Prosecutors and DEA agents are escalating toughening marijuana prosecutions and militarizing the overall “war on drugs” just as prospects have never been greater for phasing out the costly 40-year campaign.
Four California-based U.S. attorneys initiated a crackdown on medical marijuana October 7, just two years after the Obama administration signaled its intention to relax enforcement.
Over one million Californians have doctor’s recommendations to grow or use marijuana.
“This is a real setback for the medical marijuana movement,” longtime political consultant and Obama supporter Bill Zimmerman told the Bulletin. The architect of several winning medical marijuana campaigns, Zimmerman said the crackdown “will be used to shift public understanding of what the movement is about from alleviating the suffering of medical patients to the presumed exploitation practiced by marijuana dealers.”
Zimmerman emphasized, “the first issue is whether or not the order is coming from the administration, or is a project being taken on by the local US Attorneys for their own reasons. It's hard for me to imagine a White House in re-elect mode that would make a mistake like this given that Montana, Nevada and Colorado are all critical swing states and all have recently passed medical marijuana initiatives.”
Whatever the reason for the crackdowns, Zimmerman believes “we have to stir up opposition, especially in the swing states I mentioned, to alert the Obama re-elect team that the US Attorneys may be undermining their efforts, and to get an argument going between them and the Justice Department.”
Passage of several medical marijuana initiatives has been an essential step in de-escalating the official “war on drugs” launched forty years ago. In addition to millions of persons incarcerated, over 40,000 have been killed just south of the US-Mexico border since 2006 when the US-backed Felipe Calderon was installed as president, promising a mano dura-style military crackdown. The growing violence is so catastrophic that a panel of global leaders, including Kofi Annan, George Schultz, Paul Volcker, Javier Solana, and former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, are calling for a fundamental re-think of the militarized drug policies.
A peace movement against the drug-war mentality is growing rapidly in Mexico and could play a key role in the presidential election next year.Despite rising public opposition, the drug war is taking on national security implications that might entrench its bureaucratic machinery for years to come, and permit a deepening penetration of US security forces into Mexico.
Recently, for example, the US government charged Iran with a conspiracy to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington using a contract “hit” carried out by the Zetas, one of Mexico’s largest drug gangs. The indictment story was met with skepticism in many quarters, but amplified the notion that Latin American drug gangs harbor assassins-for-hire and terrorists. Former US drug czar Robert Bonner wrote in Foreign Affairs, “if the drug cartels succeed, the United States will share a 2,000 mile border with a narco-state controlled by powerful transnational drug cartels that threaten the stability of Central and South America.” Bonner describes the rising homicide toll in Mexico as “a sign of progress” in fighting the cartels. (Foreign Affairs, July/August 2010)