Jerry Brown challenged to debate pot seizures

marijuana.jpgOn the eve of the state’s annual “look-how-much-marijuana-we’ve-seized” fest, one marijuana-reform advocacy group wants Attorney General Jerry Brown to justify the time and effort.

The Marijuana Policy Project contends the state’s long-running Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) has had no discernible effect on the drug’s availability or use, and today challenged Brown to publicly debate whether the program is worth continuing.

mirken.jpg“Every year in late October or early November, the Attorney General announces a record number of plant seizures and pretends that it means something, but the achievement is entirely phony,” Bruce Mirken, MPP’s communications director, said in a news release. “It’s just like saying, ‘Our crew set a record by bailing 200 gallons of water out of the Titanic,’ while ignoring the fact that the ship still sank. Rather than the usual press release that pretends to see success amid overwhelming evidence of failure, we’re challenging Mr. Brown to provide evidence that CAMP actually accomplishes anything useful.”

topten2006.jpgMPP claims all the evidence it has seen indicates CAMP only makes things worse: After a 1,200 percent increase in plant seizures over the last decade, marijuana was California’s number one cash crop in 2006, and cultivation by criminal gangs in the most dangerous and environmentally sensitive locations, such as national parks and forests, has skyrocketed. Mirken called CAMP “a welfare program for drug war bureaucrats” and said the way to truly control marijuana is to regulated as we do wine. “There’s a reason you never hear of criminal gangs planting vineyards in our national forests.”

Gareth Lacy, Brown’s spokesman, said today that “the department has a policy of not engaging in public debates.”

Read the text of MPP’s letter to Brown, after the jump:

Attorney General Jerry Brown

Oct. 17, 2007

Dear Attorney General Brown,

I am writing on behalf of the Marijuana Policy Project and also as a lifelong Californian to challenge you to a public debate and discussion of California’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), which is overseen by your office. As your schedule is busy, we are happy to have this discussion at any time or location that is convenient for you, so long as it is readily accessible to the public and the media.

We are issuing this challenge because press reports indicate that when this year’s numbers are tallied, CAMP will have continued the near-exponential growth it has logged recently, with an approximately 1,200 percent increase in plant seizures over the past decade. Given this huge increase, this is an appropriate time to assess what this effort is actually accomplishing. Specifically, we invite you to present evidence that CAMP has:

**Reduced the availability of marijuana in California.

**Reduced the numbers of illicit marijuana growers and their profits.

**Reduced the cultivation of marijuana in dangerous or environmentally sensitive locations, such as national parks, forests, and private homes.

**Decreased the involvement of criminal gangs in marijuana production and distribution.

**More effectively curbed misuse of marijuana, including availability to young people, than would a system of regulation and taxation like those now used to control alcohol and tobacco.

It is our belief, based on the publicly available evidence, that CAMP has done none of these things, and in fact has worsened most problems associated with marijuana cultivation. But if you have data that proves us wrong, we are sure you will be willing to present it publicly and engage in this long-overdue discussion of marijuana policy.

You or your staff can phone me at my San Francisco office anytime to discuss this matter, 415-xxx-xxxx. Thanks in advance.

Bruce Mirken
Director of Communications
Marijuana Policy Project

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Brown’s policy?

    “Gareth Lacy, Brown’s spokesman, said today that ‘the department has a policy of not engaging in public debates.'”

    Isn’t Mr. Brown a publicly elected official? It seems to me he has an obligation to his constituency to demonstrate the effectiveness of his programs and good stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars.

    I can’t believe the attorney general’s office has a specific policy barring him from public accountability.