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Arizona: Government Money Used To Oppose Marijuana Legalization


arizona marijuanaBy Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director

It is hardly a secret to any long observing advocate for cannabis law reform to recognize early on in their efforts to end cannabis prohibition that if it were not for government-federal, state and local governments-spending, there would be relatively few examples of private money being employed in the last forty-five years to try to maintain the status quo of cannabis prohibition.

The tens of billions spent annually to keep the Reefer Madness going in America largely is taxpayer-funded bureaucracies such as the so-called drug czar’s office, DEA, NIDA, SAMHSA, DARE, PDFAblahblahblah.

Even in the face of this tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars annually, still, a majority of the US public rejects the policy of cannabis prohibition.

Unbelievably, the drug czar’s office actually mandates that the office must use tax funding to publicly oppose cannabis legalization efforts-even though such is no longer a popularly supported public policy.

Add one more prime example of cannabis prohibitionists in government not yielding to the will of voters, and worse, rather than pool their own private funding to advance their no-longer-popular-views, they want the taxpayers to pick up the bill of their anti-cannabis advocacy.

Arizona voters approved a medical cannabis initiative in 2010. Many in the law enforcement community in the state, including prosecutors, have consistently opposed implementing the change of policies and/or still harass medical cannabis producers or patients.

They’re sore losers.

Now, consistent with large swaths of the country, Arizona voters are organizing once again in the state to place a full cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot for 2016.

What is the reaction from some in the law enforcement community in Arizona to the prospects of citizens again instructing their workers what public policies they want them to enforce?

Sure, law enforcement personnel are citizens too, and their opinions are as meaningful as any other citizens’, however, law enforcement personnel who oppose the public’s will on changes of public policy should never employ taxpayer funding to try to sway the populace or propagandize-on matters ranging from police wearing body cameras, to forfeiture reform to cannabis legalization.

Well that is not at all happening currently in Yavapai County Arizona, where the local prosecutor Shelia Polk thinks it wise and prudent to steer forfeiture money derived from the criminal justice system (with most of the proceeds coming to law enforcement from currently illegal drug profits seized in previous criminal filings) to propagandize to voters that they should not vote to end cannabis prohibition in the state.

Ever hear law enforcement roll out the tired ol’ line of “we don’t make the laws, we only enforce them?”

It’s largely a lie (I mean…prevarication).

Police and prosecutors (aided and abetted by fellow pot prohibitionists wearing white coats at NIDA, for example) regularly, using taxpayers’ money, actively seek to influence the outcome of public policy legislation, court cases and voter initiatives that seek to reform cannabis laws.

It is pretty simple at this point in the now five-decade-old public effort to end cannabis prohibition, if police and prosecutors want to defend the status quo of a failed and unpopular public policy, then, if they really cared about the issue, they’d put their own skin in the game by organizing as private citizens.

If prosecutors, cops, narcs, sheriffs and chiefs of police want to pony up their own money to try to stave off cannabis prohibition ending in their lifetimes-go for it.

Reformers will more than match them dollar-for-dollar and are always spoiling for a good debate about wisdom for rationale continuing cannabis prohibition…and we’ve got the public on our side, they no longer do.

What can not and should not happen anymore in the modern public policy debate about whether America should or should not continue another nearly eighty-years with cannabis prohibition enforcement are government officials and law enforcement personnel using their power of the purse and bully pulpit to try to persuade voters on ANY matters of public policy-let alone on policies where conflicts of interest are as obvious as prosecutors using government money to oppose the will of local voters who’re seeking to reform unpopular laws.

Cannabis law reformers can and will win a fair fight on cannabis legalization, but, the impending political victory will be delayed if government officials are permitted to continue to use taxpayer funding to oppose the very will of the voters.

Government for and by the people? Not when government officials are sore losers and want to use government funding to try to tip the scales of public opinion.

When government stops spending taxpayer dollars to keep cannabis prohibition going, the unpopular policy will die an ignominious and swift death.

Editor’s note: Thankfully, late yesterday AZ’s Attorney General came to reconsider this blundering policy of allowing government funding to be used to campaign against cannabis legalization efforts in the state.

