Friday, July 21, 2006


While everyone involved in drug law reform generally recognizes that the war on drugs is a tremendous waste of resources, I think it's time for some of the reform organizations to be raked over the same coals too. The bottom line on some of these organizations is that they are squandering huge amounts of money every year and getting absolutely nowhere. A huge case in point is the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

I have actually been a dues paying member of MPP in the past and have been able to help some of the individuals from the organization with various things over the years. I still am willing to assist any and all who seek my aid -- but there is no way in hell I am ever going to send the MPP another dime.

That attitude has been developing over the past three years in particular as I observe from afar the tendency of the MPP to claim that every minor piddly-assed change in some aspect of marijuana laws is a huge "victory" for which they themselves deserve all the credit. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and the MPP deserves nothing more than a good solid kick in the ass.

Why do they deserve a kick in the ass? Because they are pissing away the millions of dollars they get in donations (primarily from one very wealthy individual). I'm not too worried about them pissing away these funds on things like their recent two-part 10-year anniversary galas. That's right, while many deserving and hard working grass-roots organizations are dying from lack of even a small amount of funding, these idiots are indulging in self-congratulatory back slapping. And for what?

They claim to be one of the "leading" organizations in drug law reform, and that they are out there fighting the battles and achieving many wonderful victories -- but to borrow a phrase from a recent GAO report on the drug czar's office (ONDCP): "Results Not Demonstrated." Sorry, but an ever escalating number of marijuana arrests year after year for several decades (including over the entire 10 year lifespan of the MPP), and the continuation of federal raids against medical marijuana operations in states that have "legal" medical marijuana, is not even close to something that can be described as a "victory."

Those factors, in and of themselves have caused me to view the MPP with a jaundiced eye for quite some time, but the capper came in the form of their latest (and I might add UNENDING) appeals for money. This time around their "anonymous" philanthropist has pledged to donate $3.5 million in matching funds, if the MPP manages to raise that much this year. That's exciting news, and certainly I do not fault the generosity of the donor. But I do fault the way that money is going to be pissed away by the MPP. Sorry guys, but all you ever actually do is piss away money. I saw the exact same thing going on during my 24 years of working for the federal government. I know fraud, waste and abuse when I see it.

The MPP says that if it can raise these funds it will be able to cover the complete costs of several of their "initiatives" planned for this year. Two of those initiatives are the focus of this little rant: one involves a ballot initiative in Nevada to "end marijuana prohibition entirely" (oops, that's just in Nevada, and only for pot -- the drug war in general is of no concern to MPP), and a medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota.

The South Dakota thing is what really got me wondering -- and given my nature as a person who digs down to find out what's really going on, I simply had to investigate. The whole thing just wasn't passing the smell test for me -- I could certainly understand trying to get the nations' bastion of immoral behavior to act as a launching platform for legalizing weed, but the South Dakota angle just baffled me. I mean, sure trying to get more medical marijuana initiatives seems like it may be a good idea -- but South Dakota!?!?!? They're the people who came up with this idea.

So I decided to find out a few crucial things about the states of Nevada and South Dakota to build a better framework of understanding as to exactly how many pot smokers could stand to benefit if the wonderful folks at MPP were to emerge "victorious" over these two initiatives. I tracked down the data for how many people actually live in those two states, how many past year marijuana smokers there are in those two states, and how many people are arrested for marijuana in those two states. All I can say about what I found is that I am completely shocked and disgusted that so much money, time and human resources are about to be wasted for such a paltry potential benefit.

Here's the Lowdown:

South Dakota ranks 46th in the nation in terms of overall population. They have been in 46th place for quite some time, including at the time of the last census (2000). In 2005, the estimated population for the entire state of South Dakota was (hold on to your hats) 775,933 people. In 2004, there were approximately 60,000 past year, and 31,000 past month South Dakota marijuana users. I don't know how many of them are seeking to use marijuana medically, but I do know that in 2004, there were 771,605 people arrested nationwide for marijuana offenses. The numbers aren't out yet for 2005, but I think it's a safe bet that when they are, the number of people arrested in the country annually for violating marijuana laws will exceed the entire population of South Dakota!

