A lobby funded by billionaires who are libertarian on social issues subsidizes an extreme tea party movement and takes control of a political party. But this time it's not the Koch brothers dictating the Republican agenda. I'm talking about pro-marijuana billionaires Peter Lewis and George Soros, and a left-wing tea party that smokes its tea.
Marijuana money is corrupting the Democratic Party just like oil money has corrupted the Republicans. How powerful is the marijuana lobby?
In 2010, Oregon voters defeated a ballot measure to allow marijuana dispensaries. This year, their state legislature voted to allow dispensaries.
In 2012, five liberal California cities also voted down dispensaries. The California Supreme Court ruled that cities can ban dispensaries. This summer, the California legislature considered legislation that would have allowed dispensaries everywhere.
It takes a lot of political pull to get politicians to override the very people who elected them. But Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama allowed marijuana dispensaries to operate in violation of federal law, and the dispensaries have generated a lot of money that influences a lot of politicians. Now President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have caved to the marijuana lobby and agreed not to enforce federal law in Colorado or Washington. Both tea parties have won.
The marijuana lobby built its successful campaign on five falsehoods that liberal and libertarian politicians repeat regularly.
They say drug laws fill our prisons with innocent people. According to the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 85 percent of prison inmates have drug or alcohol problems. But only 6 percent are behind bars for drug possession, and only 0.3 percent for marijuana possession. Meanwhile, nearly half are locked up for crimes they committed because they were drunk or high. Fifteen percent committed crimes to get money for drugs. Substance abuse fills our prisons, not drug laws.
They say medical marijuana laws are for the genuinely ill. In most states that publish reports, 90 percent of the marijuana patients claim pain. Research shows genuine pain patients are mostly female while adult cannabis abusers are at least two-thirds male. Only two states report marijuana cardholders' gender. In Arizona, they're 75 percent male. In Colorado, it's 68 percent. The only good explanation is that almost all of the marijuana patients are really substance abusers faking their illnesses to get high.
They say legalizing drugs won't increase use. History says just the opposite. Opium use in China skyrocketed in the 1800s when the British forced its legalization. Florida recently banned synthetic drugs, and ER visits related to spice and bath salts plummeted. According to Daniel Okrent, author of "Last Call," alcohol use dropped 30 percent during Prohibition.
They say pot is harmless, but no drug interferes with learning like marijuana. The million teens who now smoke pot daily will do worse in school, finish less homework and are twice as likely to drop out. As adults, they'll earn less and are more likely to be unemployed or on welfare.
They tell us legalization is the only alternative to the war on drugs. Not so. Drug courts use strict drug laws, not as punishment, but as tools to coerce addicts into recovery. Research shows drug courts reduce recidivism by 25 percent. But the marijuana lobby hates drug courts. The Drug Policy Alliance insists they don't work. The Marijuana Policy Project lobbies only for "non-coercive" policies.
Twenty years ago, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Vice President Joe Biden wrote the law that brought drug courts to America. He is now part of an administration that is allowing the destruction of what is arguably his signature achievement. A mensch would resign in protest, or at least speak out.
I've voted almost straight Democratic since marking an "x" next to George McGovern's name 40 years ago. But as an addiction psychiatrist, I know the devastation of substance abuse. It causes most of America's crime, child abuse and domestic violence and plays a role in every social problem from AIDS to welfare dependency.
Marijuana destroys academic hopes and is second only to alcohol in causing death and destruction behind the wheel. No sensible parent wants his or her child using this drug -- including President Obama.
Republicans, who are anti-environment and want to shred the social safety net, are anathema to me. But I will not vote for a pro-drug candidate. Neither tea party has my support. So like millions of alienated Republican moderates, this partisan Democrat might soon be forced to say: I didn't leave my party; my party left me.
Ed Gogek, M.D., is an addiction psychiatrist who lives in Prescott, Ariz., and blogs at thecaseagainstmarijuana.com.