Jesse Ventura Makes The Case For Cannabis

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This November, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will all decide whether to join ranks with states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington and legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Meanwhile, Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and Missouri will decide whether to legalize the prescription use of the drug for medical purposes. New York passed marijuana-use legislation in 2014 with the Compassionate Care Act, which legalized medical marijuana. One activist at the forefront of marijuana legislation is the former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura. He joins us to discuss his book, Marijuana Manifesto, and makes the case for legalizing cannabis.

To purchase Jesse’s book Marijuana Manifesto, published by Skyhorse Publishing, click here.

And see below to read the second chapter of Marijuana Manifesto.

How to Win the War on Drugs

I believe there is a way to win the war against the drug cartels: America and Mexico would have to legalize all drugs that have the potential for substance abuse, just like we do with tobacco and alcohol. Legalizing marijuana alone isn’t enough.

Even if we just decriminalized all drugs, we could significantly help addicts get the care they need in clinics and hospitals. Drug addiction should be treated medically because addiction is a medical condition. Putting drug addicts into jail doesn’t solve the root cause of the problem.

As the famous quote goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” This type of insanity describes the so- called War on Drugs perfectly. We continue to treat drug addiction criminally. However, if we treat it as a medical condition, I think you’d see our incarceration rates drop dramatically due to the fact that we are not putting these people in jail but in hospitals and rehab facilities. I think you’d see the drug war death tolls drop dramatically too.

In 2009, Mexico did decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all major narcotics, from marijuana, to cocaine, to heroin, to ecstasy, to crystal meth.1 Instead of arresting people caught with drugs, the police advised them to get clean and even gave them the addresses to the nearest rehab clinics. When I say small amounts of drugs, however, I mean really small amounts, what I would consider a nearly insignificant amount of drugs: cocaine was set at 0.5 g, heroin at 50 mg, methamphetamines at 40 mg, and marijuana at 5 g. These amounts are all considered acceptable “personal use” amounts – meaning if a person is caught with this amount, it is clear that person isn’t intending to sell it (which is still illegal) but that the person is intending to use it. I’d like to know, however, how the courts arrived at these particular quantities as the exact amount for “personal use.” For instance, in Washington state and Colorado, it is legal to have up to 28 g (about 1 oz.) of marijuana on you, and that is considered “personal use”.2 See what I mean by 5 g of marijuana being an insignificant amount? In any case, this decriminalization law has yet to lower arrest rates because officers rarely arrested people caught with those small amounts of drugs in the first place. They typically used the opportunity to get a bribe out of someone. Again, it still remains illegal to sell drugs in any capacity, so clearly that isn’t stopping anyone from buying them.

Unfortunately, the law didn’t achieve very much because the police wanted the drug dealers all along, not the small quantity buyers. Case in point: 60 per- cent of the 254,108 people in Mexico’s prison system are incarcerated due to drug- related crimes.3 In Mexico, there is also a huge disparity between the sentences for small-time drug dealers and violent criminals. For example, a 2012 Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) study revealed a drug dealer can receive a maximum of twenty-five years in jail, but the maximum for armed robbery is fifteen years, and it’s just fourteen years for a convicted rapist.4 Does that sound like justice to you? A rapist could be out of jail and on the streets eleven years earlier than a drug dealer!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am well aware of the drug-war death tolls and the strong arm of the Mexican cartels. I understand that a drug dealer could also be a violent criminal. Six months out of the year, I live completely off the grid in Mexico on the Baja peninsula. I live in a solar-paneled house. I’m about an hour from paved roads and any building powered by Mexico’s electrical grid. I can’t speak much Spanish (and the Spanish I can speak, I admittedly don’t speak very well), but I can get across what I need to say through pantomiming. If you ask a local down there, you might be surprised to know that the majority of Mexicans think it’s shameful to admit to or be accused of drug use. Being called a marijuano (pronounced “marihuano”) or pot head is actually considered an insult. That’s part of their culture, probably because if you’re a Mexican citizen caught with too much of any illegal drug, including marijuana, you could be subject to prosecution, heavy fines, and even jail time. And probably because the drug trade and the cartels have done such horrible things to the Mexican people that no Mexican would want to be associated with them in any way.

