Drug War Profiteers Named and Shamed

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Substance use and abuse news site The Fix lays out some of the more obvious ways drug warriors turn a profit punishing medical pot patients.

Two of the loudest anti-marijuana spokespeople are two elder drug warriors, Peter Bensinger (DEA chief, 1976—1981) and Robert DuPont (White House drug chief, 1973—1977), who run a corporate drug-testing business.

“Their employee-assistance company, Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, the sixth largest in the nation, holds the pee stick for some 10 million employees around the US. Their clients have included the biggest players in industry and government: Kraft Foods, American Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, the Federal Aviation Administration and even the Justice Department itself," writes Kevin Gray for The Fix.

Former DEA administrator Peter Bensinger - who owns a drug testing company - lobbies for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana
  • Former DEA administrator Peter Bensinger - who owns a drug testing company - lobbies for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana
"'These are not just old drug war architects pushing a drug war model they’ve pushed for 40 years,' says Brian Vicente, a Denver lawyer and co-author of Colorado’s Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use. 'These guys are asking Eric Holder to pursue prohibition policies that line their own pockets.'"

We're getting played.

The revolving door between the public and private drug war has room for plenty of folks. There's former George W. Bush deputy drug czar Andrea Barthwell, past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, who believes cancer patients and AIDS wasting victims should be jailed for growing and smoking some pot — unless they buy it from her new employer, GW Pharmaceuticals.

Then there's the mandatory rehab laws for first-time pot possession that send millions of kids into places like those owned by Mel Sembler, a Florida shopping-mall magnate who founded Straight Inc. "a drug-treatment program that used sleep deprivation, beatings and psychological abuse to treat" 10,000 teenagers at $1,400 a month plus a $1,600 per patient evaluation fee before he was shut down for abuse. The Semblers are major Republican Party fundraisers who help bankroll front groups composed of "concerned parents".

Those are just the celebrities. The Drug War is big business for every police station in the country: law enforcement agencies could lose as much as $11 billion in taxpayer money if marijuana prohibition is repealed, Harvard economics professor Jeff Myron estimates.

And don't forget for-profit prisons: "Corrections Corporation of America (CAA), the largest operator in the US, with 60 facilities and a 90,000-bed capacity, had $1.7 billion in tax-payer-funded revenue last year."

CCA writes: "Any changes [in laws] with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”

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