Source: NORML - make a donation


About Author

Johnny Green


  1. There are indications of public health benefits in the decrease in fatalities associated with DUI’s in states with medical marijuana. Prescription drug opiate overdose deaths can decrease close to a third in states with longer term availability of medical marijuana. When there are indications that marijuana can save lives when it is available the question is not how long should we wait for the numbers to be right but rather how many more people do we wish to harm or kill with our efforts to continue prohibition? When thousands of lives are at stake I think it is best that we make this decision now or as soon as is humanly possible.

  2. The schedules do not have much to do with how dangerous a substance is but they are often presented by the government as doing just that. I think that they were an insane way to attempt to legislate the characteristics of the drugs without any evidence. Congress didn’t spend much time considering what they were doing:

    “A few days before the House of Representatives passed a federal ban on marijuana in June 1937, the Republican minority leader, Bertrand Snell of New York, confessed, “I do not know anything about the bill.” The Democratic majority leader, Sam Rayburn of Texas, educated him. “It has something to do with something that is called marihuana,” Rayburn said. “I believe it is a narcotic of some kind.

    That exchange gives you a sense of how much thought Congress gave marijuana prohibition before approving it. Legislators who had heard of the plant knew it as the “killer weed” described by Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger, who claimed marijuana turned people into homicidal maniacs and called it “the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.” Anslinger warned that “marihuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes” and estimated that half the violent crimes in areas occupied by “Mexicans, Greeks, Turks, Filipinos, Spaniards, Latin Americans, and Negroes may be traced to the use of marihuana.”

    Given this background, no one should pretend that marijuana prohibition was carefully considered or that it was driven by science, as opposed to ignorance and blind prejudice.”


  3. Police officers should be focused on solving and preventing violent crimes, not making marijuana possession arrests. But in 2011, police arrested more people for marijuana than for all violent crimes combined. This is predominantly because the federal government has created an incentive to focus on marijuana arrests by using those arrests to determine how they distribute hundreds of millions of dollars of funding. Furthermore, even though blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly the same rates, blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana. These racial disparities in marijuana arrests exist in every region of the country.

    The Department of Justice can put an end to racially biased marijuana arrests and wasteful misuse of law enforcement resources by stopping the inclusion of marijuana arrests as a performance criterion for state and local law enforcement agencies applying for federal funding. We are spending more than $3.5 billion a year on marijuana arrests with no impact on use or availability. For the ten year period ending in 2010, someone was arrested for marijuana every 37 seconds, yet the majority of violent crimes went unsolved. In 2012, over 90% of all marijuana busts were for possession, yet during the same year, 92% of all reported burglaries, 74% of all reported rapes, and over 90% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved. By rewarding police departments when they focus on marijuana arrests instead of stopping violent crime, we are actually making our streets less safe and filling our jails with nonviolent drug offenders. Clearly, we need to rethink our priorities.

  4. 25% drop in Opiate overdoses, Burglary and Domestic Violence went down as well. It’s too soon to make any assumptions, one way or the other on these numbers. But the early indications sure are positive.

  5. The primary effort must be directed at getting cannabis off the FedGov “Schedule”

  6. Teen use actually went down the first year after legalization and regulation in Colorado. Polk also lied about those figures shortly after they were available. I believe that what we are seeing is the War on Drugs imploding in Arizona. This “lady” is listening to the voices in her head. She most certainly is not capable of putting a negative spin on the evidence coming from Colorado. There is evidence of fewer people dying of opiate overdose deaths and the DUI fatality rate there has fallen. Arrest rates for burglary and violent crime have fallen. Colorado has the fastest growing state economy in the nation.

  7. What can not and should not happen anymore in the modern public policy debate about whether America should or should not continue another nearly eighty-years with cannabis prohibition enforcement are government officials and law enforcement personnel using their power of the purse and bully pulpit to try to persuade voters on ANY matters of public policy-let alone on policies where conflicts of interest are as obvious as prosecutors using government money to oppose the will of local voters who’re seeking to reform unpopular laws.

