Colombia on the “right” side of the United States’ failed War on Drugs

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Key industry figures write directly for our new viewpoint section. This month, a former DEA Drug Task Force Commander argues that countries that recognize the benefits of medicinal cannabis are leading the way.

By: Charles Feldmann , Founding partner of Feldmann Nagel Cantafio Margulis

When I signed up to become a DEA task force commander in 1996, I truly believed the purpose of the War on Drugs was to keep my country safe. However, I quickly learned, its primary purpose was to maintain power for the political and economic elite.

Drug policy in the United States has been systematically driven by bias, political agendas and big business. In the 1870s anti-opium laws arose as Chinese immigrants grew in numbers. At the turn of that century anti- cocaine laws were also enacted that disproportionately targeted African American males. Building on this momentum, the 1920s saw marijuana pegged by the US government as a direct cause of “Mexican lawlessness.”

In the early 1900s negative attention to cannabis grew as more and more immigrants from central and south American made their way north, and the cotton and timber industries were jeopardized due to the widespread growth of industrial hemp.

Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner, Harry Anslinger paved the movement for strict regulation of cannabis, ultimately being responsible for the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The Act prohibited the use of cannabis in the US as a recreational drug, deteriorated the economic value of hemp importation and commercial production, and put a halt to scientific research and medical testing of cannabis altogether, notwithstanding the plant had been accepted in the US and around the world for thousands of years prior.

Anslinger pushed his agenda (and the Act) through by associating marijuana and its alleged users with murder, suicide, and insanity. And then came President Richard Nixon. Nixon declared a War on Drugs in the 1970s and created the Drug Enforcement Administration. Congress shortly thereafter passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which allocated USD$1.7 billion to the War on Drugs and established mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug- related offenses.

Drug policy
in the United States has been systematically driven by bias, political agendas and big business.

Drug laws in the US are a product of a misguided need to control social conditions. The DEA started out as 1,470 special agents with a budget of USD$65 million. Today the DEA employs nearly 5,000 special agents and operates on an annual budget of over USD$3 billion. Has the War on Drugs part II begun again under the current conservative administration?

Despite the current uproar of congressional debate on the topic, to this day cannabis sits on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, denoting the plant as offering zero medical purpose and presenting a high potential for abuse—a characterization lacking any scientific backing. But we now see countries such as Israel and Colombia yielding legitimate and promising research on the widespread medicinal value cannabis has to offer, all with the support of its governments. Eyes are open to the high potential for cannabis as a medicine, a potential that has been masked by shoddy government tactics for the past century. Countries who recognize the medical potentials of cannabis are leading the industry. As an international cannabis business advisor, one question lingers and I can only speculate about the answer: will the US continue to choose resistance and fall behind in the movement, or as the country with the biggest potential market for cannabis, will it choose atonement?

Charles Feldmann, Esq., is the founding partner of Feldmann Nagel Cantafio Margulis, PLLC. Using his past experience as a Marine Corps federal prosecutor, DEA Drug Task Force. Commander and state narcotics prosecutor, Feldmann serves as a trusted advisor and international consultant for the global cannabis industry’s largest and most profitable businesses.

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