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