Posse Comitatus as an argument against marijuana legalizers?

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 (“it’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 don’t want our military engaged in fighting the “drug war.”

But – as Lt. Colombo would have said – there’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.

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29 Responses to Posse Comitatus as an argument against marijuana legalizers?

  1. Joe Smith says:

    Prohibitionists are mental midgets! Stop the crimes against humanity!

  2. jean valjean says:

    OT….police profiling clients of methadone clinics as an easy bust for DUI, and just to harass ….
    “Since the drug war began, stigma and false information about drugs has lead to countless laws, policies and practices that profile, target, and harass people who use them. Ironically, these actions discourage many from seeking help to stop drug use.”

  3. DonDig says:

    Mark has the same problem as all other prohibitionists: If there was even one single good reason for prohibition, based on anything that resembled science or logic, that might well deserve some air time, but as we have seen here on the couch, try as they might, no one has ever presented such a single magic reason. All they can offer is corrupt politics.

  4. darkcycle says:

    Really? That is what he’s got? Well, Marky, when someone argues posse comittatus was health based in it’s origin then we’ll point out it was actually racist. But until someone makes that idiotic claim, there’s no reason to worry about it’s genesis.
    Pretty clear he just wants to smear those “legalizers” he hates so much.

  5. Frank W. says:

    He’s a dillweed for even bringing it up. The Coast Guard’s been looking for drug smugglers for decades, Homeland Security shows up at garden busts, and the CIA REDACTED with a dildo. Posse Comitatus has been obsolete since the Police State merged with the military. Go after President Taft while you’re at it Mark.

  6. Chris says:

    He didn’t even quote Columbo correctly.

  7. jean valjean says:

    Here’s why prohibs like kleiman are worried….a new study finds that cannabis is 114 times less dangerous than alcohol…
    and, as the cherry on the cake, a bit of news from Colorado:
    “The study comes just week after police in Colorado reported that recreational marijuana use has caused no notable impact on health and crime. A spokesperson for the Denver Police told CBC World News that there “hasn’t been much of a change of anything,” and that “officers aren’t seeing much of a change in how they do police work…the sky isn’t falling.
    After a year of legal marijuana, Colorado has suffered no rise in crime. In Denver, rates for impaired driving, property crime and violent crime have all dropped. Drug use among minors is also down. The only notable change to Colorado is that thousands of jobs were created in the marijuana industry.”


    • Duncan20903 says:


      Well, more like 2 1/4 years of legal cannabis but no one thinks that prohibitionists are very good at math.

      I’m still trying to figure out what to think of people who conflate the advent of regulated commerce with the re-legalization of the substance.

  8. claygooding says:

    Fuck Mark Klieman with Mark Spitz’s cut off whacker.

  9. Servetus says:

    Growing up in the 60s, I witnessed racially motivated drug shakedowns by local police. Where was Mark Kleiman? Were his eyes shut? Is Kleiman the good German who refused to see what was happening to Jews in his neighborhood?

    I think Kleiman’s problem is he’s been body-snatched by pod people. He has that look in his eye. As a group, the pods become non-associative thinkers who just can’t let go of the meme that marijuana and other mind altering drugs are intrinsically evil. Pod people often exhibit other problems as well, such as ignorance, racism and mindless bigotry. The drug laws add a convenient tool for authoritarian pod-linked oppression.

  10. Russell Olausen says:

    For most of us, modern cops can bring in more firepower than Custer could muster at the Little Big Horn, when Posse Comitatus was shiny and new.—- Alaska and Washington state have British Columbia framed but good. Do a good old fashioned price war.

  11. Freeman says:

    Yeah, I saw that article just now and had about the same reaction. The man keeps dressing up prohibition in legalization’s clothing and thinks the public won’t notice.

    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).

    …And when he DOES discuss it, he’s on the wrong side of the issue, of course (as always):

    Kleiman spoke more, though, about reasons for the city and state to step up law enforcement against illegal dealers in order to gain market share and tax revenues for the legal system.

    Now, if an illegal dealer is arrested “you just create a niche for another dealer,” he said. But under the state’s legal system the hope is that busting dealers would lead their customers to migrate to the legal system.

    “But I don’t see any planning in law enforcement to take advantage of that opportunity,” he said.

    Though none of the tax revenues from legal pot would go to law enforcement under Washington’s voter-approved law, Kleiman said it might be something for state lawmakers to consider changing.

    Noting the history of racial disparities in marijuana enforcement, Councilmember Mike O’Brien said he’d be concerned that ramped up enforcement would “compound the problem.”

    Kleiman said that’s certainly possible because poorer people and racial minorities might be more likely to use street corners for illegal pot commerce, and be subject to enforcement, than affluent white people.

    “I think it’s worth taking the transition cost,” Kleiman said, in order to undercut the illicit market.

    …said the affluent white dude, who obviously wouldn’t personally be “taking” any of those “transition costs” himself, of course. I guess racism just doesn’t bother him enough to be a significant factor in his analyses.

    • Frank W. says:

      He only has to worry about pleasing the Police State, which has no problem with racism.

