Taxes derived from legal cannabis sales are being used to fund the War On Drugs that misguided anti-prohibitionists had hoped to derail through legalization.
As if the taxation of marijuana in legalized areas was not inherently wrong enough, those tax funds are now being used to support the destructive War On Drugs. Law enforcement is not only using them to crack down on other drugs, but to wage war against independent growers outside of their taxed system.
Medical marijuana patient fees are helping finance aggressive enforcement efforts in the Detroit area, where local sheriff’s departments spent more than $600,000 in Michigan grant funding.
Law enforcement officials told The Detroit News the grants have helped them crack down on criminals operating outside the law. Departments have used the money for overtime pay, raid gear, dispensary stakeouts and vehicles used to haul contraband pot.
Legislators created the grant program two years ago, permitting sheriffs to use extra money that had accumulated in the state’s medical marijuana fund for enforcement, education or communication related to the 2008 law approved by voters.
Grant availability is based on the number of marijuana registry cards issued in a county. While many sheriffs did not apply this year, the Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county offices spent a combined $618,186 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 15.
In 2015, four of 83 county sheriffs applied for grants, followed by 18 this year.
Michael Loepp, a spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs that runs the program, said more counties are anticipated to participate in the current fiscal year.
“We continue to work with the counties to streamline the grant process,” said Loepp. “We know there is a short statutory turnaround time for the submission of applications and getting the final contracts to the counties so they can spend the funds in 2017.”
The program’s opponents said it’s wrong for the state to use mandatory patient and caregiver registration fees to perpetuate a “war on drugs” that can trap the same patients who are supposed to be protected.
“I really don’t think it’s appropriate to fund law enforcement on the backs of medical marijuana patients,” said Matt Abel, medical marijuana attorney. “It’s really a hidden tax on patients.”
Michigan is not alone. One of the selling points of state cannabis legalization to policing interests has been the promise to divert funds raised to footing the bill for increased prohibition enforcement in other specified areas.
If the goal is just to be able to smoke weed, then things are going great. But if the bottom line is the freedom and liberty of individuals, and the cessation of destructive legal paradigms, then legalization is starting to show signs of backfiring.
As long as we are being punished for exercising self-ownership and autonomy, then we cannot claim victory. The fight is not “for cannabis” but “against prohibition.” Otherwise it is bound to be a Pyrrhic Victory, that is, one in which the costs exceed the gains.