What Are You Going to Do Now That You've Lost the Drug War? Blame George Soros!


Those hands are covered in blood. |||

It's hard to know where to begin when pointing out the unintentional comedy shot through this truly awful Washington Times article, "George Soros' real crusade: Legalizing marijuana in the U.S." How about this quote from former White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director John Walters:

Their entire message is built on phony propaganda that has been far too successful in the mainstream media.

That would be the same John Walters who used your taxpayer dollars in 2007 to cherry-pick cocaine-price statistics as the basis for a successful media victory lap touting major progress in the war on drugs, even though data on the subject that he actively suppressed showed the opposite to be true. And yes, the same John Walters who in 2008 made the laugh-out-loud claim that "Our policy has been a success," and that "The good news in drug policy is that we know what works, and that is moral seriousness."

Not groundswell enough for you, Mr. Walters? |||

In addition to having one of the most flagrant propagandists in the modern history of government be the lead witness against alleged pro-legalization propaganda, the Wash Times lets him carry the article's main thesis:

"The pro-legalization movement hasn't come from a groundswell of the people. A great deal of its funding and fraud has been perpetrated by George Soros and then promoted by celebrities," said [Walters]. "The truth is under attack, and it's an absolutely dangerous direction for this country to be going in."

The truth has been under attack from prohibitionist blowhards like John Walters for so long that they've forgotten how to win an argument on the merits, if they in fact ever knew. For instance, arguably the biggest moment in the modern acceleration toward legalization came in 2010, when an Oakland dispensary owner named Richard Lee fought like hell to get on the California ballot the full-legalization measure Prop. 19. Over the initial wishes of just about every established marijuana policy group. As I wrote just after that election:

Legalization groups initially tried to talk Lee out of it, warning him that the state wasn't ready for so radical a step. Major drug policy donors such as George Soros and Peter Lewis came through with money only in the last weeks of the campaign. Attending the annual conference of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in September, I was stunned that a fair amount of the conference's time was dedicated to convincing a room full of pot advocates that Prop. 19 was a good thing.


Even though the initiative lost, it tapped into a—yes!—groundswell of public support for leapfrogging over the traditional medical marijuana half-measures that the likes of Soros and Lewis had been funding for two decades. Now, a shocking 54 percent of Americans favor legalization, 69 percent believe that—contra prohibitionist propaganda—pot is less dangerous than alcohol, and 75 percent think weed will eventually be legal. It's a mighty dim view of your fellow Americans that their opinions can be swayed by a billionaire slicing off a rounding error of his fortune. And as Jacob Sullum noted last year, "if that were true, the federal government, which has vastly greater resources[…], would not be losing this argument."

This is not to say that the billionaire anti-prohibitionists like Soros and the late Lewis (who the Times sneeringly described as an "unabashed pot smoker") did not impact the debate. To the contrary: By helping fund successful medical marijuana initiatives, they allowed for a demonstration project that created familiarity with a previously alien and scary-sounding practice. And as Sullum has noted, in America, familiarity breeds tolerance. But that's considerably different that pumping propaganda into zombie like vessels who dutifully change their minds.

Because this is the Washington Times, we are also treated to this delightfully ignorant even-The-New-Republic line: 

Even Mr. Obama's drug czar said the legalization of marijuana is dangerous.

Do tell.

This might be my favorite section of the article:

Although these organizations appear on the surface to have no affiliation, closer examination shows all are linked through their personnel and cross-promotion.

Drug Policy Alliance President Ira Glasser is a former executive director of the ACLU. Marijuana Policy Project co-founders Rob Kampia, Chuck Thomas and Mike Kirshner originally worked at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which hosts industry conferences attended and promoted by Drug Policy Alliance staff, and has a political action committee that donates to marijuana advocacy candidates.

The Marijuana Policy Project's co-founders also frequently speak at events sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance. The National Cannabis Industry Association — known as the chamber of commerce for marijuana — was co-founded by Aaron Smith, who previously worked at Safe Access Now, another Soros-backed nonprofit that promotes the legalization of pot.

We are all of us puppets. |||

Why, it's almost as if people who share the same interests sometimes collaborate!

