Federal pot prohibition programs will end – at least if Barack Obama becomes our president. As I wrote here on February 3, 2008 - Obama Should be willing to legalize marijuana. I recently received a response from the Obama campaign that basically supports my early prediction. Start asking him questions in public. After that I present some shocking revelations about the extent to which Old McCain is beholden to the booze industry (particularly BUSH beer). Finally, is analysis of the recent House Bill that would make even recreational use no longer a crime.
Pot or Booze – We get to Choose by who we elect as president.
Medical marijuana may not be on the political radar screen at this point. However, as the elections get closer the millions of medical and recreational marijuana users really should start asking the candidate more about this. I did boldly predict that Barack would end the ineffective and unethical war on marijuana. I have shared this article with the Obama campaign headquarters In Chicago. In response to an e-mail (via MySpace) the Obama Campaign sent me the following short, specific, and sweet response:
Thanks for getting in touch about the Senator’s position on allowing severely ill patients to use marijuana for medical purposes. Many states have laws that condone medical marijuana, but the Bush Administration is using federal drug enforcement agents to raid these facilities and arrest seriously ill people. Focusing scarce law enforcement resources on these patients who pose no threat while many violent and highly dangerous drug traffickers are at large makes no sense. Senator Obama will not continue the Bush policy when he is president.
Get ready to plant your indoor and outdoor victory gardens as soon as next spring arrives. Find out all about how and why in my article here “How and Why You Can Grow Medical Marijuana. Be sure and turn your friends on to the many benefits of medical and recreational marijuana.
Cindy McCain is Among World’s Biggest Beer Barons
Now let’s take a look at some shocking revelations about how the alcohol industry and special interests have strongly supported John McCain since he married the beer baron – Cindy Hensley. It is so ironic – if not tragic – that she makes her mega-bucks pushing “Bush Beer.” Fortunately the SAFER program has produced a website and great PDF poster called “Cindy McCain is a Drug Dealer.” From that site I have abstracted the key information – all from very credible national newspapers. Read about how they have used strong-armed tactics to block public health reforms to reduce underage drinking – stupid old hypocrites!!
Budweiser, then NASCAR’s official beer, is brewed by Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., whose products have made Cindy McCain and her family a fortune…. The McCains’ marriage has mixed business and politics from the beginning, according to an expansive review by the Associated Press of thousands of pages of campaign, personal finance, real estate and property records nationwide. The paperwork chronicles the McCains’ ascent from Arizona newlyweds to political power couple on the national stage.
As heiress to her father’s stake in Hensley & Co. of Phoenix, Cindy McCain is an executive whose worth may exceed $100 million. Her beer earnings have afforded the GOP presidential nominee a wealthy lifestyle with a private jet and vacation homes at his disposal, and her connections helped him start his political career – even if the millions remain in her name alone. Yet the arm’s-length distance between McCain and his wife’s assets also has helped shield him from conflict-of-interest problems. ….
McCain’s fundraising base is now far broader than his family bank accounts and Hensley. Still, Hensley and Anheuser-Busch executives have been important and longtime supporters. Long before McCain became a sought-after speaker on the national stage, he gave several speeches at Anheuser-Busch’s invitation in the 1980s and donated his fees to charity. … Cindy McCain is a millionaire many times over – though the McCains haven’t disclosed just how many times. In government records, McCain is permitted to describe his wife’s salary at Hensley as simply “more than $1,000″ and, when listing her major assets, say only that they are worth “more than $1 million.”
Beverage industry analysts estimate Hensley’s value at more than $250 million and its annual sales at $300 million or more. Hensley describes itself as the third-largest Anheuser-Bush wholesaler in the United States. It sold more than 23 million cases of beer last year and is among the nation’s biggest beer distributors, regardless of brand.
The Hensley Company, founded by Cindy McCain’s late father, holds federal and state licenses to distribute beer and lobbies regulatory agencies on alcohol issues that involve public health and safety. The company has opposed such groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving in fighting proposed federal rules requiring alcohol content information on every package of beer, wine and liquor.
Hensley has run afoul of health advocacy groups that have tried to rein in appeals to young drinkers. For example, the company distributes caffeinated alcoholic drinks that public health groups say put young and underage consumers at risk by disguising the effects of intoxication.
The involvement of McCain’s family in federal regulatory issues could create a conflict of interest for a future McCain administration, according to advocacy groups and political analysts. McCain has recused himself for many years on alcohol issues in the Senate. As president, however, McCain would face far more difficulty distancing himself from an issue with such broad scope.
