Law enforcement, Nebraska State Patrol marijuana seizure

Are Marijuana Seizures the Last Gasp of the Drug War? Law Enforcement Should Look to the Future

This is embarrassing.

In Texas, a sheriff’s deputy arrested a Sulphur Springs woman for felony possession of THC gummies and less than one gram of bud, which law enforcement call a “controlled substance.” In another case last week, after a two-month police investigation, a Stamford, Ct. man was arrested with eight pounds of cannabis and $2,000 in cash.

Really? Law enforcement spent two months busting some guy for a small-time pot business? Or even worse, they arrested a woman for possession of gummies? Is this what passes for the Drug War these days?

Cannabis smuggling has even met the coronavirus. News outlets in Dayton, Ohio reported this week that U.S. Customs officials on Friday found four pounds of cannabis hidden inside Lysol and Clorox cleaning products. The shipment was tipped off by drug-sniffing dogs and was found in a Canadian shipment to a doctor in Barbados.

A self-congratulatory press release indicated how proud officers were of the apprehension. “This is another excellent example of what U.S. Customs and Border Protection does each and every day,” it crowed.

The dedication and vigilance of our officers at our express consignment facilities continues to prevent a substantial amount (sic) of drugs from reaching their destination

U.S Customs and Border Protection

Smuggling cannabis in plastic containers disguised as something our president recently suggested we ingest to ward off viruses is pretty disgusting. But equally so is that this is what we are spending billions of federal dollars for, and we’re accomplishing, uh, what exactly?

Meanwhile, in Colorado, adults have purchased thousands of pounds of cannabis, almost $8 billion worth, since retail stores opened six years ago, generating more than a billion dollars in revenue for the state. About one in five adults in Colorado use cannabis for one reason or another. Tens of thousands of people have jobs in the industry or one that supports it. This is being repeated in states around the country. A billion dollars in revenue.

Which seems more sensible? To make sure that a Texas woman is appropriately punished for using edibles? Or to come up with a reasonable way to deal with cannabis, like 11 states and the District of Columbia have already done?

The war against cannabis has been going on since it was taxed out of existence in the 1930s. Since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act half a century ago, it has gone ballistic, and the government now spends billions of dollars per year arresting citizens and bragging about it.

But, in point of fact, all that money isn’t doing anything. Adult Americans have been able to purchase cannabis on the black market since long before the Drug War began, and continue to do so where it’s not legal. The U.S. spent more than $47 billion last year, much of it trying to stop the flow of cannabis. More than half-a-million Americans, like the Texas woman, were arrested only for possession. And this is what we have to show for all that money spent?

Legalization hasn’t been perfect. No state has worked out sensible logistics for cannabis hospitality or come up with a corresponding test for intoxication like we have for alcohol. Cannabis businesses pay federal taxes yet operate under state statutes that say it’s legal and federal laws that say it’s not. There is little access to normal banking services afforded other businesses.

But the black market continues to diminish, there has been no noticeable increase in teenage use, and people in legal states continue to report that legalization has been a success in their states, even those who voted against it. 

And yet, in what has become a recurring, repetitive story, an Iowa man with 120 pounds of cannabis and $14,000 in cash was stopped in Kearney, Neb., along Interstate 80. Photos were distributed to news outlets showing off the haul.

And all this at a point in time when two-thirds of Americans are in favor of legalization and 90 percent support medical use. How long can American legislators and law enforcement continue policies that neither work nor have any basis in fact or reason?

Leland Rucker is a journalist who has been covering the cannabis industry culture since Amendment 64 legalized adult-use in Colorado, for Boulder Weekly, Sensi and now His full bio is here.

Leland Rucker is a journalist who has been covering the cannabis industry culture since Amendment 64 legalized adult-use in Colorado, for Boulder Weekly, Sensi and now His full bio is here.

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