand. How many politicians have studied the book, LSD, My Problem Child, by the Nobel Prize Committee member Albert Hofmann (1906-2008)? Google knows about the full text online.

Kids won’t stop being afraid of the dark anytime soon. The dark is the subconscious. The crime used to be called familiarity with the devil. The demonized substances are the modern stand-in for the devil, as the law continues in force. Father, forgive prohibitionists who make it their family’s meal ticket to know not what they do. Positive set and supportive setting reliably produce positive experiences.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act restores choice of sacrament for the Native American Church to eat peyote. All Americans, without distinction of church, should be extended the same freedom of religion as the RFRA extends to the NAC, to select a scheduled sacrament to mediate communion, twixt the soul and its source within, in the rituals even of single-member sects.

You can’t speak your piece freely if you can’t think it up. To create, one must be in a receptive mood. How could slacker such as I aspire to be the one to stick a fork in the War on Drugs? What was I smoking? The Constitution, as amended, does not enumerate any power to impede outside-the-box thinking or arbitrate states of consciousness. How and when did government acquire this power? Politicians who would limit cognitive liberty lack jurisdiction. Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, says the First Amendment. The CSA derails speech, such as that which you are now reading, onto mental roads not taken.

Relatively speaking, substance toxicities are in no way as detrimental to the user as incarceration is, with recidivism for a safety net. There shall be no cruel and unusual punishment, says the Eighth Amendment. Loss of liberty, employment, and estate seems cruel and unusual when imposed on peaceful people whose only crime was feeling good and exploring their subconscious for a few hours, without even an allegation of having caused any injury whatsoever.

Let offenders cop a plea by rolling over on higher-ups. God and Mother Nature conspire to provide rain, sunlight, and composted earth for illegal seeds, by the ton. Are the masterminds to get off scot-free, while little guy copycats are selectively prosecuted? God confesses, in Genesis 11-12, it was He who created the seed-bearing plants, on the second day. Behold, He pronounces them very good, with no tinge of remorse about creating weed, mushrooms, morning glories, coca, poppies or cacti. Neither has He apologized for the intelligent design of booby traps in the corporal wiring and plumbing of the people. A maverick molecule could find the little red lane at any time, placing all sorts of subliminal associations, projections, and realizations into play. Book’Em, Dano.

Common Law must hold that the people are the legal owners of their own bodies, to do with as they please, absent harm to others. That would include corporal components such as the various receptor sites. The people should have the same liberty to move about in and decorate their spiritual (mental) abodes as they have in their material apartments.

The people have a right to get drunk in their homes, be it folly or otherwise. Self-medication is one way, not the only way, to learn about your self. Those who don’t agree that getting high is the secret to life remain free to abstain. If you do get high, you do so at your own risk. It is no skin off anyone’s back but your own. Live and let live.

The Declaration of Independence gets right to the point. The pursuit of happiness is a self-evident, God-given, inalienable, right of man. The WOD is a war on the pursuit of happiness. The books have ample law on them, sans CSA. The usual caveats, against injury to others, or their estates, remain in effect. Employees can be fired for poor job performance. People should be held responsible for damage caused by their screw-ups. No harm, no foul; and no excuse, either.

Repeal the CSA of 1970 to empower the new administration’s mandate. The annual cost of the WOD at federal, state and local levels totals what, only 50 or 100B USD? If anybody is counting, please share. There is no lower-hanging, riper, or higher-yielding budgetary fruit than to kick the addiction to the third war, cold turkey.


Having, at the least, Marijuana completely removed fromt he Controlled Substances Act should become our biggest effort towards the Obama Administration. Concurrent with this should be an effort to fully implement the MERP Model which will effectively destroy the Drug Gangs and Cartels by completely taking the profits away from Marijuana. None of the "moneyed" organizations (NORML, DPA, or MPP) seem to want to take this approach and doggedly stay the course with "harm reduction" and "tax and regulate" efforts.

None of these measure will do what needs to be done: taking the profit out of the Marijuana "industry." And any rebuke against the MERP Model, by Obama, should be answered with the truth. And the truth is that the real reason Marijuana remains illegal is because Obama, and his predecessors, are attached to the campaign funds from those groups that insist on continuing to profit from Illegal Marijuana: the Rx Industry, the Alcohol industry, the Prison Industrial Complex.

It is time for a little bit of truth and candor. It is time to end Marijuana Prohibition.

Drug Policy
Marijuana: Past, Present and Future from Bruce Cain on Vimeo.

Why Lou Dobbs Should Support Marijuana Legalization

The MERP Project
The Marijuana Re-Legalization Policy (MRP) Project

Bruce W. Cain Discusses the MERP Model, for Marijuana Relegalization, with "Sense and Sensimilla"

Video Biography of Bruce W. Cain

The "Hemp Song" by Bruce W. Cain

"Rainbow Farm" and instrumental dedicated to Tom Crosslin who was
murdered at Rainbow Farm a week before 9/11 (09/11/2001)

How Continuing the Drug War could make Nuclear Terrorism a Reality
by Bruce W. Cain

We all need to stress the

We all need to stress the fact that the last two persidents plus president elect, Obama, have admitted to using illegal drugs. Do they feel no shame in sending hundreds of thousands to prison for what they have done.
I voted for Obama and do hope he will be broader minded and begin to help us out.

On Your Way Down To TJ ?

Okay, but keep in mind the Police and Army do not want to be photographed, period. They WILL confiscate your equipment and escort you back to the border if you are not nice. This happened just a couple weeks ago to members of channel 33 of San Diego. No one ventures out at night, and the really bad neighborhoods to the east are unpredictable (i.e. Mariano Matamoros, La Presa, La Mesa etc) Wear kelvar and helmets, I am serious. It's a freakin war which Americans just do not understand.

Be extremely careful, look what was in our "gated" community - and BTW, this is Tijuana, not Rosarito as reported by AFN: (We are south of Tijuana and north of Rosarito)

If you need help give us a call, just leave a message on the blog.


Sorry, I forgot to give you a contact number

You can leave a message here:

BTW, everyone travels in pairs or more when we go into Rosarito or anywhere, it's bad guys. Two weeks ago, a man kidnapped from Mira Mesa San Diego, that makes 29 on the US side now in the past two years. One executed in Chula Vista San Diego two days ago, he was from TJ.



Prohibition just doesn't work. It creates many more serious problems than it solves which was PROVEN in the 20th century during the failed experment called 'alcohol prohibition'.

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