Consider these facts: In July 2015, the Mexican government released data showing that between 2007 and 2014, more than 164,000 people were victims of homicide due to the drug war5 and in 2007 alone, 2,837 people were killed.6 To put those numbers into perspective, let’s compare War on Drugs casualties to casualties from two other American wars that were being fought between 2007 and 2014, also on foreign soil. The United Nations and the Iraq Body Count website estimate that there were 103,000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq over that same seven-year time period.7 That means there were approximately 61,000 more civilians who died in Mexico due to the War on Drugs in comparison to the War on Terror.

Also worth considering are the fatalities of our troops in the Iraq and the Afghanistan wars: 2,379 US soldiers died in the Afghanistan War (from 2001 to January 2016). In the Iraq War, 4,495 US soldiers died from 2003 to 2015.8 That means more people died in Mexico in 2007 – in one year – compared to the amount of US troops that died throughout the entire span of the Afghanistan war. And when it comes to the 4,495 US soldiers who died throughout the entire span of the Iraq war? In 2008 alone, the Mexican government reported there were 6,844 people killed in Mexico’s drug war. In 2009, there were 9,635 people who died due to the drug war. Again, that means more people died in one year in Mexico than the number of service men and women in the entire span of the Iraq war (and the entire span of the Afghanistan war, for that matter). Go ahead, reread that and let it sink in a little.

The War on Drugs has also resulted in thousands of people being kid- napped. Over twenty-six thousand people have gone missing in Mexico between 2006 and 2012.9 Hundreds of villages have been devastated, and families have been forced to abandon their homes out of fear for their lives. That is the tragic cost of the War on Drugs. As long as we continue this war, the death toll will continue to climb. As I’ve said before, just because you make something illegal, that doesn’t mean it goes away. That just means criminals now run it. And as long as drugs are illegal, the cartels will stay in business, and they’re doing quite well for themselves too, if I might add. According to a bi-national study con- ducted by our government agencies and Mexican government agencies (including Homeland Security’s Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Mexico Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Publico, and Unidad De Inteligencia Financiera), the Mexican drug cartels reap between $19 billion and $29 billion, approximately, in profits from US drug sales each year.10 So will legalizing marijuana in Mexico put a dent in the cartels’ profits? I think the greater question is: Why does America insist on fighting wars it can – not win?

When it comes to marijuana in particular, the United States has – to put it lightly – a very sensitive relationship with Mexico. Our government is constantly putting the blame on our southern neighbors when it comes to our illegal drug problem. Our politicians say Mexico is lax in confiscating illegal drugs that are produced in the country and then shipped into the United States. We’re also constantly pointing out the corruption within the Mexican government (because there’s zero corruption in DC, right?) and claiming there are back-channel bribery deals between Mexican politicians, law enforcement, and Mexico’s drug cartels. We claim the drug war will never go away because the Mexican drug cartels are part of the Mexican economic infrastructure. Talk about a conspiracy theory!

Meanwhile, Mexico is quick to respond to these accusations with the obvious: there would be no illegal drug problem between our borders if the demand from American drug users didn’t create this lucrative market in the first place. And I agree. This is about supply and demand. If American drug users didn’t want Mexican drugs, they wouldn’t buy them. Again, just because you prohibit something, that doesn’t mean it goes away. People will always find a way to get what they want, if they want it badly enough.

To further this point, when marijuana was “legalized” in the United States, demand for illegal Mexican weed actually decreased and is continuing to decrease. The Drug Policy Research Center at the RAND Corporation states that in 2008, Mexico was responsible for as much as two-thirds of the marijuana consumed in America each year, 11 but because it is now legal for people to grow pot in the United States, Mexican marijuana accounts for less than a third of the total amount consumed in the United States today. Less than a third! Like I said, supply and demand. If I can purchase weed legally from a store, why on earth would I risk get- ting arrested to purchase it illegally from another country? We’re not putting the cartels out of business yet, but as Bob Dylan said, “the times, they are a-changin’!”

There isn’t much reliable data right now to determine how much marijuana is being produced in Mexico – or rather how much less weed is being produced – due to the limited legalization of marijuana in America. But we do know that the amount of weed that is being confiscated at the US border has decreased. So has the amount of weed that has been found and destroyed in fields by the Mexican government.

