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Pot Smoke & Mirrors

Today’s Fresno Bee will carry a story — I’ve only seen the online version so far, which promises “more” for today in the paper edition — concerning a resurgent commitment from the federal government to crack down on medical marijuana.

It’s important to understand that the government response to medical marijuana is un-American, relatively new, and based on bad science — not to mention bad government.

When the United States of America was founded, the People who founded it had one driving concern. They wanted a limited government: a government which would be strong enough to protect “the People” generally from those who might attempt to bring them under tyrannical rule, but they wanted to ensure that no government they instituted for themselves could unnecessarily impair their own “Blessings of Liberty.” The goal was to ensure that nothing — neither external, nor internal, forces — could deprive them, or those who followed, of the freedom to live life as they chose.

One of the reasons the United States was constituted as a Federal Republic, rather than set up as a unitary federal government replacing all State governments, was that individuals were concerned with keeping the governments they’d already built for themselves. Generally-speaking, they were happy with what they had. The only reason they’d formed the United States of America was their fear that individual States would not be able to protect themselves from larger potential enemies, such as Spain, France and Great Britain.

More importantly, keeping the State governments was yet another attempt to limit the power of the government over the People. The idea of giving power to a government — power it needed so that it could function — was a scary thing. Like electrical power, governmental power is both useful and dangerous. The retention of the State governments was one more way of ensuring that the powers given to government were divided, not just between branches — such as the legislative, executive, and judicial branches — but between the States and the Federal authorities.

Thus did the Founders try to implement every protection to make sure that the federal government could never become powerful enough to control them. As I’ve already said, they wanted only to ensure that by all of the States being united, they were big enough not to get swallowed up by the bigger fish of their world.

This significantly changed when Abraham Lincoln came along. Among other things (in other words, it wasn’t the only thing, but I am not wanting to write a book here, so I won’t go through them all), the Constitution of the United States — or, if you prefer, the constitution of The United States — failed to deal with the issue of slavery. And the issue of slavery was finally, by the time of Lincoln, tearing the country apart.

A significant number of individuals believed this to be a bad thing. They tried to secede, or withdraw, from the United States. But there was a belief that the States which had decided they wanted to keep slavery had no right to withdraw from the agreement made by those who came before them. They could not simply secede from the Union.

I’m not sure that Lincoln and those who supported him were right that the “confederate” States had no right to secede. Why, after all, should everyone forevermore be bound by agreements made before they were born?

IMPORTANT NOTE: I don’t want anyone to think in this article I’m saying that the States which wanted to secede were correct regarding their position on slavery. I do not believe that.

As Thomas Jefferson, one of the key persons in the founding of the United States who became the third President of the United States, wrote:

[W]hat country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.

Jefferson clearly tells us that it may be necessary from time to time to actually fight — “What signify a few lives lost in a century or two?” — to defend ourselves and our freedom from our government.

Today, our federal government has fulfilled all the fears of our Founders. The United States is far more powerful than necessary to defend us from external threats. The biggest threat to Americans is the United States of America. Hell, the United States of America is the biggest threat to anyone, anywhere, in the world. Why should we be exempt?

But, as I said, the federal government we have today, which exercises this huge amount of power not just around the world, but right here at home, is un-American. And we should resist it. We should fight it. We should do everything within our power to reconstitute — re-Constitute — the limits that allow individuals the freedom to make their own life choices. This can be done through law, and should be, whenever possible. But, if the attempt to keep the government from meddling in our free choices through legal means fails, then “what signify a few lives lost?” Everywhere we look, government is trampling the People. It is perhaps time that the People begin trampling back.

I said at the start of this article that the governmental response to medical marijuana was relatively new. That is, of course, true in the sense that the concept of “medical” marijuana is relatively new. But it is also true in the sense that governmental regulation of what individual People can put into their bodies is relatively new, when you consider the overall age of the United States.

