By Ernest A. Canning on 9/13/2010, 7:11pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

This November, California voters will be afforded a rare opportunity to directly decide whether to legalize and tax the lawful cultivation, processing, distribution, sale, and consumption of marijuana by and to individuals over 21 years of age.

By approving Proposition 19, formally labeled the "Regulate, Control, Tax Cannabis Act of 2010" [PDF], voters will take an important first step towards ending the costly, hypocritical, and liberty-destroying "war on drugs" which, like its predecessor (Prohibition), has created a lucrative niche for criminal organizations --- hypocritical because the covert agencies of the U.S. government have long engaged in drug trafficking in support of Empire even as the so-called "War on Drugs" has provided a convenient excuse for supporting brutal dictatorial puppet regimes whose function it is to serve the interests of what John Perkins described in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man as the "corporatocracy"...

High cost of Nixon's phony 'War on Drugs'

In "America's War on Drugs: Misguided efforts that waste resources and sacrifice civil liberties" Mike Kroll attributes President Richrad Nixon's declaration of a "war on drugs" to the growing counterculture movement spawned by opposition to the war in Vietnam. This was followed by the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, which, per Kroll, "greatly increased Federal funding of law enforcement against drugs. Both the effort and funding was ratcheted up again during the Reagan administration."

Kroll reports:

According to figures from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University the annual financial cost of the Drug War tops $50 billion with $30 billion of that spent by state and local governments. At an estimated 2.3 million inmates America leads the world in its rate of incarceration and over half of those inmates are serving time for drug-related offenses.

Although the correlation between the 1970 passage of the Controlled Substances Act and the exponential growth in the U.S. prison population is depicted in the graph at right, the surprising feature, as reflected in a discussion at Alternet of a new study by researcher Jon Gettman, Ph.D., is the estimated $43 billion annual cost in controlling the least dangerous of the "controlled substances" --- marijuana --- "$10.7 billion in direct law enforcement costs, and $31.1 billion in lost tax revenues. And that may be an underestimate, at least on the law enforcement side, since Gettman made his calculations before the FBI released its latest arrest statistics in late September. The new FBI stats show an all-time record 829,627 marijuana arrests in 2006..."

Gettman estimates that illicit marijuana sales generate $112 billion annually, which helps to explain why Mexican drug cartels have engaged in a deadly war amongst one another and with the Mexican government that has cost 28,000 lives since 2006 and has produced a proposal by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to spend an even greater proportion of our already depleted National Treasury to escalate the "war on drugs" in Mexico, as patterned on our multibillion-dollar military aid program in Columbia.

What Clinton failed to mention is that our aid to Columbia, ostensibly to counter narcotics and terrorism, has funded Columbian death squads, who, according to Phillip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, often murder innocents "for soldiers' personal benefit or profit."

Covert U.S. drug trafficking

As we noted in Part III of our series on the long and storied history of torture by American agencies, "History of CIA Torture: Unraveling the Web of Deceit," torture is but one of the liberally used techniques, over the years, employed to help control populations in the U.S. Corporate Empire's forward march. Drug trafficking has long been used by the CIA to both control and fund its projects.

As revealed by Joseph Trento in his book, Prelude to Terror, the CIA's direct involvement dates back to 1949 when the CIA shipped weapons to remnants of the Nationalist Chinese army in Burma, returning with shipments of heroin to Taiwan, Bangkok, and Saigon. In 1966 the CIA's station chief in Laos decided to ship heroin home as "a means of financing operations without having to depend upon Congressional approval and funding." By 1967, Dover Air Force base became a transit for CIA heroin shipped inside the body bags of members of the US armed forces killed in Vietnam. In 1968, the CIA's principle customer, Mafioso Santos Trafficante, took control of all the large Saigon nightclubs that catered to U.S. servicemen, where Trafficante would then do his bit to "support the troops" by selling them heroin on the cheap.

By the mid-80’s, Reagan’s Afghan "freedom fighters," the same CIA-backed Mujahideen who would eventually morph into al-Qaeda, with the aid of Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency, turned Afghanistan into the world’s single largest exporter of opium and the source of half the heroin consumed in the US.

In Cocaine Politics (1991), P.D. Scott & J. Marshall expose the CIA’s involvement in drug smuggling, gun running, money laundering, murder, repression, and intrigue within a labyrinthine web of connections during the 1970s and 1980s involving, among the many, anti-Castro Cubans, Mexican drug lords, Argentina’s former military junta, right wing military governments in Bolivia, El Salvador, and Honduras, Klaus Barbie, Manuel Noriega, the Cali Cartel in Columbia, and Lt. Colonel Oliver North’s Contra supply network.

Scott & Marshall reveal that the monies from the Afghan opium trade were laundered through BCCI, which, per Trento, was transformed by the former Director of the CIA, George H. W. Bush, and the former head of Saudi intelligence "into a worldwide money-laundering machine...Bush had an account with BCCI…Subsequent Senate and other investigations concluded that the CIA, beginning with Bush, had protected the bank while it took part in illicit activities."

AfghanOp1.JPGAfghan opium production would drop off dramatically, especially in 2001 when the Taliban banned cultivation. But it returned with a vengeance following the late 2001 U.S. invasion. By October 2006, Afghanistan produced 87% of the world's supply of opium. Coincidence?

The history of U.S. foreign policy over the past 60 years can be understood only within the context of a long, sordid history of a variety of illegalities used to maintain the invisible Empire. During the 80s that illegality was concealed, in part, by a phony "war on drugs" in which, as noted by Scott & Marshall, the Reagan/Bush I administration coined "narcoterrorism" as part of its propaganda blitz designed to blame Cuba and Nicaragua for the flood of narcotics, even as CIA-acquired drugs were devastating our inner cities.

Take a good look at the "Afghanistan's deadly crop" chart. Are we to believe today's official line that only the Taliban are utilizing that crop as a means of funding? Are we to believe that today's CIA has abandoned its long, sordid history of drug smuggling as a means of covert funding?

Legalization does not equate to encouragement of use

The issue before California voters is not whether they would like to see people use marijuana or any other substance be it alcohol, cocaine, or heroin. By voting "yes," California voters will simply be saying that law enforcement, incarceration, and a phony "war on drugs" are not an appropriate means for dealing with substance abuse.

The so-called "war on drugs" is not simply a failure. It is a hypocritical tool used to establish the hegemony of a brutal corporate Empire. A "yes" vote on Prop 19 is a "no" vote to a brutal Empire maintained by your taxes for the benefit of the privileged few. It also represents the beginning of the possible end to decades of a blatantly self-destructive and failed attempt at social engineering.

Those who hope to let freedom ring have no choice but to vote "yes" this November.

Update 09/14/2010 The New York Times reports that the Service Employees International Union has announced that it will support Proposition 19.

Update 09/14/2010 According to two recently released government reports, although law enforcement effectuated 858,408 arrests on marijuana charges in 2009, or one American every 37 seconds, marijuana use has increased by 8%.

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).

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