How Strange Does It Have to Get?
Why It Is Time To Decriminalize Drug Use

Michael C. Ruppert

As First Published in the November/December, 1999 issue of From the Wilderness

One of the things that has made From The Wilderness successful has been our ability to take bizarre and seemingly inexplicable events and, through our analysis, make sense out of them. FTW is a giver of "Ahas!" A good example was our explanation of exactly how and why the Impeachment of President Clinton proved to be such a tragicomic debacle. By laying out a timeline we demonstrated clearly how Bill Clinton blackmailed his way out of the Impeachment with a CIA report incriminating George Bush and the Reagan Administration in cocaine trafficking. By revealing connections between Ken Starr and secret 1982 negotiations that made it easier for the CIA and its agents to move drugs, we produced many (still reverberating) "Ahas!". [We will be publishing our first book on that subject next year.]

FTW provides you with what we like to call a "map" of the political and economic geography in which we live and move and have our being. The result, we hope, especially in times of crisis or rapid change, is an empowering guide for clear-eyed, intelligent action based upon truly informed choices rather than frightened reaction or resignation and denial. We firmly agree with Thomas Jefferson that a well informed public will almost invariably come to the right conclusion. You and I both know what the problem with that equation is.

Let's consider some examples about how well - by design - you have NOT been informed:

Did you know that in August the Drug Enforcement Administration seized 40,000 pounds of sterile Canadian hemp seeds as they were being imported for use as birdseed? The seeds (for more than a hundred years a principal ingredient in all bird seed) contained less than 13 parts per million of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes intoxication. Hemp and marijuana differ in that hemp is not intoxicating. The seeds were incapable of sprouting if planted. Using the same ratio, a non-alcoholic beer has four times more alcohol than these seeds have THC. Is the DEA afraid that the seeds would be a "gateway" drug to lead parakeets on to crack cocaine? In November, after stunning humiliations, the DEA, which had undoubtedly been acting on orders of the Justice Department and the White House, through Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, relented in its seizure order. But it still has not released the load. Why?

Did you know that of all the plants on the earth there are none that have more commercial uses than hemp, from clothing to food, to medicine, to energy, to building materials? Did you know that commercial hemp production would threaten the incomes of pharmaceutical companies, synthetic textile makers, timber companies, chemical companies and paper mills? For a real eye opener I suggest that you read Jack Herer's well documented and very "fun" book The Emperor Wears No Clothes, now in its twelfth printing. He has a standing $50,000 cash offer to prove him wrong.

Did you know that 7 states and the District of Columbia have voted overwhelmingly in favor of medical marijuana?

Did you know that, regardless of state laws, doctors and nurses routinely provide marijuana to cancer and terminally ill patients in hospitals and hospices?

Did you know that Members of Congress, led by Bob Barr of Georgia, actually attempted to throw out and invalidate a vote by the people of the District of Colombia (61%) in favor of allowing medical marijuana? Brother Barr is still working on that particular butchery of the democratic process.

Did you know that, as reported by The Sentencing Project this November, women are the fastest growing component of our prison population and that almost all of them are non-violent drug offenders? Two thirds of them have children under the age of eighteen. In 1986 the number of women in state prison for drug offenses was 2,400. In 1996 it was 23,7000 - a tenfold increase in ten years. 

Did you know that in 1986 there were 34,000 men in state prisons for drug crimes and in 1996, ten years later, there were 213,900? Most of the men there now are non-violent drug offenders.

Do you know that privately held corporations like Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut (with a long and well documented history of CIA financial and management connections) house many of these prisoners under contract to all levels of government and that their stocks trade on Wall Street? The stock prices rise and fall based upon the number of inmates housed and provided as "slave" labor to the government and major corporations

Did you know that the naturally occurring byproducts of the opium poppy and coca leaf are relatively non-addicting substances that have been in the general pharmacopoeia of mankind for thousands of years with comparable (usually lower) addiction rates than alcohol - especially distilled spirits?  Did you know that it is only the manmade chemically refined versions of these drugs that are overwhelmingly physically addictive for certain people?