[Edit: 9/30/06 -- now they are, and would you look at that! Wow, a new record!!!! Who'da thunk it?]

For the sake of further putting this information in perspective, those 60,000 pot smokers in South Dakota (even if every one of them is a medical user) represent a mere two-tenths of one percent (0.236) of past year American pot smokers. I have nothing against the people of South Dakota, especially those who smoke pot or wish to use it medically, but good God almighty! I didn't bother to find out exactly how much of their multi-million piss fund is going to waste (literally) on this initiative, but I'm sure the other 25 million pot smokers out there in America should be similarly unimpressed with the mighty MPP as I am.

I couldn't find accurate data about how many (who am i kidding -- how few) people in South Dakota were arrested for marijuana in 2004, but I did find that there were 1,542 arrests for all drug related charges. Obviously, there is no reason in the world to believe that all of them were for marijuana, but even if they were, it still casts the MPP in a rather bad light, don't you think? Maybe they need more money to host "award galas" to celebrate their continued track record of "successes" in the drug war. Frankly, I'm not really sure whose side they are actually on if this is what they do to "advance" the cause of ending the persecution of pot smokers.

Moving on to Nevada, the numbers aren't that much better. Nevada ranks 35th in population with a 2005 count of 2,414,807 (at least that's more than the total national arrests for marijuana), and in 2004 there were 196,000 past year, and 114,000 past month marijuana users in Nevada. That works out to about 8.1 percent of the population being past year users and 4.7 percent being past month users. For the record, the national tallies are 10.6 percent for past year and 6.1 percent for past month use.

When it comes to arrests in Nevada, the waters are quite murky. The FBI tally for 2004 says there were 9,832 arrests for drug law violations in Nevada, but the state documentation says the tally was 10,708 in one of the tables in the document, but says there were 11,190 drug arrests in another part. The tally for marijuana offenses in Nevada during 2004: 97 (33 for sales, 64 for possession). Frankly, I don't buy it -- the numbers are surely much higher, but I'll be damned if I can find anything accurate anywhere.

In summary, the MPP has big plans this year to spend money fighting for the pot smokers in Nevada and South Dakota -- all 256,000 of them. For the other 25,195,000 pot smokers in the rest of the country (99 percent of the total) the MPP doesn't seem to have much to offer. So, for those 25 million people, I have two pieces of advice: don't get caught, and don't send money to the MPP.

Truly there are many, many, organizations that deserve to be getting donations from pot smokers, but the MPP isn't one of them. May I suggest that you send a donation to LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), or accept my challenge and send $1 to me.


"Radical" Russ said...

LEAP is a great organization. And while MPP is funding a "lowest priority" initiative out here in Portland, Oregon, it is still considered a tertiary priority compared to the Nevada and South Dakota measures. MPP donated $120,000 to get the initiative going, but all of the hard work and donations are the result of unpaid local groups here that have formed a very tight-knit, grassroots community.

Some complain that "lowest priority" is a waste here in Portland, as law enforcement is already very lax on marijuana enforcement in the city. We grassroots activists welcome *any* ballot measure that forces the officials to debate marijuana prohibition and drug policy (it's so fun when facts and logic are on your side!)

Of all the organizations -- MPP, DPA, etc. -- all enjoy the support of one or two "sugar daddy" philanthopists (Soros, Lewis, etc.) Only NORML builds its support from a broad base of grassroots activists. (Disclaimer: I'm a board member for Oregon NORML... so I'm biased.)

I would recommend people reading your fine blog and site look into their local chapter of NORML and donate and get involved. MPP, LEAP, DPA, etc. are all involved in what I call "top-down" activism - trying to change the laws from the top to reflect anti-prohibitionary sentiments of a few progressives like us. At Oregon NORML and other local NORML chapters, we are engaging in "bottom-up" activism - trying to change hearts and minds of the common people so they will be receptive to the anti-prohibitionary changes in law we have in mind.

