CAMP Shows that Cannabis Prohibition is Still King in California

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Nick Johnson, a historian and editor based in Fort Collins, Colorado. His book Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West (2017) is a history of cannabis agriculture that explores the environmental and social dynamics of the nation’s most controversial crop. He also blogs (and occasionally podcasts!) about all things cannabis on his website, Hempirical Evidence.

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Law Enforcement Officers working with CAMP hold the California state flag and pose with pickup trucks filled with confiscated cannabis plants in 1988. Source: 1988 CAMP Final Report.

California fully legalized cannabis in 2016, but many people might not realize that the state and federal agencies are still fighting a guerrilla war against it. The Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), started in 1983 by Golden State Republican governor George Deukmejian,  brings together local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in annual drives targeting cannabis farms across the state. The program—which still operates today—has amounted to one of the largest law enforcement task forces in American history. In 2020, despite raging wildfires and a pandemic, CAMP managed to destroy more than 1.1 million illegal cannabis plants in twenty-nine different counties.

Now, with marijuana legal in California (and in many other places), the logical question becomes: “why is CAMP still a thing, and is it necessary?” To answer these questions, we need to understand the history of CAMP, how its operations have changed over the years, and why illegal marijuana cultivation persists today.

Ambitious Goals

At its start, some thirteen years before California legalized medical cannabis, CAMP’s goal was nothing less than the total annihilation of marijuana in the Golden State. During its first decade of action, officers loaded into planes and helicopters, donned full combat gear, and braved growers’ booby traps and shotguns to pull up millions of plants and make dozens, or in some years hundreds, of arrests. The program grew steadily over the years as more California counties joined; by 1991, CAMP operations accounted for 56 percent of marijuana eradicated in the state.

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Review: “Drug Use For Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear”

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Brooks Hudson, a PhD student in history at Southern Illinois University.

Cover of Drug Use For Grown Ups

Dr. Carl Hart’s timely Drugs for Grown-ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear attempts to ignite a shift in our collective consciousness—much like the psychoactive substances he chronicles. Credentialed academics and other elites tend to deny using drugs, or, if they want to pass as authentic for political reasons, they might admit to a few youthful indiscretions (e.g., then-candidate Barack Obama’s “inhaling was the point” comment in 2007).

Defying this taboo, Hart, Chair of the Department of Psychology at Columbia University, owns up to his affection for an expansive medicine chest. He reveals dabbling in amphetamines, discloses his use of the unfairly-maligned drug heroin, and discusses sampling 1990s club drug—and soon-to-be FDA approved medication—MDMA, along with other more obscure compounds like 2C-B, which was popularized by virtuoso, chemist, and psychonaut Alexander Shulgin.

Hart’s self-doctoring is reminiscent of nineteenth-century medical ethics, embodied by such titans of the time as William Halstead and Sigmund Freud. His self-prescribing bridges the gap between his knowledge and his experience, which helps him better understand subjects visiting his Columbia University lab. Drugs also filtered into his other extracurricular activities, figuring into adventures with his wife and enhancing their relationship and strengthening their marriage.

Who Are Drug Users?

Hart considers himself the rule not the exception in terms of drug use. Drug users are not zombies, he emphasizes; they are not the flesh-eating monsters sometimes depicted on highway billboards accompanied by inane anti-drug slogans. Drug users are not unwashed psychos or crime aficionados who inexplicably love doing evil. No, most drug users are typical, normal, average Americans, gainfully employed and living undetected—maybe you or your neighbor. And that’s okay.

Generally speaking, Hart’s ideas are easy to understand, and he gives primacy to the crucial observation that most people’s experiences with drugs are positive. Drugs offer insight, increase euphoria, and provide pleasure. Drugs act as social lubricants, making social interactions easier to bear or more enjoyable; and drugs break down barriers, allowing some individuals to be more vulnerable than they otherwise would be. People use drugs to soften the edge after a stressful day working a job they hate, and, conversely, drugs can help those who love their jobs be more productive and work long evening hours.

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Maine and its Marijuana Market

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Stefano Tijerina, a lecturer in management and the Chris Kobrack Research Fellow in Canandian Business History at the University’s of Maine’s Business School. 

Back in November of 2016 the people of Maine voted in favor of a referendum that legalized medical and recreational marijuana.  The medical marijuana market took off quickly, but recreational marijuana regulatory structures slowed down the process for those interested in the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  It is now January 2020 and finally the state started accepting applications for recreational retailers.  

Cities across the state have now become competitors in a new and potentially lucrative market that will be up for grabs, and that will ultimately change the local economies across the state.  Like Colorado, California, Nevada, and numerous others states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, Maine is positioning itself as a competitor in this emerging market.[1]

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Drug War Critique: What Critics Get Wrong About Marijuana Legalization

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY, and discusses the brown bag talk he gave at Utica College earlier this week. 