    • claygooding says:

      -I notice they never have the only solution that will remove the black market without arresting anyone,,undersell the competition.

  12. I think its pretty clear that Mark’s philosophy is generated from his personal ivory tower. There is no amount of sensibility that will ever shut off the faucet of his self generated wisdom and logic. In the inventive mind of Mr Kleiman lies the secret to fame and fortune. As long as he holds the keys to wisdom (if you notice there is no one else genius enough to have made Mark’s connections) he alone holds the staff of power.

    Washington State.

    One out of three ain’t bad. How many more to go? In the same way that a squeaky door gets the oil, Mark’s masterful mental manipulations will ensure his name remains in the checkbooks of whomever wins the drug war and holds the ring of power. Demanding an hourly rate of $292 requires one to stay in the limelight. For that I congratulate Mark on being an excellent showman. He didn’t hold the title of “pot czar” and “hemperor” for no reason. Legalization seems to mean a sucker is born every minute. Nothing he says is surprising. It just surprises me that after the financial rape of Washington that anyone anywhere bothers to read his musings at all. He is an irritant to both sides of the drug war. This “posse comitatus” nonsense is just that. Confusing nonsense – to all but Mark. Just ask him. For a few bucks he will demonstrate his superior intellect to any State he deems worthy of his services. Brains for hire. Ya, right. More like magician extraordinaire

  13. kaptinemo says:

    “But note the logical lapse between “This policy, in its origin, was supported with racist rhetoric” and “This is a bad policy that needs to be repealed.” Policies – and changes in policy – have consequences independent of the objectives and motives of those who promote them.”

    Huh? Excuse me; I just had a serious “Dafuq did I just read?” moment.

    A ‘logical lapse’? On the contrary; drug law reformers have until recently been the lone voice in the wilderness regarding the historically verifiable racism (which he so airily dismisses) of the origin of, and continued implementation of drug prohibition and the need to end it, post-haste.

    We have been the ones on the short, sharp and dirty end of a stick held by DrugWar-sired, corruption-riddled institutions for decades, and know the nasty habits of the Beast from too-close proximity. We are well aware of the myriad ramifications of the status quo and the enormous damage it visits upon the body politic in countless ways. I daresay that any of the commenters and a good deal many of the lurkers could present a college level course on the history and politics of the DrugWar, resulting from decades-long research and activism.

    In other words, someone who’s (supposedly) just learned to p*ss in the drug law reform pot seeks to lecture the adults on ballistics and accuracy when he still can’t aim it right and he gets people wet. As a result, WA State still has a botec-scented stain on their regulatory scheme that won’t come out and a botec-sized hole in their treasury to show for their trouble.

    The only good thing about this is that other States are learning from WA’s debacle and are saying “No thanks” to being poisoned with boteculism; it’s one expensive disease.

  14. Duncan20903 says:


    Didn’t we send all of the pussy communists back to mother in a cardboard box circa 1987? Well I don’t care what anyone else thinks, I really do miss the commies. They made great scapegoats. This one is from the “read ’em and weep Mr. Prohibitionist” category:

    Poll: Colorado residents still back legal marijuana
    By Adam B. Lerner

    More than two years after Coloradans voted to allow recreational marijuana use, the state’s residents continue to stand firmly behind keeping the drug legal, a new poll found.

    The survey, commissioned by Quinnipiac University, found that 58 percent of Colorado voters support keeping pot legal, while only 38 percent are against it.

  15. jean valjean says:

    I completely missed this when it appeared 5 days ago. The electoral consequences of being a prohibitionist Democrat are finally registering with La Wasserman Shultz.


  16. kaptinemo says:

    I knew this was coming since I saw it last year. But this is especially heartening:

    “Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz offered to reverse her position on medical marijuana if a major donor retracted comments criticizing her, according to emails published by Politico on Thursday. In an email to Florida lawyer John Morgan, a member of the Wasserman Schultz team proposed a deal to support Morgan’s medical-marijuana initiative if he recanted a statement blasting her. “No,” Morgan responded to the go-between. “She is a bully. I beat bullies up for a living.” The dispute between the South Florida representative and the donor began last year when Wasserman Schultz criticized Morgan’s cannabis initiative, which failed to pass by a narrow margin. “Actions have consequences,” Morgan told Politico. “Her days of pushing people around are over.”

    This is what I mean by the death of machine politics and the rise of individual leaders breaking away from the herd to deal with issues of importance to the electorate rather than the Establishment machine.

    Granted, Morgan has personal reasons for what he is doing, but this reflects in no small part the coming conflict faced by every American pol: whom do you serve, the People or the Establishment that has trashed their futures?

    When I was very young in the 1960’s, there was a PSA on TV imploring people to stay in school, because “To get a good job, you need a good education”

    Tell that to the 17% of all waitresses in the US having Bachelor degrees. Why bother studying the sciences or engineering if after 4 years of college and 40K in debt an American company hires and imports an H-1B visa holder instead of you? Someone who will work for much less than the American Living standard requires.