    “Narcotics police are an enormous, corrupt international bureaucracy … and now fund a coterie of researchers who provide them with ‘scientific support’ … fanatics who distort the legitimate research of others. … The anti-marijuana campaign is a cancerous tissue of lies, undermining law enforcement, aggravating the drug problem, depriving the sick of needed help, and suckering well-intentioned conservatives and countless frightened parents.”

    — William F. Buckley,

    Commentary in The National Review, April 29, 1983, p. 495

  8. LogicallyInclined on

    Im still trying to understand how alcohol and tobacco is not a schedule 1 if cannabis is. We vote the dumbest people in office and expect change. Cannabis should be legal and never should have been illegal. Congress voted to make marijuana illegal in the 1930s but had 0 understanding of what they were trying to make illegal. They just voted on it. You would of thought we would have gotten smarter about a plant that grows on every continent, but not if your a politician. Free the plant medically and for personal use like alcohol.

  9. newageblues on

    Dee, you’re absolutely right about our right to recreational cannabis, but I think there’s greater urgency around medical marijuana, lives and a decent quality of life for people are at stake. It’s barbaric and intolerable to ban medicine.

  10. They actually showed us a companion film to Reefer Madness (in 1963) where stoned teens broke into a coke machine and broke the tops off pop bottles jabbing themselves in the mouths as they drank soda. These people are truly nuts. Welcome to the War on Drugs where nothing is really as it seems.

  11. It’s illegal here and the state wants to let them spend public monies to educate us how to vote. Problem is they don’t want to allow other county employees (school personnel) to be able to go to the voters as well. They really cannot have their cake and eat it too… The idea that my tax money will be spent trying to influence my vote sickens me. I will vote against anything that is presented in this manner to the voters here.


    Pink Floyd

  12. Buzzby19491 on

    “We may be conservative, but we’re NOT stupid!”

    You don’t have to be stupid to be a Conservative, but it sure helps if you’re not part of the 1%. I’ve never understood why people vote against their own self-interest.

  13. This is all about control, just think with all that money wasted on anti prohibition they could pay down the deficit. Ease the tax burden on citizens WHicham people could save more.or spend more all would be a much needed boost to the economy. It time to shut this crazy policy and political B.S. down. It is time to put the fear mongers in their place.

  14. ted mishler on

    they are not only fighting our rights to use cannabis, but our constitutional rights as well, as well as our human right, as they DESTROY what is left of the nations economy, look at the national debt
    and THEY look to ban people who use cannabis from work, unless it is digging a ditch, something like that
    Graham Hancock said it best:


  15. Brnovich is a Republican, of course. Heaven forbid you just stop voting for them…

    “We may be conservative, but we’re NOT stupid!”


    Did you vote for GW Bush? How many trillions will the Iraq war cost? How much did those massive tax cuts to the rich help the economy?

  16. ĐΣFΣCŦΣĐ on

    Smoking high CBD dabs today. CBD makes me feel all warm inside, killing off depression within seconds. Yes the big bad Cannabis plant is evil. Boo :| THC is also nice for the mind. How can anyone fight against this amazing plant!

  17. I suspect that this was pulled back because it also allowed those in schools to campaign for the passage of legislation that directly effects them. Either they have to allow all state and government employees to do this or none of them. They cannot tilt the table only with those issues that they support and get away with it.

  18. “The movies they show us about drugs are so stupid they’re funny!” Anonymous teen-ager, quoted in a feature story about drug use in Time magazine, circa 1974. Nothing really new in the prohibitches playbook. It’s like Deja Vu all over again. (Thank you, Yogi Berra)

  19. derse handrich on

    When pot wins for the vast majority, a few lose financially – prisons, cops, breweries,, liquor stores, judges, attorneys, big pharma – all the dark sides of humanity.

  20. PhDScientist on

    Dear Dee —

    Please call your senators, representatives, and the white house comment line and get everyone you know to call too and ask that Marijuana be removed from Schedule 1 IMMEDIATELY. Kudos to Oregon, but we need to legalize Marijuana for nationally for Medical purposes immediately. Yes its safer than alcohol when used recreationally, but there are people all around America suffering and dying who need it as medicine. PLEASE do everything you can to help them. That’s what I’m trying to do. We need as many people to call washington, every single day, as possible. Please add your voice, and those of everyone you know, to ours — Thanks!!!!

