Statement of Steve Fox, Director of Government Relations, Marijuana Policy Project

Document Date: February 18, 2004

Government Censors Marijuana Reform Ads

WASHINGTON — Seventy-five years ago, America’s mothers and grandmothers organized to repeal Prohibition. They did this not because they wanted their children to drink, but because they saw that the attempt to ban alcoholic beverages caused far more harm than it prevented. Prohibition didn’t stop people from drinking. It simply handed the liquor trade over to gangsters, sent the violent crime rate through the roof and put children in more danger than ever.

We should all be grateful that those moms succeeded.

The Marijuana Policy Project exists to minimize the harm associated with marijuana, and – just like the mothers who organized against Prohibition – we believe an honest look at the facts shows marijuana prohibition to be a deadly, destructive failure.

Apparently, the message that marijuana prohibition has failed is so powerful that the only way the federal government can think of to combat it is by stopping us from communicating with the public. The government has been plastering the Washington Metro and other public transit systems with ads supporting prohibition, but it’s afraid to let private groups buy ad space to say, “”Wait a minute. This isn’t working.”” The only purpose of the Istook Amendment is to stifle debate about marijuana and drug policy.

Under the Istook Amendment, residents of Seattle or San Francisco or Portland can’t even buy ad space on their own public transit systems to support their states’ medical marijuana laws, and urge that federal law also protect the sick from arrest and jail. The Marijuana Policy Project is working with local activists all across the country to support bills and ballot measures to protect medical marijuana patients, but due to the Istook amendment, a critical advertising venue is closed to us.

That’s not what this country is supposed to be about. If the First Amendment means anything, then the Istook Amendment is unconstitutional.