Until the average mom & pop see and believe the statistics at,, and Oregon NORML, and until they understand the drug war horror stories of broken families, imprisoned sick people, and murdered gardeners... until the average American understands it's prohibition, not the drugs, that are the problem... then, yes, MPP is just pissing away money.

(Unless they get 1oz of weed legalized for all adults in Nevada and/or the first midwestern medical marijuana state... results speak volumes.)

anti-drugwar czar said...

hi russ,

thanks for weighing in. i highly recommend russ's blog (linked in his post) for any and all in the reform movement. it's people like him that are doing all the real work in reform -- not the useless "big three" of dpa, mpp and national norml.

one of the things i'm trying to do with my own work is to stir the pot (nice pun) on the "leaders" to get them motivated to do something more meaningful than enjoining people to send their latest cookie cutter "letter" to congress. they spend way too much time running around pissing on fires and have completely neglected the essential work on a strategy and coaltion building.

LEAP holds a special place in my mind as the most exciting thing to happen in drug law reform -- they're doing it right. by that i mean taking the message to mom and pop America to end the drug war. period. and i will be posting a piece about them soon.

where i have problems with mpp, dpa and national norml is that they claim to be "leaders" but they aren't doing a very good job at it. they demonstrate distinct lack of leaderhsip ability and a paucity of imaginiation. norml's "campaign" in 2004 to "smoke the vote" is a case in point -- c'mon already, when your choice is to pick one drug warring party or the other by "threatening" them with your vote was a hoot!

norml recently "celebrated" their 30 year anniversary, while MPP just had their 10th. they should be ashamed that they have so little to show for such lengthy terms in office.

they have absolutely nothing to be celebrating about. if we're going to get anywhere, we need to consolidate the resources, hone the messages, develop a strategy to do the work, and build a coaltion that extends beyond their own limited points of view -- any beyond the drug war itself. this is a battle over teh right to "own" yourself, so our natural allies in the fight include groups like naral, glbt groups, anyone engaged in the sex trades etc. this isn't really about drugs at all. that's why picking at it one law at a time is so pervertedly mentally bankrupt.

there are literally hundreds (maybe even thousands) of independent activists out there chomping at the bit for a more meaningful way to contribute their talents, time and voices and i want to help them coalesce into a meaningful whole.

i don't see that happening at the national level -- but all of the state level branches of norml and the people working directly at those levels are doing some great work, so i certainly won't besmirch any of them.

i'm tired of waiting for true leadership to emerge -- that's why i pulled the "bloodless coup" to be anti-drugwar czar. until somebody better comes along, i want the job and the support of all those people out there who are not being effectively utilized.

we are in a war. and that means we need generals, an army and a strategy. the national level orgs are a disgrace -- they need to get their asses in gear so i don't have to kick them.

one final thought: enough is enough already with the bullshit approach of trying to get only weed legalized (or worse, only "medical" marijuana) -- this is a war against the citizens that is a disgrace to our national character. it is a pox, a cancer -- and it must be killed completely in one motion. we can argue implementation details after the beast has been slain.

in the near future i'll post my case for why we are all already "legalizers" just by saying anything at all against the drug war. we need to get our shit together and stop pretending that we'll get anywhere changing one law at a time.

thanks again russ, for your thoughts here on my little blog, and more importantly for doing the important work that needs to get done -- taking the message to the people.


Anonymous said...

Glad to see someone is keeping an eye on MPP, DPA, NORML, etc.

I have a couple comments. 1) Anyone that thinks NORML is wasting less money than MPP is tripping. NORML's heart is in the right place, but they have almost zero tanglible accomplisments in the last 10-20 years. A few years ago, they pissed away $500,000 in advertising trying to embarrass Mayor Bloomberg in NY, a man still thriving in his position. That would have been enough to run a medical MJ or decrim MJ referendum in one state somewhere in the US to actually change the law.

2) There are more benefits to the 2 MPP referendums that mentioned. Getting SD to approve medical MJ adds another state to the 11 with favorable laws, which helps reach the goal of all 50.

