The Real Purpose of the Drug War

A heart in love will decipher every squiggle in a letter as a kiss. In the final days of the 2008 campaign and in the opening ones of his administration, Obama and his top legal aides seemed to the eager ears of marijuana legalizers on the West Coast to be opening the door to a new, sensible era.

Here was the basic line as dispensed by Attorney General Eric Holder on March 18, 2009:

“The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law. To the extent that people do that and try to use medical marijuana laws [such as California’s Prop 215]as a shield for activity that is not designed to comport with what the intention was of the state law, those are the organizations, the people, that we will target. And that is consistent with what the president said during the campaign.”

The next day drug activists exulted in a big win. “Today’s comments clearly represent a change in policy out of Washington,” Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance told the LA Times. Holder, Nadelmann added in the New York Times, had sent a clear message to the DEA that the feds now recognize state medical marijuana laws as “kosher.”

Striking a different sort of exultant note, the US Attorney’s spokesman in Los Angeles, Thom Mrozek, told the LA Times: “In every single case we have prosecuted, the defendants violated state as well as federal law.” On January 22 (two days after Obama’s inauguration) DEA agents conducted a raid on a South Lake Tahoe cannabis dispensary run by a wheelchair-bound entrepreneur named Ken Estes. They seized about five pounds of herbal medicine and a few thousand dollars. No arrests were made. “It was a typical rip-and-run,” Estes said. On February 3, the DEA raided four cannabis dispensaries in the LA area. Eight days later DEA agents busted the MendoHealing Co-operative farm in Fort Bragg, California.

The love-flushed Obamians had forgotten how to read political declarations with a close and realistic eye, and to bear in mind the eternal power struggles between federal prosecutors and enforcers—e.g., the DEA and equivalent state bodies. The feds wanted to make it completely clear that, whatever Obama might hint at, they weren’t going to be hog-tied by wussy state laws. Bust a guy in a wheelchair, bust a dispensary, make your point: I’m the man.

Meanwhile, what has been happening out in the fields, dells, plastic greenhouses, indoor grows in the counties of Mendocino and Humboldt? The timeless rhythms of agriculture: overproduction, plummeting prices, the remorseless toll of costly inputs like soil and fertilizers.

– Read the entire article in CounterPunch.



  1. Buds on

    IMO, the drug war is mostly about money. Money for all those who make, enforce and practice the law and money for those who break it for profit. The rest of us poor slubs are caught in the middle and are simply dollar signs for those who play the game.

  2. Dave on

    According to Orwell, the real purpose of (any) war is to waste our labour otherwise we’d ….

  3. anima425 on

    The original purpose was to destroy all major war-party opposition; it did all that during the 80s and propped up a bunch of phony lefties in their place. The ongoing purpose is to continue to prevent real antiwar political power from growing, to keep the working-class divided and fighting amongst itself, and to act as a huge cash-cow for the war-party vampires and vultures.

    Saying it is all about control is putting it lightly.

  4. Mrs. Ratsrectum on

    It’s all about control, worldwide control, because of international treaties.