Mark Kleiman delivers what may be his most tortured and convoluted attack on marijuana legalization to date.
Over at “About News,” where they ironically credit Kleiman as their “Marijuana Legalization Expert,” he writes: Racism and Reefer Madness
He starts by mentioning that Johann Hari’s book talks about the racist origins of marijuana prohibition (“itâ€™s a staple of the anti-prohibition literature” Mark says), and then he goes off the rails.
The Posse Comitatus Act forbids the use of the U.S. military in civilian law enforcement. Sounds like a pretty good idea, right? We want our soldiers fighting foreign enemies, not arresting random bad guys. The example of Mexico shows us that, in particular, we donâ€™t want our military engaged in fighting the â€œdrug war.â€
But â€“ as Lt. Colombo would have said â€“ thereâ€™s just one thing. The Posse Comitatus Act was passed in 1878 as the consummation of the corrupt bargain in which the Republicans were allowed to steal the Presidency for Rutherford B. Hayes in return for ending all attempts to protect the rights of black people to vote in the South. The passage of the act marked the transition from Reconstruction to the Jim Crow era and the acknowledgement of white racial hegemony. There could hardly have been a more racist piece of legislation: not just in effect but in intent. (When President Eisenhower sent troops to enforce school desegregation the South in the 1950s, he had to invent a legal way around Posse Comitatus.)
Does the racial background behind the passage of the Posse Comitatus Act mean that we should now repeal it, and allow the military to arrest civilians for ordinary crimes? Of course not. But then why are we supposed to believe that the racial animus that motivated Harry Anslinger most of a century ago has some sort of direct relevance to the question of how to change the drug laws now?
Apparently because one good law came about, according to him, as an indirect result of racism, that weakens the argument for legalizing cannabis.
That’s just the most bizarre thing ever.
Now, if the only thing wrong with cannabis prohibition was its racist origins, and it otherwise was good policy, that might be a logical argument. But no legalizer has ever made that claim.
No. Legalizers have a massive list of things wrong with cannabis prohibition. The racist origin aspect is primarily a counter to the completely untrue notion (often put forward by prohibitionists) that criminalization came about due to scientific reasons. Talking about the racist origins of cannabis prohibitions also sheds light on the fact that enforcement is hugely racist in its impact today (something Mark clearly doesn’t want to discuss, and it’s hardly touched on in his “Marijuana Legalization” book).
But Kleiman has used this kind of anti-legalizing argument in the past – attacking one legalization argument at a time (amount of tax revenue likely to be generated, amount of impact on cartels, etc) as being imperfect in some way by itself, thereby supposedly negating the entire argument against criminalization.
The fact is, there is a huge list of reasons for ending prohibition, and countering legalization requires addressing the whole.
And his counter to legalization, in my view, is clearly insufficient:
1. The notion that legalization, unless we follow policies his way, will “increase the number of minors who damage their life-chances by spending too many teenage hours stoned, or to increase the prevalence of diagnosable Cannabis Use Disorder,” (with no proof of this supposed apocalypse) and
2. His ‘Mark knows best’ nanny-state approach is the only way to conduct reform.
Because Mark does consider himself a reformer. He says that the laws as they exist are bad. And yet he finds it necessary to attack legalization advocates whenever he can with completely nonsensical arguments (because he doesn’t have any good ones?), as if that will somehow bolster his position.
Mark, if you truly believe that your approach is right, then show it, prove it, or convince people to try it. But using this kind of dishonest approach to tearing others down really cheapens everything you have to say.