The Nevada campaign is used to get the legalization message into the national media. If it ever wins, it will set a great example for the rest of the country, and hopefully boost reform efforts in other states.

That said, I agree that the wasting of money is terrible. A couple years ago, MPP paid a fortune to a 3rd party contractor to put referendums on the ballot in NV (legalization) and Arkansas (medical MJ). The contractor took all the of the money, and fraudulentaly failed to deliver enough signatures in either state. Rather than thrown in a little more money to finish the referendum and help the sick people in Arkansas, MPP bailed, wasting the funds already spent, and leaving medical MJ activists in the state like a abandoned bride at the altar, crushing their hopes.

I think the worst part is that MPP spends $3 million per year trying to legalize in NV, when they could run 5-10 medical MJ referendums per year in other states with that money. With a couple years, medical MJ would be legal in 25-30 states. Instead, a bunch of money is given to workers in NV to fail again and again, while the feds continue their raids in CA.

Would the feds keep up the raiding once 30 states had passed medical MJ?

I still support MPP, but with 26 full-time staffers now, I see less results from them then I did when they had 5 full-time staff. I still send them money though. Overall, I think they're on the right track.

Don't even get me started on DPA and their lack of tangible achievement in the last few years. They seem to piggy-back lawsuits and press releases on local activist's work.

anti-drugwar czar said...

thanks for weighing in, anonymous. with comments like that your name ought to be plastered around where it could bring you appropriate credit.

i certainly agree with much of what you wrote -- and believe me, the dpa and national norml are in for their own lashing. more importantly, there are several people and organizations on whom i will certainly lavish praise in future articles.

and i differentiate national norml from the state level chapters. the state level folks are doing some excellent work, and they deserve credit for it, even if the national level guys are clueless. but i'll talk about that more in the future, for the moment i need to focus on something more important -- a foreshadowing of a future (perhaps my next) update here on the blog.

the biggest problem in the reform movement (other than a demonstrated lack of leadership, a coherent strategy, and basic imagination), is all of the stratification into more and more specialized (and limited) niches and duplication of efforts. worse yet, many of these efforts that are pissing away money will never come to fruition for one simple reason: the whole drug war operation needs to be destroyed -- and that can't be done one little bit at a time.

going about this piecemeal has been the status quo approach for the past 30 years -- it is getting us virtually nowhere. for every little "victory" we are handed four or five more defeats. i don't want to write my next article here as a comment, but suffice it to say that in the eyes of everyone not working toward reform, everyone who is suggesting any minor modification of the existing societal approach to drug use, is a "legalizer."

the bar is set -- and aiming at ridiculously low levels of "success" just ain't gonna get the job done. i want to be alive when the drug war is ended -- but going about it through "medical" marijuana not only is not working, but the places where it has been "successful" at the state level are going to be feeling the full force of DEA boots and guns.

i already wrote about that, so i won't belabor the point further. but i have to answer absolutely to the question: "Would the feds keep up the raiding once 30 states had passed medical MJ?"

the bottom line to me (a guy who is flat out tired of waiting and hoping) is that we need to unite with a commmon goal and a common message, we need to cut out all the redundanies, and we need to organize and mobilize.

we don't need another goddam tax-exempt bureaucracy to get the job done -- we need to capitalize on the work of the willing volunteers who are already out there all over the earth connecting to each other through the internet.

we don't need much money to get the job done (although some of us really do) -- and we definitely don't need office space and letterhead. we need activity. activity that is rational, coherent, and directed at a singular objective: living up to the ideals that are supposedly the foundation of "America" -- chief among them that we are indeed, all equal citizens. and ending the drug war in toto is a major part of that objective.

that's why i'm doing what i'm doing -- and i need an army.

Hempman said...

MPP is apparently (I can not get a straight answer from them) funding a hippy-come-lately (they claim he is a "long time activist, when he is really just a kid and just started in February) to undermine the hard work the real activists have undertaken in Delaware for the last three and a half decades.

