Author Archives: Eapen Thampy

My Favorite Theodore Roethke Poem — The Far Field

I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.

At the field’s end, in the corner missed by the mower,
Where the turf drops off into a grass-hidden culvert,
Haunt of the cat-bird, nesting-place of the field-mouse,
Not too far away from the ever-changing flower-dump,
Among the tin cans, tires, rusted pipes, broken machinery, —
One learned of the eternal;
And in the shrunken face of a dead rat, eaten by rain and ground-beetles
(I found in lying among the rubble of an old coal bin)
And the tom-cat, caught near the pheasant-run,
Its entrails strewn over the half-grown flowers,
Blasted to death by the night watchman.

I suffered for young birds, for young rabbits caught in the mower,
My grief was not excessive.
For to come upon warblers in early May
Was to forget time and death:
How they filled the oriole’s elm, a twittering restless cloud, all one morning,
And I watched and watched till my eyes blurred from the bird shapes, —
Cape May, Blackburnian, Cerulean, —
Moving, elusive as fish, fearless,
Hanging, bunched like young fruit, bending the end branches,
Still for a moment,
Then pitching away in half-flight,
Lighter than finches,
While the wrens bickered and sang in the half-green hedgerows,
And the flicker drummed from his dead tree in the chicken-yard.

— Or to lie naked in sand,
In the silted shallows of a slow river,
Fingering a shell,
Once I was something like this, mindless,
Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar;
Or to sink down to the hips in a mossy quagmire;
Or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a wet log,
I’ll return again,
As a snake or a raucous bird,
Or, with luck, as a lion.

I learned not to fear infinity,
The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow,
The wheel turning away from itself,
The sprawl of the wave,
The on-coming water.

The river turns on itself,
The tree retreats into its own shadow.
I feel a weightless change, a moving forward
As of water quickening before a narrowing channel
When banks converge, and the wide river whitens;
Or when two rivers combine, the blue glacial torrent
And the yellowish-green from the mountainy upland, —
At first a swift rippling between rocks,
Then a long running over flat stones
Before descending to the alluvial plane,
To the clay banks, and the wild grapes hanging from the elmtrees.
The slightly trembling water
Dropping a fine yellow silt where the sun stays;
And the crabs bask near the edge,
The weedy edge, alive with small snakes and bloodsuckers, —
I have come to a still, but not a deep center,
A point outside the glittering current;
My eyes stare at the bottom of a river,
At the irregular stones, iridescent sandgrains,
My mind moves in more than one place,
In a country half-land, half-water.

I am renewed by death, thought of my death,
The dry scent of a dying garden in September,
The wind fanning the ash of a low fire.
What I love is near at hand,
Always, in earth and air.

The lost self changes,
Turning toward the sea,
A sea-shape turning around, —
An old man with his feet before the fire,
In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
A man faced with his own immensity
Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why
Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind
That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.

All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree :
The pure serene of memory in one man, —
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world.


How Dan Viets of New Approach Missouri tried to kill medical marijuana legislation in the Missouri Legislature

In 2017, we worked with Missouri State Rep. Dr. Jim Neely (R-Cameron) on House Bill 437, a bill that would have created a comprehensive medical marijuana program. The fiscal note attached to the bill indicated that the State of Missouri believed that this program would be comparable to the medical marijuana program in Oregon, a pretty good benchmark:

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 8.18.54 AM.png

However, as soon as this bill was filed, we found that Lynne Schlosser, a long time liquor industry lobbyist who had begun taking marijuana clients, was working to kill this bill. This mystery was resolved when we found out that Lynne represented Show-Me Cannabis, the grassroots arm of the New Approach Missouri campaign (attorney Dan Viets is the Chairman of both organizations, and John Payne is the executive director of both organizations). We were sent a weekly report of Lynne Schlosser’s from Feb. 24, 2017, which indicated that she was actively working to kill this legislation:

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 8.15.20 AM

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 8.15.34 AM

Because of this opposition, Rep. Dr. Neely was forced to accept compromises to the bill, including paring it down to terminal illness.

Why would Dan Viets and John Payne order their lobbyist to kill this marijuana bill? The answer is simply that Rep. Neely’s proposal did not include any numerical restrictions on licensing or artificial barriers to entry. Without limiting licensing, New Approach Missouri could not promise major donors entry into an oligopoly market, which has been their fundraising strategy since Travis Maurer founded New Approach Missouri.

I’ve previously written about how the New Approach Missouri constitutional initiative proposes to restrict licensing, and how former New Approach Missouri board chair Mike Kielty thought he could create a cartel of non-competiting licensees, here:

Could Brad Bradshaw’s Constitutional Marijuana Initiative Allow Him to Make a Deal on Behalf of Missouri with Iran?

Note Section 3, subsection M, article XII of the proposed Constitutional “Bradshaw Amendment” petition to create a Missouri state medical research institute and medical marijuana program empowered to:Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 11.14.31 AM

This is very broad language granting a unilateral, unchecked power to the Research Board in charge of implementing this program to deal with foreign powers. It’s also worth remembering that Section 3, subsection I, article k designates Brad Bradshaw as the head of of the Research Board, empowering Mr. Bradshaw to propose and implement any agreement with a foreign power he chooses. Since this proposal if enacted by the voters would create a Constitutional framework superseding any legislative or executive  action, any modification would have to be voted on in a future Constitutional referendum.

I don’t think Mr. Bradshaw will consider dealing with Iran or any other foreign power that is hostile to American interests, but it is a legitimate concern that the scope of this power is broad enough that this kind of action would be possible and Constitutionally sanctioned. Voters should evaluate the language of these and other medical marijuana initiative petitions closely, and contact their elected representatives to express these and similar concerns.


How 20 Operators Could Monopolize Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Industry

Today we will analyze the New Approach Missouri medical marijuana Constitutional proposal’s proposal for licensing marijuana cultivators. On page 6 of the NAM IP we find:

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 10.34.18 AM

On Page 7 we find


Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 10.36.54 AM

The population of Missouri is almost 6,100,000 people. Under the most restrictive setting of this proposal, there would roughly 60 cultivation licenses allocated to applicants. Since New Approach Missouri specifies that up to 3 licenses can be held by a single entity, it is plausible that 20 entities could hold all the cultivation licenses for Missouri.

In 2016, then President of the Board for New Approach Missouri Mike Kielty sent a set of  contracts to multiple entities who were being solicited to fund NAM’s 2016 ballot campaign. The contract included these provisions:

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 10.44.05 AM

It’s beyond question that the 2016 New Approach Missouri medical marijuana campaign (which failed) attempted to create a non-competitive oligopoly environment for stakeholders interested in acquiring marijuana licenses through the passage of the New Approach legislation.

It’s worth asking if the 2018 New Approach Missouri marijuana campaign is using similar tactics and what precisely they’re promising their donors.

New Approach Missouri Proposes (Medical Marijuana) Taxation without Representation…Really

Take note of clause 24 on page 8 of the New Approach Missouri medical marijuana Constitutional initiative petition approved for signature collection. It reads:

(24) No elected official shall interfere directly or indirectly with the Department’s obligations and activities under this section.

This prohibition on “direct or indirect” interference is quite broad, and implies that in context of this proposed marijuana program, New Approach Missouri wants to ban any action or advocacy of municipal or county electeds, members of the Missouri General Assembly, all statewide elected executives, and even the federal Congress and President. This is an unusual proposal, as it is the explicit job of elected legislators particularly to appropriate funds and participate in the governance of executive branch agencies and programs.

Conceivably this clause would make it illegal for:

A) Governor Greitens to oversee his own political appointee’s implementation of the program, especially and including licensing decisions

B) Lawmakers in the Legislature who must evaluate funding requests for executive branch agencies in context of existing and expected revenues.

C) Lawmakers supporting medical marijuana by advocating for their constituents as the program is implemented

D) County and municipal zoning, or oversight by elected sheriffs

At the end of the day, all this means that New Approach Missouri wants to create a program through a government agency for which Missourians are taxed but not represented.

This changes the question proposed by New Approach Missouri to voters. It is not “Should we pass a medical marijuana law?” but “Should we change the Constitutional rights of citizens to representation so that we can pass a medical marijuana law that benefits our favored licensees?”

Is this why New Approach Missouri says their Constitutional Initiative is the “only option for Missouri”?

With New Approach Missouri telling people their Constitutional initiative proposal is the “only option” for passing medical marijuana, it’s worth reminding Missouri what founder Leah Maurer was sending to investors in 2015:

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 12.27.58 PM

Although Leah resigned from New Approach Missouri and Show-Me Cannabis following the revelations her husband Travis had been embezzling money from donors (including yours truly), they continued to employ New Approach Missouri director John Payne through the Missouri corporation Missourians for Growth until its dissolution earlier this year.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 12.45.47 PM.png

So is the reason that New Approach Missouri is telling people their campaign is the “only option” for Missouri because they are working for the economic interests of their donors and investors, who expect to be “first to market” with stakes in the Maurer’s billion dollar company?

The Brad Bradshaw Medical Marijuana Constitutional Vanity Project

Check this out. Brad Bradshaw, a wealthy attorney/physician from Springfield, Missouri, is trying to get himself a Constitutional appointment as the implementing official for a medical marijuana program and biomedical research institute he’s proposing through Constitutional Initiative 2018-041:

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 11.48.01 AM.png

A Brief Post-Mortem of New Approach Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Initiative Petition Campaign

I’ve had a lot of people ask me why the New Approach Missourimedical marijuana campaign failed this year despite spending $2 million and having 4 years to organize. In a nutshell:

1. New Approach Missouri was really a promotional vehicle for founders Leah and Travis Maurer who used the organization’s connections to interested donors to solicit funds for commercial projects which didn’t exist. Investors are out about a million dollars and one of them, Randy Quast from Oregon, is suing in civil court. NAM claims that the Maurer’s involvement with the campaign ended in November 2015, but this is an outright lie, as NAM director John Payne continued to serve two masters with his concurrent employment through the Maurer’s Missouri front company “Missourians for Growth”. Google: Maurer Quast marijuana
2. The Maurer’s focus on soliciting investors took precedence over any reasonable organizational or campaign strategy. Because they had no interest in anything but finding money for their personal interests, the Maurers prevented NAM from 1) mobilizing grassroots and 2) starting signature collection until February 2016, which we now know was too late.
3. The NAM board proved it was supremely incompetent: NAM President Lee Winters said publicly to the Springfield News-Leader that he had “no idea” that elected officials like prosecutors would mount any kind of organized opposition. If you’re running a $2 million campaign you should make basic investments in political intelligence.
4. Legendary activist/attorney Dan Viets proved that he had no ability to guide the organization and even protect his friends from the Maurers’ fraudulent schemes. Viets continues to make the case that no one could have prevented this from happening and that the board wasn’t accidentally or directly complicit, which is ridiculous for anyone with intimate knowledge of the board’s doings. While I continue to believe Dan is a good man and a great advocate, I have lost faith in his ability to guide the next reform campaign in this state.
5. After Leah Maurer was formally removed from the organization the rapacious culture of “pay-to-play” continued to drive NAM decisionmaking. Board members Lee Winters and Mike Kielty and staffers Trish and Daryl Bertrand spent more time lining up investors as privileged licensee clients than they did making sure the campaign hit basic signature collection thresholds. 

In conclusion, the fact that Missouri isn’t going to vote on medical marijuana in 6 days has a lot more to do with greed, criminal activity, and outright incompetence than anyone associated with NAM is willing to admit. For these reasons, I’m boycotting the NAM-dominated cannabis conference in Columbia on Nov. 12 and advising donors to stay far away from everyone named in this post.

