December 22, 2004


BURNT OUT: From New York to California, the frontline soldiers of marijuana reform are showing fatigue. Can Joe Bruno turn the tide? (Dan Neel , 12/21/04, NY Press)

Marijuana Reform Party of New York State, has lost his passion for the job. Leighton has given up on further attempts to make the MRP a ballot-line political party in New York State. Failing twice to get the 50,000 votes necessary to do so has taken its toll.

"I don't see us trying for a third time," says Leighton. "We shot our wad in 1998 and 2002. Both took a hell of a lot of effort."

Leighton, who founded the MRP in 1997 and was a New York gubernatorial candidate in 2002, cites a daunting shift toward a more conservative political culture in explaining why he no longer sees significant pot reform in this country happening anytime soon. Early indications that the United States Supreme Court will issue an anti-pot opinion in the well-publicized case of Raich v. Ashcroft hasn't helped improve Leighton's mood.

His motivation waning, Leighton has let the MRP web site become a museum piece. October 13, 2003 is the date of "Today's Featured Article" on the front page of the site. Multiple links to "incest porn" populate the otherwise empty reader-comment areas below some stories. Leighton says the site hasn't been updated in months. MRP contact numbers and locations have been shuttered. The main phone now rings at Leighton's house "because we've been hurting for resources," he confesses. [...]

Leighton is just one example of the pessimism that has gripped the legalization community. Another is seen in the pot growers and distributors all over New York who feel things have moved backward for pot reform since today's retro-conservative domestic environment began hardening after Sept. 11.

Even in California, where medicinal pot is supposed to be legal, the mood among those supposedly leading the way is downright gloomy.

"The mood in this country is not very proactive to pot anymore. The social agenda has really changed," says Lynn Tucker, a Mendocino County grower who lives on a farm along California's Highway 20. [...]

[L]eighton remains cynical. "The way I see it, what it's really going to take is some pro-pot celebrity or billionaire candidate to make any headway in pot legalization. Besides, I'm more worried about a dirty bomb here in New York City than I am about medical marijuana. One of our founders was a fireman in the World Trade Center and never came out. Sure, I'd love to have medical marijuana. It'd be great. But the movement peaked in the late 90s and things are changing."

Legalization of dope is one of many social issues that libertarians thought inevitable but which conservatives were able to spike without breaking a sweat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 22, 2004 2:38 PM

It sure doesn't help when the medical quacks, hemp heads and Phish-fans are the public face of your campaign.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 22, 2004 3:12 PM

Like, bummer.

Posted by: Rick T. at December 22, 2004 3:55 PM

It is truly amazing that he couldn't get 50,000 signatures in a State with 20 million residents. He should have been able to set up a table in Washington Square Park and gotten enough signatures over a 3 day weekend.

I guess those ads where the potheads just stay in their room all day and completely lack ambition have some basis in reality.

Posted by: Bart at December 22, 2004 4:46 PM

I'd have a lot more sympathy for the Prohibitionists if they weren't so willing to cut down all the trees to get at the devil.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at December 22, 2004 8:22 PM

Dope don't grow on trees.

Posted by: oj at December 22, 2004 8:30 PM

The drug war is doomed to failure just as every effort which fails to take man's basic nature into account is doomed to failure.

Posted by: Bart at December 23, 2004 6:31 AM


Excellent point that you have exactly backwards. Sin must be denied social approval otherwise Man will eagerly embrace it--that's our nature.

Posted by: oj at December 23, 2004 8:35 AM

The necessary result of the drug war has been the corruption that is rampant in our law enforcement apparatus, which serves only to foster the view that it is essentially worthless. That anyone could expect the political class and the jackbooted thugs of the constabulary to have reacted any differently strains credulity. It is an exact parallel with America of the 20s except the dollar amounts are larger and the music is worse. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. After our doleful experience with the Volstead Act, one would think we would be reticent about this ridiculous war on drugs.

To my mind, that is worse than allowing a few idiots to get high for cheap, and limiting our punishments to those who put others at risk when they decide to use hallucinogens. The current rot just undermines all of society. If our law enforcement system becomes untrustworthy, the entire basis of our society collapses, and we become no better than Mexico. We already see the effects of this in every inner city in America.

Man will eagerly embrace 'sin', social approval be damned, if the sin gives him sufficient enjoyment.

Posted by: Bart at December 23, 2004 11:11 PM


Prohibition worked too.

Posted by: oj at December 24, 2004 8:42 AM


You are the only person I have ever heard of who claims that Prohibition worked. That is of course unless your goal was the destruction of the American legal system and the creation of a nationwide organized crime network.

Posted by: Bart at December 24, 2004 11:31 AM

Wasn't nationwide--it was in a few cities. Every social pathology and physical ill associated with alcohol consumption declined during Prohibition.

Posted by: oj at December 24, 2004 11:41 AM

Organized crime from Al Capone to Meyer Lansky to the Dixie Mafia(which gave us Slick Willie from Hot Springs) mushroomed as a result. The notion that it was restricted to a few cities is completely ahistorical.

It is safe to say that organized crime in America which permeates the entire economy and leeches off the consumer got its effective start during Prohibition.

Posted by: Bart at December 24, 2004 5:30 PM

Organized crime is and always has been insignificant, except in the Labor Movement, which it would have dominated regardless.

Posted by: oj at December 25, 2004 8:33 AM

Organized Crime is America's largest industry and if it were not for the nanny staters, it would not exist. If usury, gambling, prostitution and drugs were legal, organized crime would not have the money, and hence the muscle to intervene in other areas.

Organized crime was a nonexistent force in labor matters until after it had the scratch from Prohibition to put muscle in the streets.

Posted by: Bart at December 25, 2004 11:49 AM

You've gotta stop watching so much tv.

Posted by: oj at December 25, 2004 11:56 AM


I live in NJ and I grew up with organized crime people, people whose entire income was the result of their mob connections. It's a world I know very well and I'm not saying anything to you I haven't said to friends of mine in the offshore casino biz.

Posted by: Bart at December 25, 2004 3:16 PM


Your knowing one, contra Harry, doesn't mean they matter.

Posted by: oj at December 25, 2004 5:48 PM

There's no telling how much damage Prohibition would have caused had it been allowed to continue.

I used to be very libertarian on this issue, but am no more agnostic.

However, the prohibitionists have a real case to answer: it is by no means clear that continued prohibition is the least cost option going forward.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 25, 2004 9:23 PM


Ah, there's where you stumble: cost has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: oj at December 25, 2004 9:31 PM


I have to agree entirely. The cost is more than the direct expenditure but is also in the corruption that has become endemic in our law enforcement system. Our lack of confidence in our judicial system can cause us to lose faith in our continued Republic. When the economy is going well, that's not really important, but in an economic downturn, our legal and governmental system is all that protects us from the abyss.

OJ seems to like societies where people's private behavior is intensely policed. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Posted by: Bart at December 26, 2004 11:11 AM


No behavior is private.

Posted by: oj at December 26, 2004 11:20 AM