According to the Mexican attorney general’s office, in 2015, the Mexican government eradicated about twelve thousand acres of illegal marijuana, which is down from more than forty-four thousand acres in 2010.12 And although drug seizures at the border only represent a tiny fraction of what actually gets imported into the United States, the US Customs and Border Protection seized about 1,085 tons of marijuana at the border in 2014, which is less than the previous four years with 1,500 tons confiscated each year.13 And when it comes to arrests, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is seeing declining numbers as well. The Los Angeles Times reports that the number of US arrests by DEA agents involving foreign-grown marijuana dropped from 4,519 in 2010 to 2,367 in 2014.14 I suspect that these numbers will continue to decrease as Americans continue to buy homegrown, legal marijuana.

Also interesting to note is that the price of Mexican marijuana has decreased dramatically, which again follows the typical economic principles of supply and demand. Within the last four years, since there hasn’t been as much of a demand for Mexican marijuana, the amount that Mexican farmers receive per kilogram has fallen from $100 to $30!15 Stay with me here, people. I’m proving to you that by legalizing drugs we will loosen the grip of the cartels!

There’s one more thing that no one seemed to anticipate when weed was legalized in certain parts of the United States: quality of product. US and Mexican growers now compete not only on price, but also on quality. My good friend Dan Skye, the editor-in-chief of High Times magazine, would be able to vouch for me on this statistic: Mexican weed is without a doubt the bottom of the barrel when it comes to quality. First of all, it’s not as fresh as what you’d get in your local smoke shop. Secondly, it’s typically pressed tightly together due to the way it’s transported – and it’s full of seeds. When you’re looking for quality weed, look no further than cannabis grown in the USA because our legal weed distributors take great pride in their products! Legalization has also created demand for unique strains of weed, not to mention more specialized strains with higher concentrations of THC.

Think of American marijuana like craft beer: When it comes to beer, there’s always Budweiser, which will do the trick, but there are also local microbreweries that specialize in various flavors and higher alcohol contents. If you drink beer, what are you going to go with if you have a choice? Something in a can, that’s been sitting on a shelf for months – and before it got there, it went through several forms of refrigeration, and at some point wasn’t even refrigerated – or something fresh from the tap that was brewed with great emphasis on the quality, flavor, and brewing technique? Sure, Budweiser might be cheaper, but they also skimp on flavor and the freshness of ingredients.

So, back to our hypothetical scenario from Chapter 1: If Mexico and America legalized marijuana, would it make the Mexican cartels go the way of the dodo bird? Well, if Mexicans are allowed to grow it in their own backyards and Americans are allowed to do the same, then who needs to purchase pot illegally? If I can go to a store and buy it legally, why would I take the risk to get it on the black market, especially since I don’t know exactly what I’m get- ting? Now that marijuana is being regulated in the states where it is legal, it is being inspected and tested for pesticides and other harmful chemicals, just like any other consumer good. In December 2015, marijuana products from over one hundred thousand plants in Colorado were recalled when independent lab testing by the Denver Post showed that they contained high levels of banned pesticides.16 Luckily, no one reported any illness from partaking in pot grown with pesticide treatment, but that raises a very interesting question: Would you trust a Mexican drug lord to be up front with how the plant was grown? How would you even verify that information? I know people cringe when I say legalize all drugs, but when something is legalized, you take the power away from the criminals, and you know the purity of the substance because it’s being regulated. If people no longer have to rely on Mexican drug cartels for their weed, then there will be one less illegal substance responsible for all the death and destruction the drug trade has caused. It’s as simple as that.

To go back to why we should be legalizing all drugs, let’s not forget that the Mexican drug cartels do not make all of their money from marijuana, and they are already adapting to the changing markets. It’s no secret that Mexican cartels make more money selling heroin and meth than they do pot.17 A 2010 RAND study claimed that marijuana only accounted for 15 percent to 26 percent of cartel revenues.18 I’m sure that percentage has decreased even more now that America is busy growing the Rolls Royce of weed strains. Even though poppy plants (what heroin is made from) are a more labor-intensive crop than weed, require more water, take longer to mature, and the seeds are overall are more expensive and difficult to acquire, the profits are greater. There is a heroin epidemic in America, and we are driving up the prices for the underground market yet again. The Mexican cartels are already shifting from marijuana fields to poppy fields due to the principles of supply and demand. You know, it’s no accident that the world’s biggest consumer of illegal drugs and the world’s biggest supplier of illegal drugs just happen to be neighbors.

