Weed Wars: Is This The Best You Can Do?

It’s been another pathetic week in the war on marijuana, in which the federal government makes a spectacle of itself by redefining the concept of “futile gesture” by — get this — busting 77-year-old music legend Willie Nelson for marijuana, and moving to ban fake pot.

What? You didn’t realize that weed-head Willie and counterfeit cannabis were among the biggest problems facing our nation? Well, neither did the rest of us, but we all got to chip in and pay for this Thanksgiving week tomfoolery with our ever-more-scarce tax dollars.

When Willie’s tour bus was detained Friday at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Texas because it smelled like marijuana, he ended up going to jail because officers, conducting a “probable cause” search based on the aroma, found six ounces of pot onboard, which Nelson claimed.

Five and a half hours later, he had bonded out and was back on the road towards Austin, a few dollars and a few ounces of weed shy of where he’d started. And the vital national interest of arresting and detaining a 77-year-old man — who is presumably old enough to decide for himself which herbs to use — is “served.”

In the same vein, this week’s heralded banning of fake pot by the Drug Enforcement Administration was another exercise in federal futility.

Since the 73-year-old federal war on marijuana has been such a smashing success (yes, that is sarcasm), why not extend the ban to fake pot, as well?

And while the DEA was at it — perhaps in an effort to ensure their own job security, should pot be legalized in the near future, as appears inevitable — they went ahead and made fake pot (synthetic analogues of THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana) — a Schedule I banned substance, right up there with heroin, methamphetamine, and, you guessed it, real marijuana.

Rather than respond to the widespread perception that the pot laws simply aren’t working — and beyond that, are destroying the lives and livelihoods of many productive citizens — the DEA cynically spreads its net even farther by making more substances subject to its draconian yet ineffective reach.

Is the fact that Willie Nelson is still getting busted for pot, after all these years, a sign that nothing has changed? Does the fact that the DEA still doesn’t get that its entire paradigm of marijuana enforcement is outdated, unneeded and silly mean that the forces of sanity have lost the cannabis debate?

I don’t think so. I believe the fact that Willie’s bust receives such attention, with the overwhelming reaction being one of sympathy and solidarity with the elderly singer means that we’ve made lots of progress.

And I believe the fact that the DEA used its “emergency powers” to make fake pot, of all things, a Schedule I controlled substance doesn’t mean that the vast federal agency is winning the drug war.

What you are seeing are the death throes of the law enforcement-driven approach to cannabis.

Unfortunately, a lot more lives will be impacted before sanity wins the day in the American War On Marijuana.

About the author: Steve Elliott, a working journalist since 1982, is editor of Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media’s site of cannabis news, views, rumor and humor. His cat weighs 20 pounds.


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