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.