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July 19, 2009 -- NORML Blog (US)

Meet Congress' New Teeny Tiny Anti-Marijuana Caucus

By Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive


During a time of immense cannabis law reforms and major shifts in public opinion in favor of such, emerges now a throwback to the dark ages of America's war on some drugs from the 1980s: The Congressional Anti-Cannabis Caucus.

Escaping any real media attention last week was the formulation of a new anti-marijuana caucus in the House of Representatives. As reported in Roll Call on July 13, a press conference was held with former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) that seeks to re-commit the Congress to the status quo of 'fighting a war on drugs'.

The photograph displayed on Roll Call (which is a subscription publication) of the press conference prominently featured an anti-medical marijuana prop (made from a shoe box).

Heard on the Hill: Issa clutched a prop, a box that represented a shipment of medical marijuana. On the box was the handwritten phrase "Medical Rx" and a drawing of a pot leaf.

The newly formed House Drug Task Force elected ardent anti-cannabis congressman John Mica (R-FL), who, according to the Deseret News, complained that the Obama administration "seeks to shut the war on drugs down."

And that, "the record to date is dismal with the demotion of Drug Czar's office to a sub-Cabinet position, the announced support for needle exchange programs, the decriminalization of illegal narcotics and other measures that would weaken current national anti-drug efforts."

Deseret News reports that the task force -- which currently only has Republican members -- has four core initiatives: stopping drug use before it starts through education and community action; healing drug users; disrupting the narcotics market; and stringent narcotics enforcement.

In other words, this 'new' anti-cannabis caucus would like to continue wasting taxpayers' money, keep twisting the Constitution into knots, and continue killing innocent bystanders and drug users -- while at the same time -- hypocritically supporting government regulatory schemes that allows for the production, sale and taxation of more dangerous and addictive drugs such as tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals products.

The members of this new anti-cannabis caucus in the Congress are: Dan Burton (R-IN), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), John Mica (R-FL), Aaron Schock (R-IL), Mark Souder (R-IN) and Michael Turner (R-OH).

What? No Mark Kirk (R-IL)?

Two relevant points: 1) As this so-called 'House task force' is only populated with Republicans, it is hardly a 'House' task force, and 2) back in the overzealous 'anti-drug' 1980s, there was a large, powerful and bi-partisan 'Select House Subcommittee On Narcotics', chaired by uber-powerful Charles Rangel (D-NY), and strongly supported by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

This committee dubiously helped champion the creation of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Partnership for a Drug-America campaign, DARE program in public schools, civil forfeiture laws, mandatory minimum sentencing, mass drug testing in the workplace, etc..

Where is the CBC and Way and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel these days on the so-called war on drugs?

In general, Rep. Rangel and the CBC (headed by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, of Oakland) no longer support 'warring on drugs' as much as they embrace the effective public health doctrine of 'harm reduction'.

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