Who Is Secretly Working to Keep Pot Illegal?
The Prison-Industrial Complex
The business models for private prison corporations are all the same: buy land, build cells and let law-enforcement agencies fill those cells. With a marijuana arrest made every 38 seconds—more than 15 million since 1973—housing pot prisoners is big business. “Private prison corporations spend big dollars supporting anti-marijuana legalization groups for this reason,” says St. Pierre.
There are many others in the marijuana-conviction food chain. “Because judges now allow drug offenders to choose between treatment and jail,” says Mike Meno, spokesman for the pro-pot advocacy organization, the Marijuana Policy Project, “more people are now admitted to treatment centers for marijuana than any other drug. This [treatment center] revenue stream goes away if marijuana becomes legal.”
And then there are hundreds, if not thousands, of subsidiaries further downstream. Critics have pointed, for example, to helicopter manufacturers (whose products are used for pesticide spraying, drug-war enforcement, etc.), pesticide peddlers and, well, even drug lords. In a 2009 article for the Huffington Post, David Sterry reported that Joaquin Guzman Loera, reputed head of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel (and number 701 on the Forbes list of the wealthiest men in the world), officially thanked U.S. politicians for keeping drugs illegal and making him rich.
Sperry wrote: “According to one of his closest confidants, he [Loera] said, ‘I couldn't have gotten so stinking rich without George Bush, George Bush Jr., Ronald Reagan, even El Presidente Obama. None of them have the cajones to stand up to all the big money that wants to keep this stuff illegal. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say, gracias amigos, I owe my whole empire to you.’"
Regardless of the economic, medical and other benefits of hemp—and despite evidence showing marijuana may be safer than alcohol—pot remains officially lumped in with dangerous and highly addictive narcotics like cocaine, amphetamines and heroin. It’s no wonder, with so many powerful organizations secretly pursuing no-holds-barred anti-legalization agendas. Until they reverse their stance, it’s a good bet that pot will remain an illegal activity in America.
Steven Kotler is the author of The Angle Quickest for Flight, West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief and A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life. His non-fiction has appeared in more than 50 publications, including the New York Times Magazine, LA Times, Wired, Popular Science, GQ, Outside and National Geographic. He writes The Playing Field, a blog about the science of sport, for PsychologyToday and is op-ed editor and chief investigative reporter for ecology site, EcoHearth.com. More at StevenKotler.com.