    These kinds of issues are not being fixed by the machine that created them, and the people know it. They are looking for individuals distancing themselves from the machine and address the problems the machine has made. Issues like cannabis law reform will prove to be a great litmus test to determine where a pol’s true loyalties are. Wasserman-Shultz and the Dem Party machine are finding this out the hard way, but are still thinking they are in the driver’s seat.

    In a way they are, but on this issue they’re now riding in one of those grocery store kiddie-carts, the kind with the wheels that steer nothing. This issue, with all of its subsequent ramifications for national and international policy, is a lot bigger than their narrow party machine perspective allows, and they’re showing how unable they are to cope with this by trying to use the same old tactics. And that ain’t a-gonna work no more…as they’re finding out.

    • primus says:

      The old methods don’t work largely because of people like we are; we who spread the word, the truth, rebut the lies and insinuations of the prohibitionists. The old methods relied on keeping most people in the dark about the truth and the reality. They relied on a compliant, ignorant populace. With the ‘net, people are able to find out the truth in a couple of clicks. Young people are especially adept. Future politicians will face continuous examination and criticism, a la DWS.

      • Will says:

        The Debbie Wasserman Shultz saga is only going to get juicier and more interesting over time. While politicians are forever tripping over their own feet, Wasserman Shultz crossing John Morgan over medical marijuana is the equivalent of tripping and face planting into fresh cow shit. Big, BIG mistake (and what a mess!). If she doesn’t capitulate as we head toward 2016, Morgan will make her pay for it — over and over again — until her curly perm spontaneously erupts in flames.

        While I have disdain for politicians in general, I’m often in awe of their blatant, outright stupidity. Medical marijuana in Florida garnered more votes than re-elected governor Rick Scott and State’s Attorney Pam Bondi (both opposed to mmj). And I suspect it has more support than DWS will ever receive.

        But back to John Morgan: he is seriously pissed off and will likely spend even more money in support of mmj in Florida during the 2016 election cycle than he did last year. DWS had better ‘evolve’ quickly, regardless of whether she looks like she’s caving in to pressure (donations?).

        I just can’t wait to watch this play out. And I’m damn grateful John Morgan is on the right side of the equation.

        • kaptinemo says:

          DWS pulled her laughable attempt to ‘justify’ her (wrong-headed and politically suicidal) anti-MMJ stance off her Website within 48 hours after it getting noticed by the Couch and elsewhere, and people began clicking on the link…and no doubt leaving less-than-laudatory comments on her main page.

          Like most pols, she just hasn’t tumbled yet to the enormity of what is happening. She thinks that she can still use machine politics tactics, make deals and sweep this back under the rug, just like always.

          With typical unconscious arrogance of a pol too long in power, with Olympian noblesse oblige stained with contempt for those who’d let the likes of her govern, she deigns to let us have our crumbs. She’s ‘offering’ to ‘allow’ for MMJ if Morgan takes back his criticism.

          Someone in the Dem Party needs to sit down with DWS and say something along the line of: “Listen, you (female dog), the majority of Americans want cannabis legal again, and they’ll have it over your politically dead body in a fingersnap if they want it bad enough.”

          How many warnings must the new electorate give, in the form of the Town Meetings, online fora and elsewhere, that this issue is of prime importance to those the Dem Party desperately need for it to stay politically relevant?

          Too many pols are still stuck in the Reverse (aka prohib) gear, still mouthing prohib-supplied BS as if we’re still listening to it. We are, but only to the extant of trying to determine just how mentally challenged the pols are in thinking that we are; depth of insult requires proper gauging of reprisal.

          No more ’round and ’round and ’round’ with these clowns and their dueling studies. No more angels/head/pin arguments. No more “Unravel our ever-changing DrugWar Gordian Knot, and you can win your prize…if we don’t change the rules on you again, that is”.

          No. No more of that. Time to do like Alexander did, and slice through the SOB. Quit playing their games, because, as the majority, WE DON’T HAVE TO.

          We’re the majority; time to act like it, end-run this game, and tell the pols we don’t want to hear these lies anymore; all we want to hear is your “Aye” vote to end cannabis prohibition on C-SPAN. That’s it, that’s all, and nothing more.

        • darkcycle says:

          Indeed, Kap’n, the Wasserman -Schultz camp offered to retract their opposition to MMJ in exchange for the donor’s support, and were rebuffed. Short of handing her her walking papers, that is the worst thing that could happen to a pol.

    • DdC says:

      Why Do Democrats Defend Nixon’s Drug War?

      “Do you realize the responsibility I carry?
      I’m the only person standing between Richard Nixon
      and the White House.” ~ John F. Kennedy

      Why Democrats Are Reportedly Turning Their Backs on Debbie Wasserman Schultz

  17. claygooding says:

    This is knee slapping hilarious and points out the hypocrisy of government drug policy because of the lobby money involved,,the Reform Committee was paneled because the public has demanded reform,,instead of reform we get threats of more incarceration.


    The mayor should challenge the House on this,,she is enacting the will of the people and doing his job,,they are not and they have to get jurors from DC to convict her.

    PS: I learned that the mayor was a woman,,which begs the question did the politicians involved,all male TMK.,decide to take this tact because of her gender?

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