  21. I’m not okay with my tax dollars going to campaign anything, period. Doesn’t matter if it’s for some elected officials reelection or for campaigning against voter reform of a law. It’s a complete conflict of interest for them to use tax dollars for this. It’s an ethics violation in most states for tax dollars to be used to campaign for or against elections is a voter initiative any different?

  22. Im ok with it as long as both sides get equal amounts of government money. Is that whats happening?

  23. Dee M Cochran on

    Citizens also have the right to enjoy it recreationaly just like beer and wine. Study after study proves that it’s safer and healthier than alcohol, this is also about liberty and government overstepping thier bounds for profit! We’ve had enough!! Good luck Arizona, we’ve got your back, love Oregon..

  24. AntiIgnorant on

    It’s organized crime under the guise of a criminal justice system. They’ve put a lot of thought into being a successful mob of unjust masqueraders.

  25. AntiIgnorant on

    If they chose cannabis over alcohol, not that a kid should do either, they would be safer in the long run. Just saying.

  26. AntiIgnorant on

    Law enforcement trying to scam the populous to keep their budgets… What? Why am I not the least bit shocked?

    Free the herb!!!

  27. She already warned us that IF legalized in AZ, 32,000 NEW School kids will start smoking it. She has NO proof of that. She extrapolated numbers from one study and the added them to numbers from another study and came up with that number.

  28. Brnovich has tried to walk those statements back now. He got HUGE pushback from constituents over his allowing County employees and county money to defeat citizen initiatives. He’s now been put on notice that WE won’t stand for this in AZ! We may be conservative, but we’re NOT stupid!

    We’ll definitely be watching and the minute we see it happening we’ll sue you to stop it! We’re on to you Prohibitionist and your tactics. If YOU, as a County or State employee want to oppose the initiative, that’s GREAT, that’s democracy. But you CAN’T take taxpayer money to do it! You CAN’T use your office as a backdrop to oppose marijuana legalization.

    If you wanna oppose the initiative, like WE who want to pass it do. Raise your own PRIVATE donations to do so. That’s what WE have to do pass it! Shouldn’t be any different to try to defeat passage.

  29. One question for Sheila Polk; what does she plan on telling “The Children” when their friends try it and let them know that this stuff is not what she told them it was?

  30. They seize millions in money car’s and house’s all that money goes right in to the police accounts with out that revenue allot of police would be out of business and they know it……..

  31. Arizona’s civil forfeiture laws are a substantial threat to every Arizonans’ private
    property rights. Under Arizona’s civil forfeiture scheme, police and prosecutors are entitled to
    take property without ever charging the owner, or anybody else, with a crime—and then profit
    from the proceeds.

    Civil forfeiture relies on a legal fiction: that inanimate objects like cars, houses, and
    currency can be guilty of criminal activity. Police can seize cash and property they suspect may
    have been involved in a crime and prosecutors can engage in civil litigation to forfeit it for the
    benefit of the seizing agency. The seizing agency is then permitted to keep and use the property,
    or the proceeds thereof, for a wide variety of activities and items, including salaries, overtime,
    and equipment. Due to the civil nature of the proceedings, the property owner is not afforded the
    same rights that belong to defendants in a criminal proceeding. The government need only show
    by a preponderance of the evidence (a much lower standard of proof than beyond a reasonable
    doubt) that the seized property may have been—not that it actually was—involved in illicit

  32. When Pink Floyd released The Wall one of the most popular songs had a line that went, “We don’t need no education!” What this line referred to had to do more with government indoctrination and propaganda than it did public education. I’d like to propose this as a theme song for Sheila Polk’s and Bill Montgomery’s “sessions” with Arizonans. Play it loudly and proudly at all their events!

  33. PhDScientist on

    Its absolutely critical that marijuana be legalized at the national level, immediately, at least for medical purposes. Please do everything you can to help make this happen by calling your senators, representatives, and the white house comment line. Every 20 seconds an American is diagnosed with Cancer and every 60 seconds an American dies of it. Every single American with Cancer, and every other American who can benefit from medical marijuana, deserves the right to have safe, legal, access to medical marijuana.

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