Obama and the War on Drugs: Hypocrisy in Action

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

President_Barack_ObamaPresident Obama has admitted that while in school he was a frequent marijuana smoker. George W. Bush also alluded to smoking marijuana and possibly to using cocaine. Bill Clinton claimed to have smoked it but not inhaled it, which is the type of ridiculous statement Clinton is capable of asserting for political gain. Thus the last three Presidents of the United States have admitted that one time or another they have broken the law and used a banned substance. While each of those Presidents presided over the continued witch hunt and prosecution of the “War On Drugs” I believe that Barack Obama has been the most hypocritical.

Had either G.W. Bush, or Bill Clinton been arrested for smoking marijuana there is no doubt in my mind that they would have neither served jail time, nor would they have had their careers stained by a criminal record. Bush, as the scion of a great political family would have had his record expunged, or possibly have had the police back off when they discovered who he was. Bill Clinton was a student at a prestigious University and while not rich, came from a politically connected family in Arkansas. What they also had in common was that they were White men. Barack Obama on the other hand would have likely been arrested, despite his status as a Harvard student and while he probably would have escaped jail time he would have been forced to take a plea which would remain on his record. If such a thing had occurred it is highly probable that Barack Obama would never have been elected Senator, much less President. There is a likelihood that he might never even have been allowed to enter the Bar as an attorney, since that entrance requires extensive background checks. Whatever you might think of him Barack Obama is a very intelligent man. Surely he must realize how fortunate he was to not get caught smoking grass and yet as President he has stepped up the War On Drugs and has allowed egregious prosecutions in States that have passed medical marijuana laws. To my mind this is blatant hypocrisy, but beyond that political position lies a destructiveness that can only rationally be seen as the continuance of the oppression of Americans of color, particularly Blacks, by our Federal Government. I will deal with our President’s hypocrisy and use it as the basis of my condemnation of the War On Drugs.

Recent years have seen ballot initiatives in many States such as California’s approval of Medical Marijuana and Colorado’s decriminalization of marijuana use. At the same time Attorney General Holder has reiterated that despite these States’ initiatives, the Federal Government will continue to arrest and prosecute for the sale and possession of marijuana. President Obama has backed the position of his Attorney General and we have seen raids and arrests in Medical Marijuana facilities and shutting them down. This is only a small portion of why our President is a hypocrite on this subject. The figures I am about to use and the arguments I will make can be backed up by evidence, which will be provided as links at the end of this piece. My hubris, if you will, is this is an issue that I know so well that I don’t have to make my case by quoting others. Indeed as can be read in many of my comments here through the years and in some of my guest blogs, I think this is a critical issue for our country.

To me hypocrites are people who assert positions and carries out actions that they know are false and ineffective, possibly in this case quite harmful.  President Obama is a hypocrite because he must know that marijuana is a relatively benign substance, which studies have shown is much less destructive than alcohol, since he has smoked weed and no doubt drunk alcohol. His friends all got high and few if any of them suffered bad consequences or were unable to become productive members of society. The evidence is overwhelming, yet the Drug Enforcement Complex (DEC) continues to carry on a crusade against those who use marijuana and continue to imprison people and destroy their lives through prosecution. When I speak of the DEC, I include the now interlocked web of the DEA, FBI, ATF, the Prison System, and State and local police forces who receive benefit from participating in this phony War On Drugs.

Since as you can tell the tone of my writing this is scathing I must admit to why I have a personal bias. From the age of 17 until the age of 37, I regularly smoked marijuana daily. During that time I worked my way through college, maintained continuous employment where I was promoted regularly, won a full tuition work study scholarship for my Masters at a prestigious school and successfully completed a 5 year training course as a psychotherapist. In graduate school my “cum” was 3.9 and I wrote all of my required papers, which consistently were graded A to A+, while smoking grass. The confession continues with the fact that I was a hyper-active, anxious child, with more than a touch of OCD and that smoking grass allowed me to “chill out” so to speak and focus myself. I had also since a baby suffered from insomnia, since I couldn’t shut my mind off and when I started smoking pot I was able to get to sleep. My driving record showed no moving violations for 50 years and no automobile accidents. When grass was unavailable, I didn’t smoke it, but it was rarely unavailable. I stopped at age 37 since I became a father and didn’t want my children growing up with contact highs. Stopping was easy since one day I smoked and the next day I didn’t. I didn’t replace smoking grass with the Legal Drug alcohol, because I have always been a drinker in strictly social situations and never drink at home. Not out of caution but out of the fact that I don’t particularly care for the alcohol high.  My sleeping was affected by giving up grass, but being young I learned to be able to function on about four hours of sleep per night. As for my anxiety, hyper activity and OCD they were brought under control via years of psychotherapy, but until then marijuana was a helpful part of my life and why shouldn’t it be?

That was my anecdotal experience, but what of those around me and of my generation. What has been covered up through the years is the realities that if you are above the age of forty you likely have smoked pot. I would guess that figure would be about 80% of the people of America over age 40 were at one time or another “pot smokers”. During the late 60’s and through the 1970’s in New York the smell of grass was ubiquitous in movie theaters, sports arenas, concert halls and on the streets. This was also true all across the country.  Almost everybody “got high” and almost all suffered no ill consequences. I use 40 as a cutoff point based on the assumption that the leaders of government and business generally are over 40. What pushed smoking grass underground was the ascension of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency. His rise was assisted by the support of Right Wing Christian moralists and by the still racially divided South and Southwest. He was also supported those with placid childhood memories of the “golden era” 50’s, where the entire underside of America was swept under the rug so to speak. Some of these people were blatantly hypocritical given their private lives, but their attitude was that the masses needed control by their privileged insight. So Nancy Reagan said “just say no” and the DEA, which was formed under Nixon, received a massive influx of money and publicity. The “War On Drugs” escalated beyond control.

