The two reasons Jeff Sessions wants to prohibit pot
A man who identified himself as KP smokes a marijuana joint during a protest and rally near the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn.,to end cannabis prohibition in Minnesota, April 20, 2016. | Jim Gehrz / Star Tribune via AP

The announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he’ll pursue federal pot prosecutions has two age-old motivations: power and money.

Financially, of course, the Republican Party is vested in America’s vast private prison system. Every new arrestee means money in the pockets of the investors who own and operate them. Keeping those cells and beds occupied is the essence of the industry and of pot prohibition.

The Drug War is a giant cash cow, not only for the prison owners, but for the cops, guards, lawyers, judges, bailiffs, and all the other operatives whose livelihoods depend on destroying those of the nation’s tens of millions of cannabis customers.

Medical legalization in about half the country, and full legalization in California, Colorado, and other states, represents a serious threat to this multi-billion-dollar incarceration scam. Sessions has risen to its defense.

Then there’s the power.

As long as so many millions of people smoke the stuff, marijuana’s illegality gives police the ability to bust whomever they want, whenever they want. It is the core enabler of a police state.

In fact, pot prohibition is a major foundation of the Republican regime stretching from the White House and Congress to state government, the courts, and beyond.

The key is disenfranchisement.

Since the Drug War’s initiation by Harry J. Anslinger in the 1930s, the principal focus has been on people of color. Anslinger promoted the term “marijuana” to deal with cannabis because it has a Latino twinge and aroused paranoid bigotry among the white population.

While promoting films like Reefer Madness to make pot appear like some sinister force, Anslinger’s minions made cannabis into a racist menace.

But it was Richard Nixon who took the assault to its ultimate depth. Nixon hated blacks and hippies. He also had a serious interest in slashing into their communities and depriving them of the vote.

In 1972, his own Blue Ribbon Schaefer Commission recommended against prohibition. Chaired by Pennsylvania’s liberal Gov. Richard Schaefer, it said the health impacts did not warrant a national campaign.

Nixon ignored all that. Amidst a terrible war and racial upheavals, he proclaimed drugs to be America’s most serious problem.

His own staff knew better. As aide John Ehrlichmann put it:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people.

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The Drug War gave Nixon the key to his “Southern Strategy.” Through a wide range of racist rhetoric and policy, he successfully campaigned to move Southern white racists from the Democrats to the Republicans. But many Southern states had substantial black constituencies. He needed to make sure they could not vote.

Jeff Sessions is on a crusade to keep marijuana illegal. | Carolyn Kaster / AP

Slapping them in jail for pot was a powerful way to do that. Because pot is essentially everywhere, it also lets police arrest pretty much any black person they want at any time. According to Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, tens of millions of blacks and Latinos have since been busted. An independent survey by Prof. Bob Fitrakis has estimated the number of Drug War arrests since 1970 in the range of 41 million. At a cost of more than a trillion dollars, the U.S. could instead have sent virtually everyone it busted for pot to a four-year university instead.

Instead, the assault has injected deep into the black and Latino communities a cultural toxin based in the prison culture. While busting peace, environmental, and social justice activists for cannabis, politicians like Trump and Sessions damage the black and Latino communities while turning elections and driving the country to the right.

Sessions occasionally makes absurd moral and public health claims for keeping cannabis illegal. But the damage the Drug War has done to individual lives and the broader community is incalculable.

Pot prohibition has worked wonders, for a fascist establishment keeps power only by using it as a way to crush its opposition, steal elections, and fatten its pockets.

Anyone who says otherwise is blowing toxic smoke.

Reprinted by permission of the author. The original posting can be seen here.


CONTRIBUTOR

Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman
Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman

Harvey "Sluggo" Wasserman hosts the California Solartopia Show on KPFK-Pacifica Los Angeles 90.7FM and the Green Power Wellness Show on prn.fm. His "America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Life & Death Spiral of U.S. History, from Deganawidah to The Donald” is at solartopia.org along with “Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth.”

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