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July 20, 2007

Lobbying and Public Policy (Political)

One no longer needs to be numbered among the cognoscenti to know that K Street is to DC lobbyists what Wall Street is to NY financiers. Marijuana Policy Project, a group founded by disgruntled refugees from NORML in 1995, struggled for a while, but thanks to a single wealthy funder, has recently joined the ranks of K street lobbyists. Their major preoccupation has been sponsoring state medical marijuana initiatives in the belief that the publc will eventually see that pot is far more benign than other, harder, drugs and thus clamor for Congress to “legalize” its recreational use. Thus they are following the same general strategy as their larger rival, NORML.

Their political opponents are tax supported lobbies within the federal government (otherwise known as ONDCP, the DEA, and NIDA) which have huge advantages. First of all, there’s all that taxpayer money; then, there’s the generally bad public image pot smoking has enjoyed since hippie days when it was equated with youthful irresponsibility, draft avoidance, dissent, and, although almost certainly in error— the use of “harder” drugs. There’s also the default of support for the federal position by state and local police organizations; primarily because of the bigger budgets and greater political power they derive from drug laws;  not to mention the increased opportunities for frorfeiture, graft, and corruption.

Reformers scored an unexpected political victory in 1996 when California’s Proposition 215 passed. Unfortunately, 10 years later, as I have grown weary pointing out, reform has failed to capitalize on that victory and now seems to be going backward.

The latest federal threat, one which promises to be very effective, was revealed in a letter warning LA property owners now renting to pot dispensaries of possible forfeiture of their property. This is the latest and most flagrant escalation of federal activity against the medical marijuana movement (only in California) in the  two years since the Raich decision.

Despite my disenchantment with reform leadership, I’d also been piqued enough by their excited chatter about a new TV special, “In Pot We Trust,” to watch it the other night. I should have gone to sleep instead.

It was a documentary by one Star Price, that focused on the activities of a young MPP lobbyist as he made his rounds in Congress. It laid out his message through voiceovers of his rap to lawmakers.  Apparently, in a spirit of “fairness,” opposing arguments from various supporters of the federal position were also aired, either as voiceovers or interviews. Talk about boring; it was a rehash of old arguments by the same old antagonists. The only significant new slant was the subtle adjustment in federal dogma:  although pot may have some medical benefits, young people seen in clubs are obviously “recreational,” and therefore cheats. They therefore represent the dangers pot poses to youth. Also, since it has to be smoked, it can’t qualify as medicine anyway.

 I tuned out the last thirty minutes or so, but did read the review which appeared in an on line journal focused to K Street.  Predictably MPP’s fellow lobbyists seem more interested in speculating on the personal drug history of the MPP lobbyist, while (somewhat surprisingly) a business source actually had some disparaging things to say about the feds.

But don’t look for Congress to take on the drug war in an election year...

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 20, 2007 01:25 AM