Cindy McCain holds the title of company chairwoman and controls about 68% of the privately held company stock with her children and the senator’s son…. She said she knew “everything that is going on” and communicated with her executive team every day. … If her husband is elected president and she retains her role at Hensley, she will set a precedent for outside corporate activity by a first lady.
“You can’t run a beer company out of the White House,” said Samuel L. Popkin, a political science professor at UC San Diego. “You can’t run any company from the White House. McCain is leaving a live hand grenade on the table, a major embarrassment.” Public interest groups that lobby on alcohol issues say it will clearly be inappropriate for the McCain family to continue running or owning the company if McCain is elected.
Indeed, apart from its potential to create a conflict of interest, the mere ownership of the beer distributor could turn off some social conservatives and those who object to alcohol use. About a third of Americans abstain from alcohol, and half either abstain or consume less than a drink a month, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
A close look at Hensley shows that the company has opposed changes that critics of the beer industry say were intended to help Americans drink responsibly. .. Sen. McCain has been very, very fair to this industry,” said Frank Coleman, senior vice president for the Distilled Spirits Council, the liquor industry’s trade association. …
“It is going to be a very difficult high-wire act for the McCain family,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, executive director of the Marin Institute, a nonprofit alcohol industry watchdog group in San Rafael. “The big question is how much access the beer industry is going to have to the White House. You would expect the president and first lady to be concerned about alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The first lady and the president need to have a bright line between the White House and the alcohol industry.”
It is not clear exactly how Cindy McCain could avoid such controversy, but a range of public interest groups say she should separate herself and her husband from Hensley — no doubt a difficult and emotional issue for any heir to a family business.
Charles A. Hurley, chief executive of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said his organization would be watching carefully if a future McCain administration exercised influence on any alcohol issues. “I believe she would have to put that stuff in a blind trust of some kind,” Hurley said, “where she would not be involved.” Other experts, however, question whether a blind trust would go far enough to insulate a McCain administration, since the ownership would still benefit the family.
But if McCain were to become president, he would be obliged to either sign or veto bills related to the alcohol industry. And while some public-interest groups have applauded McCain for trying to avoid a conflict in Congress, some industry watchdogs are concerned that if McCain is elected president, he may have to pass judgment on a new series of alcohol-related measures.
Already, the beer industry is lobbying heavily to rescind a 1991 beer-tax hike. There is also a movement to lower federal guidelines on the drinking age. “It would not be helpful to have a president from Anheuser-Busch,” said George Hacker, director of the alcohol policies project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit advocacy group. Hacker said he fears federal regulators might become aware of McCain’s industry ties and therefore go easy on beer distributors.
The alcohol lobby is one of the most influential in Washington. Although McCain has recused himself on alcohol issues, he has not refused the industry’s money. Out of all candidates for all federal offices in 2008 – the White House, Senate, and House – McCain has received more alcohol industry money than all but two – $152,725, In addition, the analysis showed that McCain was the top recipient among federal candidates of money from Anheuser-Busch, the company that supplies beer to his wife’s firm, providing $15,200.
Such inaction on a major issue is unusual for McCain. During his time as chairman or top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, he has sought to crack down on the tobacco industry with a variety of programs aimed at cutting underage use of tobacco. … The next president could have a major impact on an array of alcohol issues. In addition to the industry’s effort to halve the beer tax, there are also proposals to change the way federal government pressures states to maintain tough drinking laws.
Currently, states cannot receive all of their federal transportation funds unless they set a blood-alcohol limit of .08 for drivers and a minimum drinking age of 21 years. But the alcohol industry wants the federal government to give states more leeway to choose their own limits. Last October, McCain was asked by a student in South Carolina whether he favored lowering the drinking age. He responded that he was “divided on the issue,” noting that people can fight for their country at 18 but can’t drink legally until 21.
James Hensley said in a 1988 interview that he was “legislatively involved very heavily” in battling what he called “neo-Prohibitionists.” The history of the firm, as detailed by in an exhaustive article in 2000 in the Phoenix New Times, “swirls with bygone accounts of illicit booze, gambling, horse racing, deceit and crime.” James Hensley was convicted of filing false liquor records in 1948 but later granted a license to sell alcohol wholesale in Arizona in the 1950s, which led to the establishment of Hensley & Co., which rapidly became one of the nation’s most successful Anheuser-Busch distributors.
John McCain has benefited from the Hensley business from the beginning of his relationship with the former Cindy Lou Hensley. The two met in 1979 at a party in Hawaii at a time when McCain was still married to his first wife, Carol. McCain divorced Carol and married Cindy in May 1980. McCain soon moved to his new wife’s hometown of Phoenix. McCain was promptly hired as vice president of public relations at Hensley & Co., giving him a platform not just to tout beer, but also himself. He traveled around the state in what became a warm-up for launching his political career.