Did you know that if these drugs were not illegal their retail values would probably be hundreds of times less than what prevails on the streets today? To paraphrase my friend, author Dan Russell whose new book Drug War is a must read, "Go out on the street and buy some cocaine. Easy. Now, go out and try and buy a coca leaf. Impossible. Try the same thing with heroin. Easy. Now try to score a little opium ball. Impossible." Learn what has become obvious in the Netherlands and Britain and Switzerland and Belgium and many other countries: An addict who does not have to burglarize a house to get his drug will not burglarize a house. He or she will go to the clinic or to the doctor for a dose.  A functional addict will go to work, get a paycheck and pay for his or her drugs. How many alcoholics are hard working and never miss a day of work yet, stupefy themselves nightly to the great loss of their families and friends?

Do you know that two governors (New Mexico and Minnesota), many church leaders, a former U.S. ambassador, university professors and deans, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, current and former heads of state of many western hemisphere nations, the former Vice Chairman of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, two former and one sitting U.S. district court judges  and several state supreme court justices have called for an end to The War on Drugs? They call it, quite correctly, a total failure.

Did you know that on October 25, as Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey was calling for $1.5 billion dollars worth of military aid for Colombia, ten million - TEN MILLION - protestors took to the streets in that ravaged country of out-of-control warlords, maniacs and people defending themselves from U.S. inspired carnage? They pleaded, begged for peace. Two million marched in Bogota alone. Like Kosovo, Colombia is a home to the two most precious commodities of the Twentieth Century - oil and drugs. It is only in these nations, like Vietnam, that the U.S. selectively intervenes and turns local conflicts into inflamed, infected, pustulated and bloody profit centers where U.S. made arms, equipment and consumer goods disappear into black holes of devastation.

Did you know that drug related asset forfeiture, without due process of law or a conviction, is now a major component of law enforcement budgets nationally and that the total amount of money and property seized from Americans, without a trial, is in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually? Did you know that in 1992  L.A. County Sheriffs deputies murdered  Donald Scott, in a bogus drug raid, in another (Ventura) county, just so they could seize his ranch? Coincidentally, it was a ranch that Scott, on a number of occasions, had refused to sell to the National Park Service. The search by deputies, following Scott's murder, revealed no drugs anywhere on the property, not even a sterile hemp seed or an intoxicated canary. Nor did Scott have any criminal record. Scott's case is no different from thousands of cases each year - just bigger.

Did you know that the Senate, this November, in a long overdue response to the unjustifiable discrepancy in mandatory sentences between crack and powder cocaine (100 to 1), took steps to resolve the conflict? Instead of voting to reduce mandatory crack sentences to compare with those for powdered cocaine they voted to raise the mandatory minimum sentences for powder. They voted for more prison beds and labor for Wackenhut and CCA rather than taxpayer benefit.

According to former San Jose Chief of Police Joseph MacNamara, now a fellow at the Hoover Institute, when Richard Nixon started the War on Drugs in 1972, the Federal law enforcement budget allocation was $101 million. Today, in FY 2000, it is $17 billion at the Federal level and, according to FTW Contributing Editor Catherine Austin Fitts, it is $73 billion if you include state and local expenditures and prison construction. $73 billion is more than the annual budget of three quarters of the nations on earth. Did you know that today drugs are more plentiful and comparatively less expensive than they were in 1972?

Did you know that in 1999, also according to Chief McNamara, there are 60,000 active case investigations of police corruption in the United States involving one or more police officers?

Let's Get Personal

It is time to draw a line in the bullshit.

Did you know that Renée Boje, a 30 year old California commercial artist who was helping two AIDS patients grow marijuana for medicinal use (after California's Proposition 215 legalized it) was arrested for her efforts? When she realized that she, who had no criminal record, was facing a Federal sentence of ten years to life in prison, she fled to Canada. She realized that the Federal Government has made her a pawn in its war against all seven states which have legalized medical marijuana. Just over half a millenium since the burning of Joan of Arc, the United States is attempting to fry a new kind of heretic. And the attractive Bojee is not a regular drug user and the plants were not hers.  Like Jean D'Arc - as the French call her - Boje is becoming a messenger telling us about cowardice and greed.

