Grover Norquist, Drug Policy Reformer

by FRED GARDNER

A marijuana-policy-reform activist is walking down a country road at midnight. S/he comes to a crossroads and meets a tall, dark man who lays out the following scenario, which the activist can accept or decline. President George W. Bush will announce his support for, and will in fact push through Congress ASAP, a "compassionate conservative" measure legalizing marijuana use under federal law. "The people have been trying to tell the politicians something for a long time," Bush will say on TV. (The tall, dark man does a perfect imitation of him.) "This plant, which grows great all across the United States of America, is, uh, uh, not only not bad for you, it’s good for you! It’s time the politicians in Washington, D.C. got the message." Bush’s popularity soars amid media images of non-violent people getting out of prison, rejoining their families, etc. Millions of grateful Americans rejoice in their new sense of legitimacy, and millions more discover the beneficial properties of the no-longer-forbidden herb. The Compassionate Conservatives extend their hold on power in the 2006 election, and Bush orders nuclear weapons dropped on Iran, a fence built along the border with Mexico, social security privatized, state pension plans dismantled… Does the activist give the scenario a thumbs-up or thumbs-down? Answer below.

Republican strategist Grover Norquist has been taking steps to launch a group opposed to drug prohibition -ostensibly on libertarian principles, but actually because there are millions of votes to be had and dollars to be raised. Norquist runs Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington, D.C., resource center for politicians and lobbyists opposed to government spending (except on behalf of corporations). He has been directly involved in many of the most pernicious projects of our time -installing the Mujahadeen in Afganistan and the Contras in Nicaragua, drafting and securing the passage of Newt Gingrich’s Contract on America, working relentlessly to privatize social security and state pension plans and Medicare and public schools… Norquist’s ATR is consistently and fiercely anti-immigrant, anti-union, anti-environmental-regulation. Norquist is the prime mover behind the "the K Street Project" -an attempt to purge Washington of lobbyists with Democratic Party ties. The exposure of Jack Abramoff’s criminality may have slowed him somewhat (Norquist of Harvard and Abramoff of Brandeis have been allies since 1980, when they helped carry Massachusetts for Reagan), but he remains as powerful as his friend Karl Rove, a zealous ideologue with a bent for practical politics.

In recent months Norquist has sought support for his drug-policy-reform project from George Soros, the key financial backer of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Allen St. Pierre of NORML, among others. He has sent a letter to the head of the DEA opposing NIDA’s monopoly on marijuana grown for research. And he suggested that the National Rifle Association (on whose board he sits) give legal support to an Oregon medical-marijuana user whose permit to carry a concealed weapon had been denied.

Soros’s "communications director," Michael Vachon, initially denied to your correspondent that there’d been any strategic discussions between the liberal philanthropist and the rightwing lobbyist. Then he acknowledged that Soros had spoken and answered questions at one of ATR’s "Wednesday brownbags" in Washington in April ’05. A libertarian type asked if Soros would consider supporting drug legalization across the board, and Soros, according to Vachon, said he thought it would be tactically unwise. "I might be for it if it was possible to achieve it but I think public opinion is so strong against it and I think there’s so much fear over drugs, particularly drugs and children…" Soros expressed his preference for the harm-reduction approach and the medical use of marijuana.

Trustworthy sources say that Norquist and Soros met in New York subsequent to Soros’s appearance at the Wednesday brownbag. Norquist was seeking $20 million to drum up rightwing support for drug legalization. Soros again stated his tactical misgivings about all-out legalization.

Norquist has also met with Allen St. Pierre of NORML, an outfit that doesn’t have any money but does have a mailing list that includes many libertarians. St. Pierre says Norquist, a master of direct-mail campaigns, asked if NORML would create a list of right-leaning NORML supporters. St. Pierre says he offered limited support, but that Norquist’s subsequent letter to the DEA and willingness to defend the Oregon medical-marijuana user’s right to carry a concealed weapon were not by way of a quid pro quo.

Rick Doblin, of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is the academic/activist who enlisted Norquist’s support for UMass Amherst professor Lyle Craker’s application to grow cannabis for research purposes. "When we were asking Democrats for letters of support," says Doblin, "we’d say, ‘The Republicans are perverting science, putting politics before science.’ With the Republicans we emphasize that there’s a monopoly that’s osbstructing trade. ‘NIDA has the monopoly to grow marijuana, it’s a government monopoly being used as a weapon to obstruct research.’"

Norquist’s letter to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, sent in late November, stated "Scientific research on agricultural products should not be influenced by politics. If the test subject in question were dandelions, there would be no controversy here. The fact that some choose to abuse the cannabis plant illegally is immaterial. The use of controlled substances for legitimate research purposes is well-established, and has yielded a number of miracle medicines widely available to patients and doctors. This case should be no different. It’s in the public interest to end the government monopoly on marijuana legal for research."

Crossroads, Cont: The activist tries to negotiate terms -how extensive will the bombing be, how much collateral damage, etc. The tall, dark man, disgusted, fades from sight, muttering: "I should have gone straight to the Marijuana Policy Project!"

Kubby Back in Jail

Medical marijuana activist Steve Kubby, expelled by Canada, flew from Vancouver to San Francisco Thursday night. He was escorted by San Francisco police to the jail in Redwood City, and transferred the next day to a jail in Placer County. Tod Mikuriya, MD, has phoned in a prescription for Marinol (10 mg #50) to a nearby pharmacy. Before leaving Canada Kubby issued a statement saying that God told him Marinol would keep his adrenal cancer under control. (Praise the Lord but pass the medication.) Kubby’s wife and two daughters remain in Canada for the time being. Michele reports, "When Steve first entered the jail, his blood pressure had risen to 170/120. The jail medical staff were concerned and administered the Marinol. Steve says he feels his blood pressure lowering, but he can tell that Marinol is not going to be effective in the long run Law enforcement has had different reactions to Steve. Some are sympathetic, others go out of their way to remind him that he no longer has any rights and is a prisoner. Some completely ignore that Steve has a medical problem and needs special care. One female officer would not let Steve cover himself with blanket while she interrogated him, even though his teeth were chattering and the blanket was sitting right next to him."

FRED GARDNER is the editor of O’Shaughnessy’s Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical Group. He can be reached at: fred@plebesite.com

 

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