Regulations and restrictions on the sale of cannabis did not begin in the United States until nearly a century after the States began to organize themselves. States did not begin prohibiting marijuana until about the 1920s. It wasn’t until the late 1930s — 1937, to be exact — that the federal government made possession and transfer of marijuana illegal. Even then, it was still possible for medicinal purposes, subject to taxation. Still, enforcement of marijuana restrictions was largely done by the States, most of which had prohibited it by the 1930s.

In the 1970s, many states began to lift their restrictions on marijuana, just as is happening today. And that’s when the federal government stepped in with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, listing marijuana as a controlled substance at the behest of men in power who, for whatever reason, decided they needed to continue to have the power to tell the People what they could put into their bodies.

(For a more detailed history, see “Legal history of cannabis in the United States.”)

To ensure that enough of the population would agree to this usurpation of the freedoms enjoyed by their fellow citizens — because ignoring the Constitution always works best if you can get a large segment of Americans to agree — much propaganda regarding the dangers of marijuana has been foisted upon us. The federal government insisted for decades, despite all evidence to the contrary, that there is no medical value to marijuana. The federal government continues to lie about this even now. This is in spite of the fact that the federal government itself provides medical marijuana to individuals, as part of a drug trial.

The federal government claims there is no contradiction here. Medical marijuana has no value, they say. The only reason they continue to supply it to anyone is “for compassionate reasons.” But if there is no medicinal value, how is providing it to people who claim to need it for medical reasons compassionate? And why can’t we maintain that same compassion for others with medical problems who believe marijuana helps them?

The truth of the matter is that the federal government is full of shit. They are lying. While many people may be getting high on marijuana, law enforcement gets high on unlimited power to control other human beings and what they put into their bodies. As Edmund Burke, a member of the House of Commons of Great Britain, who supported the American Revolution that led to the creation of the United States, said:

Those who have been once intoxicated with power and have derived any kind of emolument from it can never willingly abandon it.

Not willingly.

So now, just as in the 1970s, the People of the United States have begun to insist upon making marijuana legal, doing what the federal government says can only be done for four people in the United States. And, just as they did in the 1970s, the feds are pushing back.

The Fresno Bee contacted me about this yesterday and asked me why I thought it was happening. As their story notes, until they called me, I didn’t know about this “new” announcement. This is because I’m not a civil attorney; I’m a criminal defense attorney. I am not routinely involved with medical marijuana dispensaries. I get involved only when someone connected to a dispensary is charged with a crime and hires me to defend them. And although I have won medical marijuana cases, I don’t always win them by relying upon medical marijuana law. Sometimes, for example, it’s just by doing a regular “Criminal Defense Attorney’s ‘Job’.”

Nevertheless, I told the reporter, I was not surprised. As I reminded him, the federal laws have always made it illegal to possess, grow, distribute, or use marijuana, even for medical reasons. It is only individual States which have been changing state laws. But just because one law against marijuana is eliminated, that doesn’t mean the other laws are eliminated, too. If you have three of something and you eliminate two, there still remains the one.

As I told the reporter, the federal government’s approach has been somewhat hands-off (under the Obama administration), but local authorities in various areas, including Fresno, are not happy about the proliferation of dispensaries. And since state laws have made it harder for the local authorities to control dispensaries, the local authorities have tried harder to get the federal government to step in.

Apparently, that’s exactly what’s happening:

The stepped-up enforcement appears to be a major escalation in the Obama administration’s bid to rein in the explosive spread of medical marijuana outlets that was accelerated by the announcement that federal prosecutors would not target people using medical marijuana in states that allow it.

Hey, I’m not the only one who writes really long, difficult sentences!

At any rate, it appears that, since lying to People about the medical benefits of marijuana and lying to the People about crime rates relating to dispensaries doesn’t work, the federal government is falling back on what the Founders of the United States most tried to prevent them being able to do: they will once-again exercise raw power against anyone and everyone — including the People who merely rent space to others — who is connected with the compassionate distribution of medical marijuana.

In other words, it’s all pot smoke and mirrors. In the end, this isn’t about pot. It’s about power.

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