Her friends, two AIDS patients Peter McWilliams and Todd McCormick, were arrested on Federal (not state) charges, and told by the U.S. district court judge that, if tried, they would not be allowed to tell the jury of their need for medical marijuana or of the California law permitting it. They have both agreed to a plea bargain to avoid serving minimum ten year (death) sentences in a federal penitentiary. Boje is now fighting extradition on the grounds that she is a political refugee and would be a political prisoner in the U.S. Does this woman sound as though she deserves ten years to life?. Do two young men near death from AIDS deserve the wrath of the U.S. law enforcement establishment? I have filed an affidavit in support of Renée's application for political refugee status in Canada. [To read more about Renée's case pick up the December 1999 issue of Glamour Magazine or visit her web site at .

Is all of this strange enough for you?

I am going to explain to you why the government of the United States of America must go to any length to defeat and imprison a 30 year old woman who was trying to assist her sick friends. When I became a policeman I expected and wanted to face dangerous and violent criminals, people who hurt society and their fellow man. I'll be damned if I can see any kind of a threat in these three. I see more danger and harm in those who would persecute them.

Changing The Map Instead of Reading It

Before I take a stand on any particular issue, and before I even try to analyze a problem for my readers I try to remove any personal bias. Before I spout off further let me tell you where I am coming from.  When I was a Los Angeles police officer, specializing in narcotics, I bought the drug program, propaganda and campaign hook, line and sinker. It was easy to see that heroin addicts committed crimes. It was happening all around me in South Central L.A. I made more than 500  arrests of "hypes" who were committing burglaries, stealing cars, selling drugs, forging checks etc. Then I caught the CIA dealing drugs and saw them have not only complete immunity but the assistance of local law enforcement managers and intelligence officers as well. In 1976 I attended a two week DEA training school at which I was told the official policy of the United States Government: "Cocaine hydrochloride is less harmful than  marijuana." I am angry about that piece of propaganda even today.

I have also written more than thirty articles on the subject of substance abuse for The U.S. Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence. I was its West Coast Correspondent from 1983 to 1986. I also wrote stories on crack cocaine for L.A. papers when the epidemic was just starting. I served on the Board of Directors of the National Council on Alcoholism of the San Fernando Valley for two and a half years.

I am also a recovering addict myself. My drug of choice was alcohol. And, thanks to a 12 step recovery program, I have not used a mind altering substance of any kind - not even a beer or a joint - in what will be seventeen years come January of 2000. I have worked with and "sponsored" a great many addicts in recovery from their addictions to all kinds of substances from alcohol to crack cocaine to heroin. So I have some experience on the subject and arguably no particular axe to grind.

So how do we explain this strange - no, this BIZARRE - behavior by our government and elected representatives? The only way to explain this behavior is to see clearly that the United States needs for illegal drugs, especially marijuana, to remain illegal. Why? Because legalization of marijuana would remove the need for billions of dollars in law enforcement and prison budgets. Legalization would drastically reduce the price and the huge profits would no longer be laundered through the big banks. Remember that $200 billion in illegal drug profits is laundered each year through American banks. As FTW has documented so thoroughly in the past, that $200 billion supports Wall Street and many powerful special interests there. Empires would fall.

Hell, people could grow it in their back yards. When was the last time you saw somebody getting arrested for growing celery, or tea, or tomatoes? What would that do to the stock values and price to earnings ratios of drug companies who make a zillion chemicals to help people eat after "chemo" or relieve glaucoma or ease menstrual cramps?  No, if marijuana were legalized then the drug war would collapse, because if one great lie is revealed then the rest of the basic assumptions become suspect. And in order to keep marijuana illegal it must first be demonized. If it has any redeeming value whatsoever then the argument that it is "devil weed" falls apart. Admit that, when smoked, it has unique medicinal value and the whole structure of lies upon which the drug war is based falls apart.  No one has made this argument more compellingly than China Syndrome author Mike Gray in his devastating 1998 book Drug Crazy.

Did you know that in the early 1930s, before Harry Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics demonized marijuana and hemp with a propaganda campaign akin to what Hitler used against the Jews, hemp was close to being a billion dollar commercial crop and a major farm staple in the U.S.? Did you know that both Washington and Jefferson grew it?  Did you know that the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper that would be illegal today?

Then there's the question of the hard drugs. Not the ones God created in plant form like opium or coca, but the ones that are hundreds or thousands of times more potent and addictive that man created from the plants, or, like speed, from chemicals directly. What do we do with them? Well, after twenty-seven years, billions of dollars, millions of ruined lives and murdered cops, after horrible addictions and millions of crimes committed to secure expensive illegal drugs, what successes do we have to show for the War on Drugs?

The myth that by decriminalizing drugs we will have eight year olds standing on street corners injecting heroin is just that - a myth. In countries where use has been decriminalized or where medical doctors, churches, families, tribes and cultures respond to addictions with treatment, the success rates are much higher - and crime is much lower than in the U.S. There is a lot more money available for things like Catherine Austin Fitts' "Popsicle Index." And, as I well know from my experience in the trenches of recovery, there are many people who can and do smoke the occasional joint, chew the occasional coca leaf (or drink the tea) in South America and smoke an occasional pipe of opium from the middle East to the Far East. There are even some who occasionally inject heroin without developing cravings or physical addiction.

These behaviors are exactly the same as for people who drink an occasional cocktail, have an occasional beer, or a glass of wine and then are able to walk away leaving part of it unconsumed. Now I have written extensively on the scientifically proven addictiveness of drugs like crack cocaine or smoked methamphetamine. I have detailed in FTW articles how the CIA studied the fact that cocaine smokers in South America were sometimes lobotomized  (unsuccessfully) to treat their addictions. But the CIA and the Rand Corporation (CIA funded) and UCLA scientists also knew that not everyone who smoked cocaine became addicted. What they found was that Crack cocaine was, however, the most effective "addictor" out there. According to some estimates it hooks almost half of the people who smoke it more than twice. Thinking like the CIA does, or like Wall Street does, what a perfect business venture it is that instantly secures a permanent market (via addiction) of ten to twenty per cent of first time users and fifty per cent of third time users.

No, the "problem": medically, genetically, spiritually socially, is in the addict not in the substance. To say otherwise is to say that because some people are alcoholics then beer and wine should be banned. from the universe. We tried that and we got Al Capone, the Bronfmans,  Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Meyer Lansky and there was booze everywhere.

The time has come to decriminalize all drug use in this country, to regulate it and tax it and thus to take away the power from the drug warmongers.  Within that policy, to give hungry farmers access to a crop that was a U.S. farm staple for 250 years, all bans on the personal cultivation of marijuana and commercial hemp should be immediately removed.  FTW's map says that this is not only a sane and a rational step - it is also inevitable. Not only will it result in more humane and less repressive responses to social problems, it will cut the very legs from underneath the financial criminal plutocracy that now controls our government, our media and our society. From my perspective, there's a case up in Canada involving a 30 year old woman that may prove to be another "shot heard round the world.." This case may not be that shot, but there will be some other Renée Boje, Peter McWilliams or Todd McCormick that will. And that case will compel us all to make a choice as to whether we favor timid conformity with oppression or sanity, compassion and change. I, for one, hope that case is right here, right now, in Canada. Because to prolong these confrontations only increases the numbers of people who must suffer in the meantime.

To quote Sam Smith of the Progressive Review (, action on these principles and on issues like WTO in Seattle allows people "of all stripes to come together and discover that they have more in common with each other than they do with their leaders." And the outcome of this one case may well determine whether the most precious commodities of the new century will be technology, intelligence, information and the human spirit - or the ability to control  and censor them.

Michael C. Ruppert


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