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Weed v. greed: The real reason marijuana remains illegal

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Betsi Fores
The Daily Caller News Foundation

Is marijuana really “the last thing we need … to be legalized?”

According to John Lovell, it is. Lovell, however, makes a living making sure joint smoking remains illegal. As a police lobbyist, Lovell gets paid to advocate for more police programs, most notably the increasingly unpopular War on Drugs, by securing grant funding and collecting fees.

In an article by Republic Report, reporter Lee Fang asserts that the War on Drug continues to dominate drug policy because it lines the pockets of lobbyists.

“Some of the groups who want to keep the drug illegal are police unions,” Fang writes. “One of the primary sources for cash for more policing activities are federal grants. … That’s what Lovell does, he gets those grants. He also fights against democratic mechanisms to legalize drugs.”

In 1996, California pioneered as the first state to legalize medicinal use of marijuana, adding an amendment in 2003.

Then, in 2010, Californians voted on a ballot initiative, Prop 19, that would legalize the drug, raise billions in taxes for the state of California and greatly reduce the amount of “victimless crime prosecutions.” Prop 19, however, failed to gain the state-wide traction needed to pass, much in part to Lovell’s lobbying firm, which was paid over $386,350 by various police unions, including the California Police Chiefs Association.

Lovell’s work to oppose the legalization of marijuana didn’t end with the death of Prop 19. Following the passage of Obama’s stimulus, Lovell began working on securing taxpayer funds to fund more projects to combat the War on Drugs.

A letter sent to a California police department writes:

“There are a number of important opportunities available to police agencies arising out of the recently adopted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Please take the time to read this bulletin from the US Department of Justice office of Justice Programs. John Lovell will be able to provide follow up information.”

Lovell represented a police union bid to direct $2.2 million into a “Marijuana Suppression Program.” Additionally, California police unions sought over $7.5 millions of federal money for a “Campaign Against Marijuana Planting” program.

The larger the grant, the larger fees police lobbyists are able to collect, thus continuing programs against marijuana.

Public perception about the War on Drugs has changed dramatically over the last decades. An Angus Reid poll in 2010 determined that 65 percent of Americans consider the federal government’s War on Drugs a failure. Support, or rather lack there of, for the drug policy is not a partisan issue either. The majority of both Democrats and Republicans questioned expressed discontent with the War on Drug policy.

Notably, people are beginning to draw distinction between marijuana and other illegal drugs.

The legalization of marijuana has border implications as well. Ron Laughery writes in the Daily Camara that the Economist estimates that about 40-60 percent of Mexican drug cartel revenue comes from the sale of marijuana to the U.S. “Take away half of any organization’s income, and their business model is forced to change dramatically,” he adds.

Despite evidence s indicating that people may be loosening up on the prohibition of marijuana, “for lobbyists like Lovell, legalization was a direct assault on hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential fees for helping to solicit taxpayer money for his clients,” Republic Report writes.

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