Author Kelly Riddell ends on what she must think is a profound point:

Tom Angell, founder and chairman of the Marijuana Majority, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. "We now have 20 states plus the District of Columbia with medical marijuana laws, two states have already legalized it for all adults over the age of 21 — politicians will have to follow the will of the people on this."

Or follow Mr. Soros' money. Mr. Angell's group is funded, in part, by a grant from the Drug Policy Alliance.

Here is a thing to understand about political money, and Soros' in particular: When given to federal candidates and political parties, it is almost completely useless in moving the needle on your pet policy reform. Soros (and Lewis, and anti-prohibition backer John Sperling) got so heavily into national politics in 2004 that they drew their very own Jane Mayer article in The New Yorker. Did the politicians they eventually helped elect turn out to be worth a damn on drug reform? Not a bit. It is only since "the will of the people" has moved so sharply, so seemingly irreversibly, that a small handful of politicians have begun to get out of the way of rolling back one of the worst policy catastrophes in modern American history.

It is indeed sad for prohibitionists that they are having a hard time raising money, and that the scores of billions of dollars that the U.S. government has spent on pumping ridiculous propaganda into the minds of taxpayers has utterly failed to convince them of things that aren't remotely true. For decades, they had the law, the money, and the guns all on their side. No wonder they want to blame George Soros: It's a hell of a lot more comforting than looking in the mirror.

NEXT: Shikha Dalmia on Obamacare's Enrollment Hype

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  1. Sheesh, of all the things to attack Soros for…

    1. I remember once trying to summarize Soros’s ideas to Blay Tarnoff by saying The Palindrome favors an open society. Blay, in the way radical libertarians are all too prone to characterize anyone who’s not a radical libertarian as an authoritarian?an extreme authoritarian if they have any ideology at all?kept trying to peg him that way, and I kept pausing and repeating slowly, “He favors an open society.” Soros is not a radical libertarian the way we are, but he is in favor of liberty, he just has a somewhat different conception of it. He’s considerably more in agreement with us than not.

  2. Marijuana killed my father. And raped my mother. How dare you awful libertarians call for its legalization!

    1. Marijuana turned me into a newt.

      1. But you got better.

  3. “Their entire message is built on phony propaganda”

    As opposed to genuine propaganda?

    1. Propaganda written and posted here at reason is genuine Propaganda.

      Or is it?

      Reason has pulled me into a losing political philosophy with their slick libertarian propaganda and all i got was this t-shirt!!!

      1. Huh, I have three T-shirts. I must be more sucked in than you.

        1. The torso dimensions of their smaller sizes are among the best. Their shirts are clearly designed for the lean cosmotarian figure.

      2. I routinely wear the new drone one. I’ve gotten both eyerolls and grins.

        1. I prefer the old school plain Reason shirt, the drone one to me is a little cluttered and WTF why use baby blue?

  4. Is it bad that i resent thanking Soros for helping to end the drug war?

    1. If he’s helping the cause on this issue, I’ll happily thank him for it, just holding my nose on everything else he does.

      1. Everything? He helped bring down the Iron Curtain and steered some of the newly-freed countries away from adopting new forms of authoritarianism.

        The Open Society Inst. was also good on prostitution and other sex issues, plus it worked against psychiatric authoritarianism.

        The things Soros gets criticized for are commonplace ideas among “liberals” or moderate-to-“liberal”s. So in many ways he’s more or less like the avg. person, and in the rest of the ways he’s moderately to radically libertarian. So overall he’s waaaay better than most people.

  5. in America, familiarity breeds tolerance.

    I find this lie to be offensive. I’ve found the opposite to be true, familiarity breeds contempt.

    I liked people and ideas more before I knew more about them. The more familiar I become with the details, the more the hate grows.

    1. Same. Seems the more frequently someone speaks, the less inclined I am to like and/or respect them as time goes on.

      1. Then you guys are just nasty fucks. Of course the more details you learn, the more you’ll have to disagree with, but is that any cause for contempt, hate, or lack of respect?

        People are different. You’d think libertarians would understand that.

    2. I think “contempt” in this context doesn’t mean what you think it means. As it’s used here, it simply means “not awe.”

  6. The Moonies hate drugs. Go figure.

    1. Well Steely Dan is my drug, and the drug hates Moonies.

  7. Our billionaires are public-spirited philanthropists, their billionaires are sinister manipulators corrupting our democracy!