Yesterday afternoon, I gave a talk entitled, “Drug War Critique: What Critics Get Wrong About Marijuana Legalization.” The talk is part of a monthly brown bag speaker series sponsored by Utica College’s Center for Historical Research. In light of New York State’s recent efforts to push for the legalization of marijuana as part of Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 Justice Agenda, I decided to present Cuomo’s legalization proposal and respond to a series of critiques of Cuomo’s plan presented by public officials and parent groups last week, who cited a threat to public safety as a justification for their opposition.

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Legalization Report: NIMBY in Newton, Massachusetts

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Seth Blumenthal, contributing editor and lecturer at Boston University. He’s been tracking the roll out of recreational marijuana legalization in his home state of Massachusetts and provides this report. Enjoy!

As I sat behind the police chief while he spoke to the City Council in favor of a ban on marijuana dispensaries in my city–Newton, Massachusetts–I realized I was in trouble. Surrounding me in the public seating section, every other attendee held up a brightly colored “Opt Out” sign in silence. One nice woman even asked me if I wanted a sign, which I politely declined. After all, I was there to follow the chief and offer a rebuttal. As a historian with a focus on marijuana history, I had already been active as an academic endorser for Question 4 that legalized marijuana in 2016, and so I was asked to speak on behalf of a compromise that would limit dispensaries to no more than four, rather than the eight mandated in the commonwealth’s provisions.

Although 55% of Newton residents voted for legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016, a strong, vocal group organized to propose a ban on cannabis dispensaries within the city limits. Of the 351 municipalities in the state, more than 200 towns have imposed bans or temporary moratoriums on recreational pot operators.  (You can see an interactive map of the bans here: http://www.wbur.org/news/2018/06/28/marijuana-moratorium-map ).

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Where recreational marijuana in available in Massachusetts. Image courtesy of Cannacon.org

 

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Grassroots Activism in Argentina: The Story of Mamá Cultiva, CAMEDA, and Medical Marijuana

Editor’s Note: This is the last post in our series from the Cannabis: Global Histories conference, held at the University of Strathclyde from April 19-20, 2018. It comes from Lucia Romero, an assistant researcher at CONICET (Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council). In it, she explores the grassroots groups that overcame decades of prohibition to increase access to medical marijuana in Argentina. Enjoy!

This paper discusses the rise of therapeutic cannabis use in Argentina. Through documentary work and personal interviews, our sociological approach focuses on how users (patients, growers) and experts (scientists, doctors, lawyers) produce and exchange different types of knowledge related to this medicine.

Our starting point was the recent medicinal cannabis law sanctioned in Argentina. Although cannabis has been socially signified as a drug and ruled illegal in the country for decades, over the course of two years, we have seen an accelerated process of social, medical, scientific and political legitimation of medicinal cannabis, which was concluded with the approval of a national law in March 2017. This law stipulates a regulatory framework for medical and scientific research and administrative resources to import cannabis oil for epilepsy patients, while private and designated cultivation remains illegal. This topic was, and is still, a central cause of conflict and political fights carried out by activists for health cannabis, as they and the growers are excluded from the law (many activists for health cannabis practice and promote self cultivation).

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Dr. Lucia Romero presents her work at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference at the University of Strathclyde, April 2018. Photo by Morgan Scott, Breathe Images

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The Origins of Cannabis Legalization

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Chris Elcock, an adjunct professor at the Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 in Lyon, France. His dissertation on the history of LSD in New York City is currently being expanded into a monograph. Here, his post deals with the early days of cannabis activism in the 1960s, and expands on the work he presented at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference held from April 19-20, 2018, at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Enjoy!

It’s only a matter of time before the United States fully legalizes cannabis use on a federal level. More than thirty states now authorize medical marijuana and a handful have decriminalized it altogether, creating a lucrative business in the process. For the most part, this has been the result of popular initiative.

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Chris Elcock presents his work at the Cannabis: Global Histories conference at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, on April 19, 2018. Photo by Morgan Scott, Breathe Images

The right to smoke pot not should be solely equated with the right to have fun, however. For many Americans, accessing marijuana for a variety of medical reasons seems like a fundamental right after decades of harsh penalties for possession of a plant that many Americans view as quite innocuous. Others believe that pot should be altogether decriminalized on libertarian grounds: the government should not tell them what they can and what they can’t put in their bodies. Still others think that states should remain sovereign and legislate on pot without the interference of the federal government.

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Trick or Treat? On Laced Candy and Other Drug Myths

This year, medical marijuana is on the ballot in my home state of Florida, and it’s likely to pass: the latest statewide poll shows 77 percent of Floridians support the proposed constitutional amendment. But the remaining 33 percent aren’t taking this lying down. On Monday, some county sheriffs held a press conference ostensibly on Halloween …

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