The High Priest of Medical Marijuana

Cully Stimson /

If you ever wondered about some of the people behind the marijuana legalization movement, you need not look any further than Ed Rosenthal and Richard Cowan to see how disingenuous arguments are used to advance a broader agenda.

Rosenthal (former editor of High Times Magazine) and Cowan (former Director of NORML — the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) realized a long time ago that in order to achieve full legalization of marijuana throughout the United States, they would have to invent a “scam” (their words) to get people to see marijuana in a whole new light.  That “scam” was the passage of “medical marijuana” laws in as many states as possible.

Don’t believe me? Then watch this video (above) where they say exactly that.

As we detailed in our recently published research paper, “Legalizing Marijuana: Why Citizens Should Just Say No,” marijuana is dangerous, not at all like alcohol, is addictive, and legalization will result in a myriad of unintended but predictable consequences, including increased usage by minors, additional drug trafficking by criminal syndicates and an increase in crime.  We also noted that California’s Prop 19 (November ballot initiative to legalize marijuana) is flawed, fails to address the practical problems of implementation, fails to address the fact that federal law prohibits marijuana production, distribution and possession, and is based on flawed claims regarding the amount of tax revenue it would raise.

Predictably, pro-legalization activists howled at our comprehensive and detailed report, most likely because it contained facts that rebutted each and every claim they have been peddling for years.

Now, major California newspapers have all come out against Prop 19, echoing various aspect of our research paper.

The Los Angeles Times’ first political endorsement of the 2010 cycle was an editorial against Prop 19.  The Times opposes Prop 19 because it is “so poorly thought out, badly crafted and replete with loopholes and contradictions,” and is “an invitation to chaos.”  They point out, as we did that “Californians cannot legalize marijuana,” and in doing so they would “set up an inevitable conflict with the federal government that might not end well for the state.”  The Times’ editors must have read our paper (published 11 days earlier), where we said: “Yet even if California could act as if it were an island, the legalization route would still end very badly for the Golden State.”

Similarly, the San Francisco Chronicle editorialized against Prop 19 (“seriously flawed initiative,” “invite legal chaos,” “fail to deliver its promised economic benefits”), as did the Sacramento Bee (“does not set statewide standards on taxation”).

Opposition to legalization is clearly not a partisan issue.  The current Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, and five other former Directors who served in the Clinton and both Bush administrations recently opined in the Los Angeles Times against Prop 19 about why Californians should just say no.  Every single head of the Drug Enforcement Administration opposes Prop 19, as they recently opined in the Wall Street Journal.

Politicians of all stripes are against Prop 19, including California Attorney General Jerry Brown, Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and virtually all other candidates for public office in California.

The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement opposes Prop 19, pointing out that although they are “concerned about disparities in sentencing and treatment in the criminal justice system,” legalizing marijuana is not the cure.  Virtually every law enforcement organization in the Golden State opposes legalization and Prop 19.

Pro-legalization activists have touted the “expected” $1.4 billion in tax revenue California would receive were Prop 19 passed.  However, the state office charged with estimating the expected tax revenue gained from any law recently reversed itself and now says that is “not possible to estimate the potential revenue gain” from Prop 19.  Why?  Because, as we carefully and methodically pointed out in our research paper, there is no statewide regulatory framework in the act.  Implicit in their revised position is that, given the fact that residents are authorized to grow marijuana themselves, there is simply no way of knowing how many people will actually buy marijuana from the state-authorized store—where they will pay a state sales tax on top of the cost for the product.

In other words, their “taxing pot will raise revenues” argument has gone up in smoke.

Finally, The Glaucoma Foundation recently released a statement, based on research, that “medical experts believe that marijuana could actually prove harmful for glaucoma patients.”  Dr. James Tsai, Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science at Yale University School of Medicine stated, “We are afraid that people will self-treat their glaucoma with marijuana…They think that even if this unconventional therapy doesn’t work, it can’t possibly hurt their disease.  However, studies suggest that it might in fact be damaging.”  The reason, according to the Foundation, is that marijuana only lowers pressure in the eye for several hours, requiring patients to medicate day and night.  “Failing to do so can lead to a rebound spike in eye pressure, which can be damaging.”

So, it looks Rosenthal and Cowan are having a harder time than they thought enacting their “scam.”

UPDATE: The original version of this article had Rosenthal’s and Cowen’s titles switched. They now read correctly.