Texas NORML Responds


"Texas NORML Responds to Austin Reporter's Hit Piece: Prohibition Has Failed, Just Like In the 1920's"

During the 2012 Texas Marijuana March, I was approached by a reporter from the Austin American Statesman named Ken Herman. Mr. Herman proceeded to ask me the same question several different ways, apparently in an attempt to get me to say something specific. The question he was asking basically was, “don’t you, and/or Texas NORML, have some obligation to spend your time and resources telling people to obey the laws?”

He asked this, suggesting that Texas NORML’s purpose was to encourage people to use marijuana, thereby encouraging people to break the law.

Let me first state very clearly; Texas NORML’s purpose is not to encourage illegal activity. NORML’s Mission Statement is “to move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty.” This was explained to Mr. Herman, but it appears that he chose to ignore that.

From the beginning, Mr. Herman missed the entire purpose of the Texas Marijuana March which was not, as he wrote, about “illegally making themselves comfortably numb”, but instead was focused entirely on ending the criminal prohibition of marijuana.

However, it wasn’t surprising Mr. Herman missed the point considering that he began my interview by stating he not only agrees with marijuana prohibition, but also thinks alcohol should be banned. That idea was tried for thirteen years, ending in complete catastrophe as was fully documented recently by Ken Burns’ five-and-a-half hour PBS documentary, “Prohibition.”

And, just like alcohol prohibition, the idea that demand can be significantly reduced (as Mr. Herman suggested) is just a pipe dream. Marijuana is the most used illicit drug in the United States, with the US Dept. of Health and Human Services estimating that around 100 million Americans will try it at least once in their lifetime, and tens of millions using it yearly. In fact, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use & Health, among all ages more than 10% of the US population used marijuana at some point in the past year, and nearly 30% of Americans between the ages of 18-30 used marijuana in the past year.

In addition, polling trends are now showing that more Americans support legalizing marijuana for adults than oppose it. Late last year, Gallup found nationwide support for legalizing adult marijuana use at 50% versus 46% opposed. Little more than a month ago, Rasmussen reported that support for legalizing and taxing marijuana was at 47% with just 42% opposed.  This is not a fringe issue anymore, no matter how hard people like Mr. Herman attempt to portray it that way.

Despite Mr. Herman’s attempt to label all who support ending marijuana prohibition as “lawbreakers”, the fact is that many Americans who do not use marijuana also do not see fit to use their hard earned tax dollars on arresting, trying, and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens every year for marijuana. And, yes, according to the FBI, around 850,000 Americans are arrested every year for marijuana offenses, with nearly 90% of those arrests being for possession. Forbes has reported estimates saying that ending marijuana prohibition could yield more than $40 billion annually from tax revenues and savings in law enforcement. That is a significant expense of public resources, no matter how you slice it.

It’s ironic that Mr. Herman brought up what Mexican officials have said about this, because both of the previous two Mexican Presidents, Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox, have, since leaving office, have publicly called for an open and honest debate on marijuana legalization. Even Mexico’s current President, Felipe Calderon, has hinted in the press that the US should consider “legal market alternatives” to our current drug policies. Of course, he wouldn’t dare overtly make such statements due to the fact that US taxpayers are sending billions of dollars annually to Mexico for the drug war. A war which has claimed an estimated 50,000 lives in that country over the past several years, which according to DEA officials such as Michele Leonhart is “a sign of success.”

Have there been decapitated bodies found in Mexico related to alcohol distribution? Why is it that cartels are not now killing thousands over beer and tequila trafficking routes? The answer is simple; because there isn’t a significant black market for those legally regulated products. Suggesting that demand in the US is primarily responsible for the violent black market in Mexico ignores the fact that marijuana (like alcohol) has been ubiquitous in human society for thousands of years. The cause of the violent black market in these cases lies with the arbitrary prohibitive laws passed in vain attempts to curb their use. And Texas NORML seeks to legally facilitate the end of marijuana prohibition, saving hundreds of thousands annually from arrest, and curbing the violent black market. ~