Romney Vows to Fight Marijuana Legalization 'Tooth and Nail' Unlike His Opponent?
This clip of Mitt Romney talking about marijuana at an appearance in New Hampshire is about a month and a half old, but I don't think anyone has noted it here yet. It is interesting for the way it reflects the basic difference between Romney and Barack Obama when it comes to drug policy, which is a matter of style rather than substance. Asked about legalizing marijuana for medical use, Romney gives the standard prohibitionist response:
The Risks of Running a Medical Marijuana Business
The medical marijuana business is not an easy one to get into and to stay in, even though 17 states and Washington D.C. now have MMJ programs.
Attacks come from all angles; from state legislators who don’t like medical marijuana to groups that say MMJ attracts a bad crowd to the massive federal crackdown that utilizes several federal agencies like the DEA and the IRS.
Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, says that there are over 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries in California, more than 500 in Colorado, and "an untold number" of businesses that benefit from the industry, including packagers, software businesses and accountants.
Many of these business owners, Smith said, are "driven by a sense of compassion and desire to help people in need. They could be doing other things that are far less risky frankly and more lucrative, but they choose to help patients."
Dale Sky Jones, the executive chancellor of Oaksterdam University, an Oakland, California-based school offering training for the cannabis industry, said getting into the medical marijuana business requires "guts or insanity." In April 2012, the university experienced the ultimate risk for medical marijuana businesses: a DEA raid. "A school teaching about a plant that has never killed anyone was raided by over 100 federal law enforcement officers," Jones said of the event.
"Regardless of individual state laws, as far as marijuana facilities, growing and distributing marijuana is illegal under federal law," said Michael Rothermund, a DEA spokesman. "If you're in a business and selling marijuana, you run the risk of being raided or investigated federally."
But Jones believes the raids are part of a bigger message. "They have specifically gone after the oldest and the best," Jones said. "There are a lot of illegal growers running around -- why are you cutting down reputable groups? Because we're the easy targets. If you go after the most respected players, not only are you undercutting the financial practices of the industry, you're also striking fear in the hearts of people who want to do it well. There's a psychological war in addition to a multi-front attack."
While the DEA raids tend to get the most spotlight, many more marijuana businesses have been shut down quietly. According to Smith, the federal government -- mostly through asset forfeiture threats to landlords -- closed over 400 medical marijuana facilities in California and 57 in Colorado in the last year.
And the risks don’t look like they will be lessening anytime soon.
Who Is Funding the Medical Marijuana Ballot Measure in Arkansas?
Those who oppose marijuana for various reasons have usually have plenty of money from big corporations who would like to see marijuana prohibition continue. So those who favor marijuana law reform need a lot of cash as well.
Take the ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas this fall, for example.
"It's been a full on campaign for a little over a year now," says Chris Kell, spokesperson for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, a non-profit campaign instrumental in putting the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act on the ballot.
"We've raised a lot of money from Arkansans [and] from very generous support financially from Marijuana Policy Project," says Kell.
Over $250,000, to be more exact, is what MPP has spent on medical cannabis in Arkansas.
"We are entirely a member supported organization. We have over 50,000 dues paying members and basically when we go into these campaigns, we like to focus on whatever we can do to get the issue in front of the voters. In this case, paying for petition gatherers and public education," says Morgan Fox with MPP.
The measure, Kell says, will help thousands of sick Arkansans receive the compassionate care they need.
"This law is actually 8,000 words long for that very reason, so that this is not a gateway to recreational drugs. This is truly about compassionate care and people that could really benefit from this medicinal marijuana," says Kell.
If medical marijuana is going to finally some to the “Bible Belt,” one state is going to have to be the first to do it. Whether or not the first is Arkansas remains to be seen, and is dependent on advocates in the state and their effectiveness.
And of course it depends on the money available to combat the lies of medical marijuana opponents.
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