To Understand How Chris Koster Would Likely Implement Medical Cannabis, You Need to Understand His Campaign Surrogate Jane Dueker

As Missouri heads into a general election with a possible medical cannabis ballot measure and the prospect for further legislative reforms, it’s important for constituents to understand the stances of the contenders in the governor’s race, as this executive will be a key figure in implementation.  It’s worthwhile then considering recent official actions by one contender, the Democratic nominee and current Attorney General Chris Koster.


This May, the Missouri Supreme Court heard the marijuana felony sentencing appeal of Natalie DePriest, who received a 15 year sentence for 20 marijuana plants. Natalie appealed on Eighth Amendment grounds, claiming that her sentence was cruel and unusual.


In response, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a brief parroting the Obama Administration’s stance that marijuana has no medical use:


“There is also substantial reason to question Ms. DePriest’s allegations about the risks associated with marijuana use. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law, “meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”


If Chris Koster is elected governor of Missouri, we’ll be electing someone who is openly hostile to our cause. Moreover, if Koster has to implement a medical cannabis program in this state, it appears clear that he’ll favor his political cronies — groups like Noah’s Arc Foundation, which is one of the two licensees producing marijuana for cannabidiol (CBD) oil in Missouri under a 2014 law.


In fact, the lobbyist representing Noah’s Arc is Koster campaign surrogate Jane Dueker, an attorney in St. Louis. Dueker also represents Laclede Cab (who is lobbying hard to quash Uber in St. Louis) and MO State Rep. Penny Hubbard (D-78), who is currently embroiled in an investigation over absentee voter fraud in her recent election. Dueker has also represented Automatic Traffic Solutions, the company that brought red light cameras to Missouri traffic enforcement.


Last month, General Koster announced he was suing vendors selling legal imported hemp-derived CBD products — ostensibly at the behest of Noah’s Arc and Jane Dueker, who with no evidence claimed that these vendors were “snake oil salesmen” selling “fake” product (disclosure: I’ve raised money for an electoral campaign from at least one such vendor, the CBD Store in Kansas City, that received a cease and desist letter from Koster; they only dispense lab tested products that I’m aware of).


In other words, Koster’s campaign surrogate Jane Dueker is someone who has made a career working for people who are looking to protect their oligopolistic cartels — whether at the ballot box or in the market. If Koster is our next governor, I have no doubt he will implement a law in as limited a fashion as possible, with access limited to people looking to extract oligopoly profits from Missourians suffering from a variety of cannabinoid-treatable conditions.

Missouri is Burning, or so Politico Says Two Years After Ferguson Unrest

I was actually in Ferguson on August 9th, 2014, and (generally) agree with the notion that (quoted in this Politico article today) that most people “have no clue of what was going on on the ground” then or now.

I’ll never forget watching some 200 vehicles from just about every law enforcement agency in the St. Louis Metropolitan area literally drive over a grieving community’s memorial in the Canfield Green Apartment complex. That was the moment that I knew what was happening in front of me would not be a one night affair. If you had asked me what was happening I would have probably pointed at the conspicuous display of weapons and military-style tactics funded by federal civil asset forfeiture revenue and said “these police agencies have 0 connection to what is happening in this community and are basically following a federal playbook called Equitable Sharing and the 1033 Program.”

I caution anyone from making generalizing comments about law enforcement further because the the context is local and specific to St. Louis, a region of predatory municipal governments and stagnant politics. (Kudos to State Senator Eric Schmitt, who successfully passed reforms addressing some of these root causes by capping revenues municipal law enforcement derived from municipal law enforcement).

I think it is right to say as Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder points out that there were significant failures of executive political leadership going all the way to the Governor Nixon’s office. We should expect our Governor to be actively aware of these kinds of situations and be able to mediate conflict. Moreover, as the Chief Executive in control of law enforcement, a Governor should know how to wield power; if you do it wrong, as Governor Nixon did, you antagonize citizens by not respecting their Constitutional rights and undermine law enforcement by making them the face of your failure. I could see Kinder being on the ground and talking to leaders in the community if he were Governor, making the decisions that would keep the situation from escalating; I don’t know if I see any of the other Republican candidates doing that. (Maybe John Brunner? Chris Koster would probably be calling Lacy Clay to see what the beach was like in Annapolis).

There has only been the beginnings of what should be a much more vibrant conversation about A) over-criminalization and predatory municipal governments and B) over-federalization of state and local affairs. Kudos to Missouri State Representative Shamed Dogan (R-98), who is a thought leader on many of these issues including abolishing civil asset forfeiture and mandatory minimums.

Ultimately, it is these kind of reforms that will really drive the path forward for this state; either you have big, intrusive governments that survive at the expense of their citizens or you have Constitutionally limited governments that protect liberty and opportunity. Ending cannabis prohibition will be an important step on that path, and it will be significant that it will likely be a citizen initiative rather than a legislative or executive action that was key there.

In Marijuana Felony Sentencing Appeal, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster Parrots Obama Administration Talking Points To Deny Lifesaving Medicine to Missourians

On Wednesday, May 4th, 2016, the Missouri Supreme Court will hear two separate appeals of marijuana felony convictions in the cases of Natalie and David DePriest of Farmington, Missouri (this DailyJournal Online article has good coverage of the overall case and issues under litigation).

The legal issues in the appeal are fairly technical, and reasonable people might disagree on the merits. However, starting on page 68 of the government’s brief to the Missouri Supreme Court in the Natalie DePriest case, Attorney General Chris Koster and Assistant Attorney General Mackleprang defend the “rational basis” classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with no accepted medical use. On pages 70-72 of the brief, Koster and Mackleprang cite talking points from the Obama Administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy and the National Institute of Drug Abuse, two federal agencies that have impeded the basic science of cannabinoid research for decades (as detailed in this report from the Drug Policy Alliance).

Here’s the thing: reasonable people can disagree on the merits of the more esoteric legal issues involved in the DePriest appeal. But General Koster went further than that in supporting his arguments with federal propaganda and repeating discredited theories and junk science.

It’s also worth noting Koster’s citation of Raich v. Gonzales () on page 66,

See generally Raich v. Gonzalez, 500 F.3d 850, 866 (9th Cir. 2007) (“federal law does not recognize a fundamental right to use medical marijuana prescribed by a licensed physician to alleviate excruciating pain and human suffering”); United States v. Fry, 787 F.2d 903, 905 (4th Cir. 1986) (“There is no fundamental right to produce or distribute marijuana commercially.”). Thus, it cannot be said that plea counsel was ineffective for failing to assert a strict-scrutiny challenge to § 195.017.

The expansive federal Commerce Clause powers that were granted by the federal courts in Raich are also the powers claimed by the federal government under Obamacare. As Cato analyst (and Mizzou grad) Timothy Rittgers writes:

The Justice Department has found Raich an exceedingly useful tool in battling the legal challenges to Obamacare. In the Florida lawsuit, the DOJ claims that “Individuals who self-insure engage in economic activity at least as much as the plaintiffs in Raich.” The same goes for Michigan, where a federal judge recently upheld the individual mandate as a legitimate exercise of Congress’s Commerce Clause power: “As living, breathing beings, who do not oppose medical services on religious grounds, they cannot opt out of this market.” The words “Gonzales v. Raich” kick off the government’s Commerce Clause argument in the Virginia litigation. (Disclosure: The Cato Institute has filed briefs in support of Virginia attorney general Kenneth Cuccinelli’s challenge to Obamacare.)

The jump from Raich to Obamacare is a short one, at least in the government’s eyes. The dissenters in Raich predicted the expansion of Commerce Clause authority. Justice Thomas warned that if the federal government could override a state’s licensing of medical marijuana, “then it can regulate virtually anything — and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.” Justice O’Connor noted the “perverse incentive to legislate broadly pursuant to the Commerce Clause” — the more broadly Congress writes a law, the more likely Raich’s logic is to uphold it. O’Connor discussed how the Court’s logic would allow the government to regulate (and ban) non-commercial activities that would detract from regulated markets, such as home-care substitutes for daycare. This would be funny, if a federal judge had not just ruled that being alive and breathing means you must buy health insurance or face the consequences.

An Attorney General is an elected executive law enforcement position. In this office, General Koster has vast discretion over what his office appeals at the appellate courts and how. In the Natalie DePriest appeal we have an insight into the vastly broader agenda of federal power that Koster defends. Missouri deserves an Attorney General that will consistently advocate from a perspective that does not embrace expansive federal powers that encroach on the fundamental rights that are vested in the people or in our state.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Systems Don’t Work Despite Pervasive Implementation

We are told that Missouri is an outlier, that 49 other states have prescription drug monitoring and that to bring the nation’s opiate crisis to heel Missouri has to sign on to wholesale monitoring and tracking of our personal health data.

But there isn’t any global indicator of the ability of prescription drug monitoring to reduce the prevalence of opiate addiction. Indeed, other states have generally failed to see actual success with these programs. Consider New York, the first state in the nation to enact a PDMP program (in 1973). Or Texas (1989), Oklahoma (1990), Tennessee (1990), Indiana (1994), Utah (1995), West Virginia (1995), Nevada (1997), California (1998), or Kentucky (1998). In fact, by 2000, there were 12 states with some kind of PDMP program; by 2010, that number was 37. Currently, Missouri is the only state without a PDMP program.

Yet, in “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” published by the CDC January 1, 2016, researchers found that “Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin).” In fact, in the 2013-2014 time period, when there was a PDMP program enacted in almost every state, the CDC found “Rates of opioid overdose deaths also increased significantly, from 7.9 per 100,000 in 2013 to 9.0 per 100,000 in 2014, a 14% increase.”

These trends strongly indicate that the opiate addiction and overdose problems we face are not effectively addressed by prescription monitoring. Indeed, it is likely that driving people out of the legal medical system boosts the market for black-market heroin, imported by violent multi-national drug cartels that operate with tremendous sophistication. As DEA special agent James Shroba recently said to the Joplin Globe “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”

We’ve forgotten what Abraham Lincoln said about Thomas Jefferson

In a letter to the Massachusetts Republicans in April 1859, Abraham Lincoln wrote:

The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society. And yet they are denied and evaded with no small show of success.

One dashingly calls them ‘glittering generalities.’ Another bluntly calls them ‘evident lies.’ And others insidiously argue that they apply only to ‘superior races.’

These expressions, differing in form, are identical in object and effect — supplanting the principles of free government, and restoring those of classification and caste. They would delight a convocation of crowned heads plotting against the people.

They are the vanguard — the sappers and miners of returning despotism. We must repulse them or they will subjugate us.

This is a world of compensation; and he would be no slave must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and under a just God cannot long retain it.

All honor to Jefferson — to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document an abstract truth, applicable to all men at all times, and so to embalm it there, that today, and in all coming days, it should be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.

I also found this paper by David Post of Temple University Law School to be informative and useful.

More Violence in St. Louis: Blowback from the War on Drugs? A Failed Government on Display

Last night’s violence in St. Louis, stemming from a narcotics raid near Page Boulevard and Walton, is going to continue generating attention from all around the nation. Yet, most of the discourse and argument on this issue will miss the point by focusing on apparent racial issues (not to say they aren’t there, but to focus on that area of the issue misses the point).

