Saturday, February 13, 2010

Another broken promise, another broken life

So Obama isn't going to end the war in Afghanistan, close Guantanamo Bay or reverse the Bush administration's policies on "enemy combatants." Meanwhile, he's supporting a corporatist health care reform package that would maintain the employer-insurance tie -- a work-or-die incentive in keeping with the US's founding Protestant work ethic -- and, rather than removing such state privileges for the insurance industry, would further increase them in the form of a new mandate that all Americans by their product. But while that whole "change" thing has yet to appear on most fronts, there is one area where President Obama's policy is in line with Candidate Obama's rhetoric: medical marijuana, with Attorney General Eric Holder promising to end federal raids on suppliers and patients who comply with state law, a welcome departure from the Bush administration's open disdain for the right of consenting adults to use medicines not manufactured by major pharmaceutical companies and the will of voters in 14 states and the District of Colombia.

Fooled ya! As The Denver Post reports:
Federal drug-enforcement agents Friday raided the home of a Highlands Ranch man who a day earlier bragged in a 9News report about the large and profitable medical-marijuana-growing operation in his basement.
Someone making a profit selling a drug? Oh dear, someone grab the smelling salts! Unless your name's Glaxo, Smith or Klein, the DEA won't be having any of that, hippie, despite the fact that, as stated by the Colorado government (pdf), "There are no regulations regarding dispensaries." And under the ballot initiative overwhelmingly approved by Colorado voters a decade ago, patients are allowed to specify caretakers to grow marijuana for them, so there's a clear reason why state law enforcement did not arrest this man first: he wasn't violating any state laws.

The DEA, however, isn't pretending this raid had anything to with a violation of state law, ostensibly the only reason the Obama administration would permit the agency to conduct one. No, it had to do with maintaing the supremacy of the central government, and signaling to we mere citizens that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, DC, not us peons leading our peaceful, productive lives, will decide what substances may or may not be put into our bodies:
Along with the raid, Jeffrey Sweetin, the Drug Enforcement Administration's special agent in charge of the Denver office, sent a message to anyone involved in Colorado's increasingly profitable medical-marijuana industry.
"It's still a violation of federal law," Sweetin said. "It's not medicine. We're still going to continue to investigate and arrest people."
Though you seem like a charming guy, special agent Sweetin, I must ask: what medical school did you go to? The medical value of marijuana is actually besides the point, though. The more fundamental question is, what entitles someone with a uniform and a badge to use the threat of force to dictate what another human being, another soul who entered this world ignorant and naked, may do, so long as their behavior is consensual and respectful of the equal right of others to experience the same freedom? And on a practical, cost-benefit level, isn't locking up and ruining the life of some pot dealer -- and taxing his neighbors to keep him locked up -- causing greater harm to society than if said dealer had been free to, horror of horrors, continue selling an herb that has never killed anyone to other consenting adults?

I don't expect a DEA agent or any defender of the drug policy status quo to answer that question satisfactorily because I suspect many, like agency chief Michelle Leonhart, aren't too concerned with the moral and philosophical problems with their line of work, instead getting off on the visceral thrill of busting down doors and cracking skulls and acting all special agent like, to which I say: grow up or get an Xbox.

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