  8. The Washington Times’ piece really opened my eyes to the vast conspiracy of people who believe in a principle and then work with multiple organizations that support that principle. Everywhere I go now, I see groups of people who share common interests and general trends in demographics and life choices. I feel like me and my socio-economically equivalent friends are the only sane ones around.

  9. Is it only marijuana or is the war on really fun drugs being lost too? I haven’t seen too much showing unprecedented survey support for legalizing, say, crack. (I haven’t been doing much research, though)

    1. It’s marijuana. Our only chance to get crack legal is to get crack to become as popular, use-wise, as marijuana. However, we have a reasonable chance to get penalties reduced for drug law violations generally.

  10. The Washington Times: Bringing You The “Change-The-Bonding-Angles-In-Your-Tap-Water” Ads You Want, Every Week.

  11. Bezos what are you doing?

  12. You may think this is strange, but I think part of the momentum pushing this over was from electing Obama prez. It really was “Yes, we can.” “If we can elect a mulatto POTUS, we can also get legal marijuana. And it’s OK to tell poll-takers we want legal mj, and that it’s not dangerous.” Has nothing to do with Obama’s policies, of course.

  13. It is not losing the war on drugs that bothers me, it is losing the war on science.

    150+ Scientific Studies Showing the Dangers of Marijuana

    1. There’s Poptech, parading that NIDA and foreign junk science again.

      For some reason, he won’t look at the gold standard of marijuana research – the major government commissions on marijuana, like President Nixon’s 1972 Shafer Commission.

      They all concluded marijuana is less “addictive” than coffee, FAR less harmful than alcohol, and should be regulated as is alcohol.…..tudies.htm

      1. Ah, yes of course – Richard Nixon the one who brought us communist style prices controls is always where one turns to as the “gold standard”.

        Who knew the 119 unique sources are all the NIDA or “junk foreign science”?

        1. Ironic, considering Nixon got us off the gold standard.

  14. Marijuana is chemotherapy for the cancer of Big Government.

  15. Great article, showing a good depth of knowledge of the marijuana reform movement. Welch says:

    “the scores of billions of dollars that the U.S. government has spent on pumping ridiculous propaganda into the minds of taxpayers has utterly failed to convince them of things that aren’t remotely true. For decades, they had the law, the money, and the guns all on their side.”

    Right. And the most treacherous thing they had on their side was the mainstream media. – As Ex-NORML Director, Richard Cowan, said a long time ago – “The biggest reason for the continued existence of marijuana prohibition is bad journalism.”

    The Fourth Estate abrogated their responsibility to accurately inform the public. Perhaps they deserve to wither away.

    Thanks for demonstrating where the flow of real information exists.

  16. Does anyone honestly believe that wasting $20 Billion and arresting 3/4 Million Americans annually for choosing a substance Scientifically proven to be safer than what the govt allows, is a sound policy?

    1. @Mike — Less and less believe. That’s why there is now majority support for re-legalizing marijuana – which continues to grow.

      The shrinking minority of ‘believers’ is composed of religious zealots who want their dogma codified into civil law – and the prohibition profiteers.

      All the billions wasted on the vicious, fraudulent war on marijuana consumers is paying the rent for many police, prisons, alcohol and pharmaceutical companies, drug testing and “treatment” companies, money laundering banks and all the businesses that serve/sell to these groups.

      Witch hunts are very profitable for some.

  17. It’s so much easier to manipulate people when they’re stoned and stupid.

    1. http://www.marijuana.Com/threa…..ot.307901/

      Do you believe everything the govt tells you?

      We’d all be better off if the police focused on crimes that have actual victims.

      Does anyone honestly believe that wasting $20 Billion and arresting 3/4 Million Americans annually for choosing a substance Scientifically proven to be safer than what the govt allows, is a sound policy?

    2. http://www.marijuana.Com/threa…..ot.307901/

      Do you believe everything the govt tells you?

      We’d all be better off if the police focused on crimes that have actual victims.

      Does anyone honestly believe that wasting $20 Billion and arresting 3/4 Million Americans annually for choosing a substance Scientifically proven to be safer than what the govt allows, is a sound policy?

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