Summer's days are winding down. The smell of wild honey hangs heavily in the air in certain brushy places, pigs fat on fallen fruit meander casually across country lanes. The waning moon rides high in the sky at sunrise, while Venus is set like a sparkling jewel in a band of smoky-scarlet sunset smudge.
Seasons shift, and so do attitudes, which is why we're finally – five years into Obama's presidency — seeing an inkling that he might start to honor his 2008 campaign pledge to chill on cannabis. After years of harassing medical marijuana dispensaries in California and elsewhere, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced the feds will let Washington and Colorado implement the legalization laws that their voters adopted.
Not that the Justice Department is taking a hands-off approach. It's still leaving room for federal prosecutors to selectively enforce on such broad and nebulous grounds as “adverse public health consequences.” According to Huffington Post, part of the problem has come from rogue U.S. attorneys at the state level who can't step out of their rabid prosecutorial mind-sets, and aren't reigned in from above.
It's all about power and control, and that's an area where many prosecutors and cops have issues, which is precisely why they're drawn to those jobs. What other career allows you to wield such power over another person's life, other than, say, drone operator or drone of the CIA, NSA, TSA, ICE, DEA or other shadowy acronym agency?
Which brings me to Roger Christie of the Cannabis Ministry, who has been held without bail for three years now at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center for the dastardly deed of distributing marijuana to his willing parishoners. At least a federal judge has finally ruled that he can present a religious defense at trial.
Meanwhile, Joseph Genaro Bonachita, the knife-wielding ex-cop who broke into South Park creator Trey Parker's house while stalking his ex-girlfriend, Lauren Kagawa, and who was found to have more knives, guns and ammo in his car when he was arrested on July 1, 2009, has been free on bail all this time, until he was finally sentenced this week to one year in jail. In the meantime, Kagawa “mysteriously” showed up dead in her driveway just six weeks after the break-in and a month after getting a TRO against Bonachita, saying he had choked and sexually assaulted her, and she feared for her life.
Bonachita claimed he was drunk off his ass — you know, from that legal booze — and didn't remember a thing about the break-in. His attorney, Michael Soong, argued for just 30 days in the pokey, saying Bonachita was unlikely to reoffend. Mmm, yeah, cuz Lauren's dead, so that obsession is gone.
Like I said, it's all about power and control.
Uruguay has decided the way to wrest power and control from the drug cartels is by legalizing marijuana. Its House just passed the Regulation of Marijuana bill, which is expected to win easy approval in the Senate. The idea is to make cannabis legally and cheaply available, both to cut profits to drug cartels and keep people out of the black market where nastier substances are sold. So sensible!
Are we next? Not likely, even though a recent study on global addiction, published in the Lancet, found that countries with the worst drug problems were those with the harshest penalties. And that includes the U.S.
America currently spends $20 billion annually on drug enforcement, with drug law violations accounting for the single largest category of arrests reported to the FBI. Of those, 82% are for simple possession, and half of those are for marijuana. Yet we haven't seen any parallel drop in use. In other words, we're wasting billions on yet another senseless war.
As a Time viewpoint notes:
Hopefully, the Obama administration’s decision paves the way for new thinking and better strategies for addressing drug problems— not by waging war, but by offering help to those who need it and leaving in peace those who don’t.