Time to Write Congress about Ending Pot Prohibition
There has been a lot of news lately about the US House taking up legislation to end the federal way on marijuana and turn the policy over to the states. Everyone should write their congressman and urge them to support HR 5843, a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession and use for responsible adults. Putting this together with an Obama presidency could mean that next year’s marvelous marijuana harvest will be bigger than ever. Ganjah victory gardens will bloom all across the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.” In particular I urge you to read the article I wrote here on about how and why to legalize marijuana. Key is to pressure Pelosi the hypocrit to legalize marijuana. The federal way on weed provide her Northern Cali farmers with huge black market profits – in addition to the “guerrilla growers.”
Finally, Congress Starts Moving on Reforming Pot Prohibition
By Allen St. Pierre, Executive director of NORML
On July 30 something rather historic on a number of counts occurred in the nation’s capital. Firstly, Congress is for the first time in a generation (1978) taking a serious look at reforming components of cannabis prohibition laws. In today’s Congress, the support of the Congressional Black Caucus is pivotal to passing any substantive cannabis law reform. So I was so very heartened that Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and William Lacy Clay (D-MO) joined us on this very hot and oppressively humid day in DC, along with the always jocose Barney Frank (D-MA), the bill’s primary sponsor (along with Rep. Ron Paul, R-TX).
Second, the media attending the press conference on HR 5843, a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession and use for responsible adults, fairly captured the event’s narrative, i.e., ‘it makes no sense to treat cannabis consumers like criminals’ and ‘why not start controlling cannabis in the same way society (and government agencies) already control alcohol products?’ with no double entendre or goofy ‘stoner stupidisms’. You can view a CNN video of the press conference here. Also, you can check out some YouTube footage here of my opening remarks.
Bill Piper from the Drug Policy Alliance spoke about the collateral effects that happen to citizens arrested for minor amounts of cannabis including, but not limited to: loss of student loans; denial to public housing, food stamps and job training; and denial of entry into the military and some government service jobs. Rob Kampia from the Marijuana Policy Project discussed the broader implications of the federal government passing decriminalization legislation and how it could affect state efforts to reform cannabis laws, notably this November’s decriminalization initiative on the ballot in Massachusetts.
As has been noted by others who attended today’s press conference, there was a certain air of desperation coming from the part of the government who is responsible for supposedly ‘controlling’ currently illicit drugs. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) chief propagandist David Murray attended the press conference, making himself available for questions afterwards and handing out his latest anti-cannabis handywork, and he seemed absolutely befuddled that anyone on the face of the planet could possibly compare cannabis and alcohol policies, and that there is no such thing as the responsible use of cannabis. Period. Even for medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation. Period. Wow. Can you say, ‘flat earth’?
Indeed, there is much work to be done in cannabis law reform in the Executive Branch (which, astonishingly, is where ONDCP resides) and so-called anti-drug agencies. The tale Hercules and the cleansing of the Augean stables immediately comes to mind As Chairman Frank noted in his prepared remarks, HR 5843 (and similar legislation HR 5842, which regards medical marijuana rescheduling) are not likely to come a full committee for vote until well into 2009. Given this candid assessment by Rep. Frank, for NORML members and advocates of cannabis law reform, there are still important phases that we can all help accomplish that will hasten passage of these important and reform-minded bills.
Rep. Frank and the other current co-sponsors of HR 5843 will be sending around a ‘Dear Colleague” letter soon encouraging other members of the House to join them early on in support of their bill for the decriminalization of cannabis for responsible adult use and, therefore, like all legislation in the Congress, the more co-sponsors of a legislative bill, the better chance the bill’s chance of passage.
With the change of presidency in the wings and a likely increase in the number of Democratic members being elected to the House of Representatives, NORML’s expectations for HR 5843 is for there to be both subcommittee and full committee votes on Judiciary regarding this important legislation late into 2009.
Importantly, NORML members and advocates of cannabis law reform, for the next six months, need to truly concentrate their advocacy efforts on actively recruiting each of our elected members of Congress to become co-sponsors of HR 5843. Of the many lobbying and advocacy efforts one can employ to advance cannabis law reforms in America, getting a federal cannabis decriminalization bill passed and signed into law is the single most politically achievable public policy advance that is likely to happen in Congress in the next few years.
As our democracy prescribes, states will continue to largely serve as the catalyst of change and innovation in public policy making regarding cannabis, and this is very likely going to continue to happen with more and more municipalities and states passing progressive cannabis laws–at some point, ultimately, positively affecting the federal government. At least that is how it is supposed to work, right?