What was behind this sudden interest in the putative “drug problem” was not only the catering to a Right Wing base, but also in a sinister sense the “War On Drugs” was code for a war on people of color as it had always been since Harry J. Anslinger, with help from William R. Hearst for both economic and racial reasons had marijuana outlawed.

“Harry Jacob Anslinger (May 20, 1892 – November 14, 1975) held office as the Assistant Prohibition Commissioner in the Bureau of Prohibition, before being appointed as the first Commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department‘s Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) on August 12, 1930.

Anslinger held office an unprecedented 32 years in his role as Commissioner until 1962. He then held office two years as US Representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission. The responsibilities once held by Anslinger are now largely under the jurisdiction of the U.S.” Office of National Drug Control Policy.

From 1930 to 1937 Anslinger, with extensive backing from Hearst in his newspapers campaigned to have marijuana made illegal. That Anslinger had been at the forefront of enforcing the laws of Prohibition, which proved abject failures and now was finding another fruitless crusade to keep himself gainfully employed as the handwriting was on the wall that Prohibition would soon end, was rarely questioned. Part of Anslinger’s success in having marijuana outlawed was that the outlawing had a decidedly racial component.

“Anslinger has been accused to be responsible for racial themes in articles against marijuana in the 1930s.

“By the tons it is coming into this country — the deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms…. Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him….”[16]

“Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with (white) female students, smoking [marijuana] and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result: pregnancy”[17][18]

“Two Negros took a girl fourteen years old and kept her for two days under the influence of hemp. Upon recovery she was found to be suffering from syphilis.”[18][19]

“The first Federal law-enforcement administrator to recognize the signs of a national criminal syndication and sound the alarm was Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics in the Treasury” (Ronald Reagan 1986)[20]

When Anslinger was interviewed in 1954 about drug abuse (see below), he did not mention anything about race or sex. In his book The Protectors (1964) Anslinger has a chapter called “Jazz and Junk Don’t Mix” about the black jazz musicians Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker, who both died after years of heroin and alcohol abuse:

“Jazz entertainers are neither fish nor fowl. They do not get the million-dollar protection Hollywood and Broadway can afford for their stars who have become addicted – and there are many more than will ever be revealed. Perhaps this is because jazz, once considered a decadent kind of music, has only token respectability. Jazz grew up next door to crime, so to speak. Clubs of dubious reputation were, for a long time, the only places where it could be heard. But the times bring changes, and as Billy Holiday was a victim of time and change, so too was Charlie Parker, a man whose music, like Billie’s, is still widely imitated. Most musicians credit Parker among others as spearheading what is called modern jazz.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_J._Anslinger

The effectiveness of the “War On Drugs” in negatively affecting the lives of American people of color, especially Blacks is incontrovertible by the statistics:

“Race: Black males continue to be incarcerated at an extraordinary rate. Black males make up 35.4 percent of the jail and prison population — even though they make up less than 10 percent of the overall U.S population. Four percent of U.S. black males were in jail or prison last year, compared to 1.7 percent of Hispanic males and .7 percent of white males. In other words, black males were locked up at almost six times the rate of their white counterparts.”        http://www.nccd-crc.org/nccd/pubs/2006nov_factsheet_incarceration.pdf

And again from my guest blog on the subject: https://jonathanturley.org/2011/11/26/the-incarceration-of-black-men-in-america/#comments

“Race: Black males continue to be incarcerated at an extraordinary rate. Black males make up 35.4 percent of the jail and prison population — even though they make up less than 10 percent of the overall U.S population. Four percent of U.S. black males were in jail or prison last year, compared to 1.7 percent of Hispanic males and .7 percent of white males. In other words, black males were locked up at almost six times the rate of their white counterparts.”    http://www.laprogressive.com/law-and-the-justice-system/boiling-hot-mad/.html

There is even more that shows the “War On Drugs” is a war on Black Americans:

“Nationwide, black males convicted of drug felonies in state courts are sentenced to prison 52 percent of the time, while white males are sentenced to prison only 34 percent of the time. The ratio for women is similar – 41 percent of black female felony drug offenders are sentenced to  prison, as compared to 24 percent of white females. With respect to violent offenses, 74 percent of  black male convicted felons serve prison time, as opposed to only 60 percent of white male convicted felons. With respect to all felonies, 58 percent of black male convicted felons, as opposed to 45 percent of white men, serve prison sentences”.  http://www.civilrights.org/publications/justiceontrialsentencing.html          

There are estimated to be over a million people incarcerated in American on drug related offenses, the majority of which are Black. In most States convicted felons lose their voting rights and their jail records ensure that their chances for employment are limited. The “War On Drugs” is a war on people of color, particularly Black people. This is President Obama’s hypocrisy and this is President Obama’s shame. Is it too much to assume that our first Black President would not make life worse for his fellow Black Americans and would at least not be responsible for continuing a futile “War On Drugs”. It is estimated that since 1971 the United States has spent $1 Trillion pursuing this insane “War”. Last year alone the cost was $41 Billion alone, not counting court and incarceration costs. http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/06/opinion/branson-end-war-on-drugs

The futility and hypocrisy of this war is becoming recognized by people on both the Right and Left sides of the political equation. The people are passing referendums decriminalizing marijuana use and the support for it grows from our politicians. It is time for our President to stop this hypocrisy and this sham. It is also time to turn the money spent on drug enforcement, into money spent on drug rehabilitation for those who need it.

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger






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