Now, there are benefits and setbacks from switching gears from the marijuana market to cocaine, heroin, and meth. There’s a reason why coke and heroin cost so much more than pot on the street. See, addicts aren’t paying for the drugs; they’re actually compensating everyone along the distribution chain for the risks they took in getting the drug into the neighborhood. According to New York Times magazine, the value-to-weight ratio of heroin is better than any other drug, but moving it is a “capital-intensive business.”19 Mexican drug cartels typically subsidize the cost of heroin with their ready source of easy income: marijuana. Even though Mexican pot is cheap to buy, it’s often considered the “cash crop” for Mexican cartels because it is grown abundantly in the Sierra mountain region and requires no processing.20 However, pot is bulkier to carry and it has a very particular smell, which makes it difficult to conceal no matter how it is transported. So moving away from the “cash crop” of marijuana to plant more poppy fields might mean profits could initially go down, but they’ll eventually go back up again as heroin will ultimately bring back a better profit margin. Also, there’s a huge difference between those who smoke pot and those who use heroin. Heroin is extremely addictive – just one use and a person could be hooked for life – whereas marijuana isn’t an addictive substance at all. In fact, pot can be used in rehab situations to help a person kick heroin addiction. So when it comes down to it, by focusing on heroin rather than pot, the Mexican cartels will be able to secure repeat customers. Many Americans will unfortunately be invested for life. It’s true that more Americans use marijuana than heroin, but remember – the profit is bigger from heroin than marijuana. And if the drug cartels need another “cash crop” to replace marijuana, they can just start cooking more meth.

When Mexican drug cartels first started producing meth, they stashed the product in cocaine and marijuana shipments to the United States and they let their usual customers try it out for free.21 Today, the drug sells for so much money in the United States that the cartels don’t even bother shipping it to Europe. Compared to pot, meth is much easier to smuggle into the United States because it isn’t bulky, it doesn’t smell, and it sells out instantly. Meth is more addictive than cocaine, and it is much more expensive to purchase than marijuana. For instance, in 2002, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) reported that 1 g of pure meth could sell for as much as $330 in Chicago, but only $60 in Seattle.22 Today, an ounce of meth costs nearly ten times as much as an ounce of gold.23 There are approximately 1.4 million meth users in America;24 needless to say, this is a booming market for Mexican drug cartels. In fact, the DEA’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment noted that the cartels are shifting away from the cocaine business and moving toward building more meth “super labs.”25 In 2015, the DEA saw that the amount of cocaine caught by law enforcement dropped in nearly every significant smuggling corridor along the entire US–Mexico border. There was a 20 percent drop in South Texas’s Rio Grande Valley and a 12 percent drop in San Diego – the two places that are known to be hot spots for cocaine trafficking. Meanwhile, meth seizures are climbing by 90 percent in the Rio Grande Valley and 245 percent in El Paso. That’s just in one year.

Another reason why meth is on the rise is because it is much more addictive than coke, which means the drug cartels have an even better consumer base. Animal studies conducted at UCLA show that cocaine releases 350 units of dopamine (what creates the high), while meth releases almost four times as much – about 1,200 units.26 Now, your brain produces dopamine naturally and when you have that much more dopamine in your system, it actually causes your body to produce less dopamine until it stops producing it entirely. The more a person uses meth, the more the drug changes the brain’s wiring until it actually destroys the brain’s dopamine receptors. This is why the drug is so addictive. Once the dopamine receptors are destroyed, meth users can never experience pleasure again unless they artificially put more dopamine into their bodies by using more meth. Although dopamine receptors can eventually grow back over time, chronic meth use can also cause other permanent brain damage, including declines in reasoning, judgment, and motor skills.27 Needless to say, I’m against meth use one hundred percent, but just because I’m against it, that doesn’t mean people won’t use it. All we’re doing by making it illegal is helping the Mexican cartels get more rich and powerful.

