Marijuana Activists Confront US Drug Czar About Mexican Drug War Funding

The Just Say Now campaign to legalize marijuana slipped into a press conference today with US Durg Czar Gil Kerlikowske to deliver petition signed by 52,536 people, asking President Obama to end the federal government’s war on marijuana.

Daniel Pacheco, a Colombian student studying at Georgetown University and member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, confronted Kerlikowske and offered the petition on behalf of 52,536 Just Say Now activists, and then 28,000 people killed in Mexico in the bloody battle with drug cartels.

Video and Transcript Here:

“Today I represented the voices of 52,536 people who asked President Barack Obama to end the war on marijuana to deliver our petition directly to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, the man most responsible for the country’s continued prohibition of marijuana,” said Pacheco. “We ask that President Barack Obama and his administration hear Mexican President Calderon’s and Colombian President Santos’ call for a debate on legalizing marijuana in the United States – the only way to have any impact on the brutal war with cartels.”

Kerlikowske accepted the petition from Pacheco and Just Say Now. But when asked to respond to Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s call for an open conversation about legalizing marijuana as a way to defund the drug cartels, Kerlikowske falsely claimed that marijuana profits are a “small part” of the cartels’ operations. In fact, ONDCP published a report in 2006 that said more than 60% of drug cartels’ profits come from marijuana. Testimony to the Senate from both the FBI and DEA confirmed this figure in 2010.

“Mr. Kerlikowske is way off base when he says that, ‘No one with any vast experience at all with law enforcement and prosecution and criminal justice’ believes that marijuana legalization would disrupt the drug cartels,” said Neill Franklin, a 34-year veteran narcotics cop and current executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “From my own experience on the front lines of the so-called ‘war on drugs,’ I know that when we legalize and regulate marijuana, we’re going to deal a huge blow to the bloodthirsty drug cartels and street gangs that control the currently illegal market, just as we put gangsters out of business by ending alcohol prohibition.”

Kerlikowske’s press conference was timed for the same day that statistics were released which indicate that the use of marijuana increased in 2009. Kerlikowske blamed the availability of medical marijuana, among other factors.

“What ‘flat-Earther’s’ like Gil Kerlikowske refuse to acknowledge is that seven-plus decades of criminal pot prohibition have utterly failed to reduce marijuana access or use, said Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML and Just Say Now adviser. “We’ve enriched the Mexican cartel and prosecuted over 20 million Americans for violating marijuana laws since 1965, and yet our young people today acknowledge
that they have easier access to illegal pot than they have to alcohol or cigarettes. It’s time to cease ceding control of the marijuana market to untaxed criminal enterprises, and put it in the hands of licensed businesses through a public policy of legalization, regulation, taxation, and education.”

“It was great to be there with Daniel Pacheco, and watch him penetrate the bubble that the culture warriors have ensconced themselves in” said Jane Hamsher of, one of the co-founders of the Just Say Now campaign. “Daniel is amazingly courageous, and it’s wonderful to watch young people stepping up and demanding a better and more productive US drug policy.” Previously, Pacheco had organized a march in Bogota, Colombia against President Uribe’s attempts to roll back the country’s rules allowing personal drug use.

Just Say Now is a campaign to support marijuana reform in elections across the country, combining the strong readership of progressive political blog, with the grassroots organizing capacity of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The group has united a powerful, transpartisan group of strange bedfellows, including: former police chiefs; federal judges; prosecutors; drug reform and student groups; musicians and blogs. Organizers aim to drive turnout for the mid-terms to support marijuana initiatives on the ballot in Arizona, Oregon, California and South Dakota, as well as aiming to get initiatives on the ballot in 2012 Presidential battle-ground states.