Instead of “busting the elite pedos” as the long-awaited first order of business, Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions instead immediately reversed an order by the Obama administration to phase out the use of private contractors to run federal prisons. In an ominous sign, shares of the two leading U.S. private prison companies, GEO Group and CoreCivic, doubled since Trump’s election.
On the very same day, Press Secretary Sean Spicer linked marijuana use with the widespread abuse of painkillers, suggesting that allowing recreational use of marijuana could be interpreted as condoning drug use more widely.
“When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and drugs of that nature.”
Is the Trump administration going to enforce against marijuana use? And if so, how? Jail or prison time? To put this in perspective, nearly half of all drug possession arrests (over 574,000) were for marijuana possession. By comparison, there were 505,681 arrests for violent crimes, which the FBI defines as murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Washington, Colorado and Oregon have approved recreational marijuana use. Arrests for this substance runs $465 million. It costs $3.6 billion to enforce the laws. Since marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, there has NOT been an increase in teen use.
Furthermore, Spicer’s claim was very curious considering that opiate addiction is being treated with medicinal marijuana.
“We have a statewide epidemic of opioid deaths,” said Dr. Gary Witman of Canna Care Docs, a network of facilities that qualifies patients into medical marijuana programs in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Delaware and the District of Columbia. “As soon as we can get people off opioids to a nonaddicting substance — and medicinal marijuana is nonaddicting — I think it would dramatically impact the amount of opioid deaths.”
Besides treatment for opiates, researchers found that in states with medical marijuana laws on the books, the number of prescriptions dropped for drugs to treat anxiety, depression, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity. Perhaps the drop in drug prescriptions is the real story here? Somebody doth protest too loudly?
Published research found that states that legalized medical marijuana — which is sometimes recommended for symptoms like chronic pain, anxiety or depression — saw declines in the number of Medicare prescriptions for drugs used to treat those conditions and a dip in spending by Medicare Part D, which covers the cost on prescription medications.
The study, which appears in Health Affairs, examined data from Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013. It is the first study to examine whether legalization of marijuana changes doctors’ clinical practice and whether it could curb public health costs.
So we have more than a few big industries affected by this policy conversation. Did the predatory corporatists send a memo to the Trumpian administration? In the video at the end of this post, Trump is shown on the campaign trail addressing marijuana and proposing it should be a state issue. He certainly doesn’t sound like an a hawk on this. But this was before those memos showed up. TNN smells put-people-last corruption rats at work here. Indeed, the following represent five big lobbies against legalization. Whodathunk?
1) Police Unions: Police departments across the country have become dependent on federal drug war grants to finance their budget. In March, TNN published a story revealing that a police union lobbyist in California coordinated the effort to defeat Prop 19, a ballot measure in 2010 to legalize marijuana, while helping his police department clients collect tens of millions in federal marijuana-eradication grants. And it’s not just in California. Federal lobbying disclosures show that other police union lobbyists have pushed for stiffer penalties for marijuana-related crimes nationwide.
2) Private Prison Corporations: Private prison corporations make millions by incarcerating people who have been imprisoned for drug crimes, including marijuana. As Republic Report’s Matt Stoller noted last year, Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest for-profit prison companies, revealed in a regulatory filing that continuing the drug war is part in parcel to their business strategy. Prison companies have spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians and have used secretive front groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, to pass harsh sentencing requirements for drug crimes.
3) Alcohol and Beer Companies: Fearing competition for the dollars Americans spend on leisure, alcohol and tobacco interests have lobbied to keep marijuana out of reach. For instance, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed campaign contributions to a committee set up to prevent marijuana from being legalized and taxed.
4) Pharmaceutical Corporations: Like the sin industries listed above, pharmaceutical interests would like to keep marijuana illegal so American don’t have the option of cheap medical alternatives to their products. Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big pharma” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”
5) Prison Guard Unions: Prison guard unions have a vested interest in keeping people behind bars just like for-profit prison companies. In 2008, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association spent a whopping $1 million to defeat a measure that would have “reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison.”