We DO NOT NEED a medical marijauna law in Delaware, almost no patients are being arrested, the cops pretty much ignore us. Almost all cannabis arrests are growers or dealers. Medical marijuana law is useless to protect them, and I am not certain I would wnat it to. Why give a bunch of criminals a business advantage while the more rational of us are 1) not being arrested, and 2) are waiting for the situation to change before we try to set up that sort of business.

The local grassroots groups (My own Delaware Cannabis Society has been around since 1968 and while we can not take all the credit, we are proud to have taken part) are instrumental in creating a needle exchange program and lowering the cannabis arrest rate.

In fact, most drug arrests (outside the dealers) are people who are caught with something when they commit some other crime, or they moronically allow the cops to search them after something like a traffic stop.

We are working with the ACLU to do workshops on how to deal with cops in those situations.

I have to point out one more thing I noticed - in the states where they have passed "medical marijuana" laws, the arrest rate has shot up. It has actually made things worse for most patients.

anti-drugwar czar said...

yo hempman!

thanks for weighing in on this -- i really appreciate the update on the situation in delaware. i'm sure there are a lot of other similar cases in other places -- but that's what happens when the "leaders" don't really have a clue on what needs to be done. folks like MPP think pissing on campfires makes it look like something is being acomplished. worse, they've convinced people that the are the "leading" organization addressing marijuana laws.

as far as i'm concerned, all they are actually accomplishing is job security.
indeed, their press releases about the failure of the hinchey amendment to pass would be hilarious were it not for the fact that the ramifications of that continued failure are so stark.

i once believed in the idea that working to get marijuana legalized would be the best way to end the drug war, but i'd have to say that 36 years is ample evidence that that little plan isn't going to get us anywhere.

and, yes, of course, i'm pissed about the whole "medical marijuana" thing: i don't doubt for a minute that there are people who get medical benefit from cannabis -- but cocaine and amphetamines are already "approved" for medical use, so that approach can hardly be construed as being an effective way to end prohibtion (of even marijuana) -- hell it did't even stop "plan colombia."

the root of the problem is prohibition itself -- and the best way to kill the fruits thereof is by destroying it fom the roots.

glad you're out there helping, hempman.


Anonymous said...

I can understand the frustration of everyone who has posted, but I have just one concern: not many of you have your facts straight about what actually happens in these offices (I used to work for one of the big 3). I simply want to point out that public perception does not often represent reality. Perhaps it would be wise to investigate further before pointing fingers, then ask, "what have I done to change these laws?".

Just a thought.

anti-drugwar czar said...

hi anonymous,

thanks for your thoughts. i can only speak for myself when i answer the question "what have I done to change these laws?" -- and my answer is everything i possibly can.

indeed, i have done most of what i have done due to the fact that after 30 years of waiting for someone else to get the job done, i figured out that the "leaders" were clueless, inept and/or not actually capable of accomplishing anything meaningful.

there is absolutely no indication among any of the "big 3" that they have the slightest clue about what to do -- hell, until i came along nobody even bothered trying to find all the pertinent data and putting it in one place.

that struck me as odd simply because the data is the starting point for fighting back. afterall, the drug czar constantly cites said data -- yet the "leaders" had (and still have) absolutely no data on their sites.

this is a war for hearts and minds -- and the "big 3" can't even seem to muster up the support from those most directly affected: pot smokers.

if you will, kindly point out just a single "success" that can be attributed to those organizations. and remember: increasing numbers of arrests for marijuana possession is not an indicator of success -- it is a blatant failure.

there is no plan, there is no real leadership. instead there are three organizations pissing money into the wind.

sorry, but those organizations need to have fires lit under their asses to get them moving. until and unless they come up with a coherent game plan the "big 3" are simply a hindrance to progress.

that's my story and i'm sticking to it.

Douglas A. Willinger said...

Having joined the DPF nearly 2 decades ago in my efforts to move beyond just Marijuana legalization -- aka Coca legalization and the pointing out how prohibition through its iron law of promoting CONCENTRATED drug taking promotes drug abuse -- and seeing how they have literally dragged their heels, I a, convinced they are binded by the politics of Washington, D.C. criminal mercantilism of Big Tobacco/Big Pharm: