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March 2009
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Whatever they do, they can’t ignore us anymore

The notion of change in the air just won’t go away… and it’s great.
An excellent article in the Toronto Star: A Fresh Approach

Could this be Armistice Day for America’s decades-long war on drugs? Not quite. Not yet, at least.
But the new government’s reversal of the Bush-era’s zero-tolerance on pot comes amid a confluence of signals that America may be nearing a turning point in its approach to prohibition. Exit “reefer madness” and enter a more reasoned debate on what works…

Regardless of the specific points (economy, medical marijuana ruling, Mexico, etc.) that seem to be driving it, there is no doubt that there is a new perception developing that actual public dialog about alternatives to prohibition is not only allowable, but overdue.
And it’s about time.

“This awful reality is forcing us toward a debate that for the past couple of decades we just couldn’t have because America’s official drug policy was controlled by wild-eyed ideologues,” said Dan Bernath, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington-based reform lobby group.
“But attitudes toward marijuana law reform have changed, even if policy hasn’t. The opposition today is dwindling down to an ideological fringe rooted in a cultural war that doesn’t really matter to people any more….”

Of course, Dan’s using a good device there, but it’s true.
Remember when people used to refer to us as the wild-eyed ideological fringe?
Times sure have changed. And it’s becoming obvious all over the place that times have changed. Check out this comment from J. D. Tuccille in the Examiner: Public more sophisticated than politicians on marijuana legalization.

After Ammiano introduced his bill, CNN held an online poll and solicited phone and email comments on the legalization proposal. Online polls can be easily gamed, so the 95% vote in favor of legal pot is less impressive than it might seem. What is impressive, though, is that many of the comments made by the public were a lot more sophisticated than the simple-minded anti-drug rantings that usually emanate from the political class. [emphasis added]

That’s you guys. It’s all of us out there who have refused to give in to the propaganda, learned the truth and become more knowledgeable than the opposition. The old stereotypes are in the trash. The new ones are pretty unflattering to the drug warriors.
Back to the Star article, Glenn Greenwald agrees that:

“I do believe the space is opening up now to debate the issue based on empirical analysis, based on what works and what doesn’t. “

And that’s all we’ve wanted. The honest debate.
Greenwald also notes, though, that while this is our time, it won’t be easy…

“The emotion surrounding America’s drug war is very deeply entrenched, and the irrationality that has sustained it for so long is very difficult to uproot. I truly believe the unquestioned premise that changing the laws will create a spike in usage is a myth. But even as attitudes change, myths take time to break down,” he said. […]
“There may be few more grotesque wastes of money than the drug war. But the industries that have sprung up around it are enormous and lucrative and powerful,” he said.
“Decriminalization would be a huge blow to the American prison industry, which is the largest in the world. Lots of defence companies and paramilitary firms would suffer greatly. They all have a strong interest in maintaining the drug war and they will not just go quietly.”

Interesting times. Tough battles ahead, but we’ve come a long way.