This is the fundamental, stark reality of the War on Drugs. For 40 years, we’ve enforced drug prohibition with military tactics (especially since President Reagan started signing annual authorizations of the National Defense Authorization Act that allowed military tactics, forces, and equipment to be deployed through the domestic law enforcement apparatus in support of counterdrug operations. And none of it worked; our drug problems are worse than they were a decade ago, particularly with the resurgence of heroin and black market opiates. Also keep in mind St. Louis was the former home of recently disgraced DEA head Michelle Leonhart, who among other things is known for her personal relationship with the perjurer informant Anthony Chambers.

Communities that are policed like occupied territories will inevitably generate violence and civil unrest. Not only do black market drug economies finance the guns and weapons that criminals need to defend their territories, but they can both corrupt public institutions and undermine their legitimacy.

We don’t need to go further than the policy apparatus that has created this proliferation of big, ineffective government to return with useful solutions. But first, decision makers (including and especially Missouri Governor Jay Nixon) need to recognize and understand that these issues stem from a fundamental breakdown of government legitimacy, and there is no political solution that can be effective to return stability and security to the St. Louis region without addressing the direct impact of the War on Drugs in our society.

There is a vision for moving past the War on Drugs. The organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition has this excellent video introducing their perspective:


For Memorial Day, I’m remembering former Navy veteran Ken Unger

It wasn’t a good day for catastrophically injured Navy veteran Ken Unger when I first met him in January 2011 for the first time. Indeed, it was at that time that I was introduced to the concept that some veterans were in so much pain and physical torment that there was no such thing as a good day, only pain and more pain.

Ken’s injuries stemmed from his experience in the Grenada invasion of 1983, when he was hit by a crane hook. That lead to two herniated discs, frequent muscle spasms, constant pain, and weakness in his legs. Ken also suffered from diabetes and and depression, and the VA had deemed him 100% unemployable.

When I met Ken, he had also had survived 4 heart attacks and had stents holding the arteries in his heart open. The heart attacks were a relic of the morphine therapy he’d been prescribed since the Grenada injury. Eventually, a fifth heart attack would kill him, and Ken passed on March 23, 2013.

Right before he died, Ken had accepted a plea deal after being charged with felony marijuana distribution by St. Charles prosecutor Jack Banas. Ken had turned to marijuana for pain relief after his fourth heart attack, and had started cultivating it at home as he could not find a reliable, safe, or inexpensive alternative on the black market. After his son made an indiscreet reference to his father’s “plant room” at elementary school, law enforcement opened an investigation that culminated in a SWAT raid on the Unger residence. Eventually, fearing a jury trial that would reveal misconduct by law enforcement, Prosecutor Banas offered Ken a plea deal for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia.

This plea deal, mercifully, kept Ken out of jail, and allowed him to live out the rest of his life at home with his family (albeit in great pain).

When President Lyndon Johnson issued the May 26, 1966 proclamation declaring Memorial Day as an official holiday, he called for God’s “blessing on those who have sacrificed their lives for this Nation in this and all other struggles, and for His aid in building a world where freedom and justice prevail, and where all men live in friendship, understanding, and peace.”

Freedom and justice barely prevailed in Ken Unger’s case; although he was able to spend his last days with his family, Ken was unable to move to Colorado, California, or any other medical marijuana state to take advantage of more reliable and accessible marijuana therapeutics. If Jack Banas, elected St. Charles County Prosecutor, had understood the medical utility of marijuana therapeutics, he might not have harshly prosecuted Ken Unger, and left him and his family in peace.

Scandals over the conduct of the VA and the inability of Congress to properly fund the programs that support veterans aside are likely to continue for as long as there is a VA and Congress. Yet we don’t need to rely on Congress or the President to get more than one thing right for stories like that of Ken Unger to not happen again: they just need to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.

Indeed, right now, the US Senate considers the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, a reform that would end the prohibition on VA physicians discussing medical marijuana with veterans. If the US Senate were to uphold the values that President Johnson articulated in his Memorial Day proclamation, they would pass this reform and be eager to move forward on sensible reforms that would make life easier for America’s veterans, without any additional federal spending, regulation, or administration.

Tagged , , , ,