So just how powerful are the Mexican cartels today? New York Times magazine reports that the cartels bribe a host of senior officials – from mayors and prosecutors to governors, state police and federal police, to the army and the navy.28 To give you an example of how high up the chain of command this bribery extends, in 2008, President Felipe Calderón’s own drug czar, Noe Ramirez, was charged with accepting $450,000 each month from the drug cartels!29 But the bribery doesn’t end there. Our guards at the US border are also pawns in the system. New York Times magazine reports that US border security guards have been known to wave cars through checkpoints – without doing any of the procedural searches – for a few thousand dollars.30 How’s that for your tax dollars at work? From 2004 to 2012, there have been 138 convictions or indictments in corruption investigations involving members of the United States Customs and Border Protection,31 and don’t get me started on what the DEA has been get- ting away with – more on that in chapter 3. True to our capitalistic nature, our government employees are certainly not above being bribed by the cartels in the so-called War on Drugs!

In the interest of preserving life, I think it’s high time we consider some alternatives to whatever our strategy has been in the never-ending War on Drugs. We’ve been at “war” with drugs since President Nixon proclaimed us to be in 1971. As of 2016, that’s forty-five years ago! The Associated Press reports that in the past forty years, we’ve spent $1 trillion on the drug war.32 I say we because our taxpayer money is what’s footing the bill. On average, we’re spending about $51 billion a year trying to eradicate drugs from our country. Meanwhile, the DEA has been successful in capturing less than 10 percent of all illegal drugs that enter the United States. How much more money do you think it will take to stop the other ninety percent? Too much. Does $51 billion a year for a 90 percent failure rate seem like a good investment of our tax dollars to you? I know that $51 billion per year has done nothing to change the fact that illegal drugs are readily available and people are continuing to use them nationwide. I also know that we spent over $900 million in the first week of 2016 alone on the War on Drugs! For what? We might never know! You can check for yourself to see how much we are spending each day on a second-by-second basis at the drug war clock: Drug War Clock | DrugSense.

What is wrong with our country? How can the war on drugs possibly be worth it? Addiction is a mental health issue. It should not be treated criminally. That’s why we have prisons that are full, and that’s why we’re paying hundreds of millions of dollars for these people to stay in jail instead of getting them the help they need.

My final thought is simply this: the drug war is not working. We have to start looking at all drugs as a necessary evil, not just select drugs like tobacco and alcohol. The only way to fight back is to educate and treat people. Incarceration doesn’t work. Allowing drugs to be managed by criminals doesn’t work. Allowing drugs to be legal? We haven’t tried that yet. Maybe Mexico’s Supreme Court decision will allow marijuana to be fully legalized. Government officials are already looking into the benefits of medical marijuana, and 79 percent of Mexican citizens are in favor of its medical use.33 Who knows, maybe if Mexico loosens its marijuana laws, it will also update its decriminalization laws so more people wind up getting treatment instead of jail time. Any way you look at it, the United States is the biggest consumer of drugs from Mexico, which means we’re the major root of the problem, which means we have to change our policies as well. Too many lives are being destroyed.

There’s a lot of money to be made from the legalization of marijuana. If we legalize marijuana nationwide, then we’ll create more jobs than the Keystone Pipeline ever could. But not everyone sees it that way. Remember: always follow the money! The War on Drugs is happening because Democrats and Republicans are getting paid to keep it going.

Forget for a minute how much the United States stands to gain by ending this so-called war. Forget for a minute that we can make massive amounts of money off of the legalization of marijuana. Think for a minute: Who is making money off of the War on Drugs right now? Do you really think the DEA is going to turn around and say, yes, let’s end this war? Why on earth would they? They’d all be out of a job! Think of all the committees and task forces too. Hillary Clinton is running for president, claiming it’s time for prison reform, but in case you forgot, when her husband was president he did a great job of creating today’s prison problems – like increasing mandatory minimum sentencing for minor drug offenses – and I’ll be giving you a refresher course on that and more a little later on in this book.

If we want to end the War on Drugs, we need to elect the right people who truly want to reduce government. The people who truly want us to pay less in taxes. This war is happening because the people in power right now are being paid off to keep it going. Could you imagine how many people would be out of a job if the war on drugs ended today? People in high places are making money by keeping drugs – including marijuana – illegal, and it isn’t just the cartels and the Mexican authorities.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Jesse Ventura Makes The Case For Cannabis
Author: Staff
Contact: MetroFocus
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Website: MetroFocus