José Niño recently wrote an excellent post in this space, claiming that the end of marijuana prohibition would be not only inevitable, but would come swiftly. He calls others to action to tear down the wall of prohibition with their words, to unite, to fight to end the drug war now.
All of this is noble, but it is also important to be clear that prohibition will not end tomorrow. It will be a process that will take years of work by professionals who organize campaigns, who meet with legislators, who work within the government to implement the regulations that are key to public support for the end of cannabis prohibition.
Energy is not enough. It must be channeled in ways that prove to the public that the benefits are real.
Many grassroots reformers take the tides of social change as inevitable. In this case, I think they are. Cannabis prohibition will end in the United States, whether prohibitionists would prefer that or not.
Yet, that “inevitable” does not mean now, it might not even mean this decade. José rightly notes that public support sits at about 52 percent on any given day, and that this is far higher among younger people than older people.
Still, it will take years for the less supportive older generation to pass away and the more supportive younger generation to become dominant. At best, it will take a decade and some lucky political wins to bring the era of cannabis prohibition to a close. At worst, it could grind to a halt in the short term if something “goes wrong,” like a surge in crime in a legalizing state that laymen voters attribute to the change.
Outside of Washington, DC, successful measures have passed with an average of about 54 percent support, and that is with the considerable efforts and money of legalization backers nationwide. Success brings complacency among volunteers and donors who, at a point, may see legalization as inevitable, and spend their time and money on other priorities.
Moreover, legalizing a drug is complicated. There is a reason that legalization ballot measures generally follow the word “legalize” with “regulate.” Some subset of public support hinges on just that angle. They would not want to legalize cannabis without it being controlled by the state either directly or through regulation.
A recent study by the RAND Corporation commissioned for the governor of Vermont outlines 30 different parameters, ranging from allowing sale of cannabis-infused edibles to whether stores may advertise, on which states generally regulate. Successful regulation must be part of any realistic discussion about ending cannabis prohibition.
All of this is to say that prohibition will not go quietly into the night. It will take sustained effort to ensure that more states, and eventually the federal government, bring the dark days when poor people were harassed for a minimally harmful drug to an end.
Majority support for legalization is slim, and will be for the immediate future. This is a future whose success or failure will ultimately determine the fate of cannabis prohibition in the United States. Activists must be careful that they are not doing more harm than good, that they treat the issue as seriously as prohibitionists do.
It will be hard. It will be selling ideas to people whose interest in the drug begins and ends with the harms that both prohibition and the end thereof will have. This is not a child’s game; ending the War on Drugs and overcoming its powerful backers will not be fun if it is done right.
The end of prohibition is coming; now, let’s try not to mess it up.
Edited by Fergus Hodgson.
Español When you're the lone openly libertarian organization in a nation famous for censorship, as is the case for Cuba's Anarcho-capitalist Club (CAC), just remaining in existence for a year is an achievement. To celebrate the occasion on Saturday, March 14, the group's dozen or so core members launched a campaign to teach Cuban citizens and small entrepreneurs about bitcoin. "The idea is that tourists can use bitcoin to pay Cuban entrepreneurs and thus keep profits out of reach of Castro," Joisy García, the club's founder, told the PanAm Post. A month ago, the CAC became the first organization in Cuba to start accepting donations in bitcoin. With the help of supporters abroad, they opened a bitcoin wallet to raise funds for the club, since the majority of the members cannot find employment on account of their open opposition to the regime. García said the plans for 2015 will involve more "fight and enthusiasm." They're currently seeking to secure international scholarships in economics for young Cubans, to "show them another ideology, another vision." For García, now working from Miami, the club's biggest achievement has been "to have broken the taboo about discussing other doctrines besides communism or socialism." He highlighted the importance of creating intellectual ammunition in the opposition's battle against General Raúl Castro. With one year of online presence under their belts, they have garnered an unprecedented following of 3,000 virtual supporters inside and outside Cuba who follow the club's daily "Libertarian Revolution," according to García. The CAC's genesis came from videos that García and Nelso Rodríguez received from abroad: presentations by Jesús Huerta de Soto on anarcho-capitalism. After three months of digesting them, they decided to found the club and become a thorn in the side of Cuba's communist rulers. García explains that the group's essence is, simply put, the desire for freedom, economic progress, and happiness. Beyond human rights, they battle for liberalism. Not without Resistance It hasn't been easy for the Cuban anarcho-capitalists. Although the club was only founded a year ago, members have been receiving threats dating back much further for expressing their unwillingness to accept the Soviet-style structure of the island. "The personal threats started in 2000," García explains. "After that I was fired from my job and cannot find work in Cuba. In 2002 I signed onto Project Varela, carried out by the Christian Liberation Movement headed by Oswaldo Payá, a project that asked to change the Cuban Constitution." The members of the CAC, labeled opposition activists, have been banned from employment on the island and face ostracism from neighbors who are fearful of being associated with their activities. In October 2014, García received a citation from the National Revolutionary Police for providing an interview with the PanAm Post about the hostility the club faces from the Cuban government. Observing US-Cuba Discussions With respect to the position of the CAC in relation to the renewed talks between the United States and Cuba, García sees the club as "observers." They are hopeful that "the old abandoned wooden wheel will start to move," in reference to the stagnant situation that has come to define Cuba for the past half century. "Many think that the reopening of relations has the potential to provide the Cuban government with money for repression, but they are not lacking it," he says. "The money they invest is not in hospitals, in the streets, or in the Cuban people." "We believe that it is necessary to maximize the amount of money on the island in order to benefit the country. We know that the Castro government wants to institute state capitalism so that the only ones to benefit are from that group, but this is the start of something." Translated by Daniel Duarte and Michael Pelzer. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.