Stop the Hatchet Job on Medical Marijuana Shops

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published July 8 by Grand Junction Free Press.

Around the turn of the last century, Carrie Nation opposed alcohol use. So zealous was her crusade that she gained a reputation for barging into bars armed with her Bible and a hatchet to smash up the establishments. Some say she even excused the assassination of President William McKinley, as he allegedly drank alcohol.

Today’s prohibitionists, too civilized for direct physical force, instead seek to impose the force of the vote. Rather than send in a woman with a hatchet, they threaten to send in police armed with guns.

Grand Junction voters already banned medical marijuana dispensaries. Apparently they want to punish people with debilitating pain and nausea by making their medicine harder to obtain. (Disclosure: One of our relatives uses a medical marijuana card.)

The modern Carrie Nations now want to legally destroy the lonely medicalmarijuana shop in Palisade. But does this make any sense?

To vote for such a ban, you must believe that mob rule properly trumps rights of property, economic production, and voluntary exchange. Once the mob gains the sanction of the government and the use of its guns, it can be difficult to contain. Who will become the next victim, and on what pretext? Should the mob also be empowered to shut down gun stores or politically incorrect bookstores?

Another victim of Carrie’s hatchet is individual responsibility. Most early Americans placed the responsibility of overindulgence on the user. For example, they condemned drunkenness as an abuse of a God-given gift. But alcohol was no more to blame for being drunk than food was responsible for being fat or guns for being careless. While God made no bad drink, people tended to think, some people made bad choices. Today many count medical marijuana as a God-given gift.

We wonder whether Carrie Nation would gleefully applaud or recoil in horror to witness her modern intellectual heirs. Today, rather than blame individuals for obesity, many blame the clown Ronald McDonald, promotional toys, and supersized portions. Who needs parental responsibility? Far easier to blame inanimate objects.

Modern-day Carrie Nations have taken the hatchet to all of Mexico, where the United States’ prohibitionist policies have decimated the country by enriching violent and well-armed narcoterrorists. Tea Party favorites such as Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, and Tom Tancredo have suggested scaling back the drug war as a way to curtail that violence.

That prohibition causes crime waves and police corruption should come as no surprise. Alcohol Prohibition enriched violent gangsters like Al Capone and Bugs Moran. Today, we don’t know brewers of alcoholic beverages as violent gangsters with names like “Johnny the Hick,” we know them as respectable citizens with names like “Governor John Hickenlooper.” Yes, alcohol is a drug, so we elected a one-time drug dealer to lead our state.

We wonder whether Carrie Nation would have been proud that her prohibitionist legacy included the government intentionally poisoning people. Last year Deborah Blum wrote an article for Slate titled, “The Chemist’s War: The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences.”

Blum writes, “Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.”

Collateral damage, right? Just like the sick in the Grand Valley who no longer have access to their medicine.

Blum quotes a 1927 editorial from the Chicago Tribune: “Normally, no American government would engage in such business… It is only in the curious fanaticism of Prohibition that any means, however barbarous, are considered justified.”

By the logic of prohibition, the ends justify the means, and individuals and their rights become expendable.

At least medical marijuana is available now in Colorado — though the state recently saddled the industry with onerous rules and regulatory incompetence. We seem to be lurching in the right direction.

We are also heartened that Rep. Jared Polis from Boulder has signed on to a bill to help return marijuana policy to the states. Polis joins other Democrats as well as Republicans Ron Paul and Dana Rohrabacher.

Polis stated in a release, “When a small business, such as a medical marijuana dispensary, can’t access basic banking services [because of federal laws] they either have to become cash-only — and become targets of crime — or they’ll end up out of business.”

Frankly people of the Grand Valley should be embarrassed to let Boulder take the lead on such an important issue of property rights and individual liberty.