The Federal Government Insists Pot Laws Are To Protect You…From Stoned Rabbits

WARNING: if you read this blog post, you may experience any or all of the following symptoms: lightheadedness, dizziness, uncontrollable rage, uncontrollable laughter, and/or pain from the sudden impact of an external object, such as a hand or table, hitting your forehead.

You have been warned!

For Freedom Friday, we thought we would have just a bit of fun at the federal government’s expense. As of today, 36 states allow for some form of legal marijuana use. There’s considerable diversity within “some form.” Compare Colorado and Washington, for example, where marijuana use is largely legal to states such as our own Virginia where it is legal to use, with medical necessity, with restrictions on usage, with no psychoactive elements permitted. And anything in between.

US Map - Some Form Legal Marijuana

US States with Some Legal Usage of Marijuana

(No, this map is not admissible as a defense exhibit. If you get busted with pot in one of the green colored states, you’re on your own.)

But you’ll notice Utah is colored in blue, and that is where today’s bizarre tale begins.

It seems the federal government is not liking the state of things when it comes to states forging their own marijuana laws and essentially thumbing their noses at federal restrictions.

Utah currently has no form of lawful marijuana usage – medical or otherwise. So as the legislature there was considering a law to permit medical marijuana use, the Drug Enforcement Administration decided it needed to pull out all stops and really get ahead of this thing before it “took root,” if you know what we mean.

The last thing the federal government wants is for adults to be able to make their own decisions outside of what the government desires. Perhaps the next to last thing the federal government wants is for states to make their own decisions regarding the criminality of marijuana usage.

With that in mind, the DEA dispatched Special Agent Matt Fairbanks to give testimony at the Utah Senate committee hearing where the bill was being considered. Fairbanks argued prohibition prevented cultivation of marijuana. And cultivation would attract wildlife, such as rabbits who “cultivated a taste for the marijuana” reports The Washington Post who covered the story. (If you go to the story and want to listen to the audio to see that we are indeed not making this up, the Fairbanks testimony begins at about 58:00 and the good stuff begins at about time stamp 1:02:00.)

We wondered if the agent’s story was true, so we used a FOIA request in order to obtain the actual video from the agent’s field work that corroborates the testimony given to the Utah Senate committee:


Okay, we were pulling your leg about the video, but one thing we’re not making up is the federal government’s determination to impose its will over states and individuals when it comes to drug enforcement. We suppose if the best argument the feds can muster for continuing this practice has come down to stoned rabbits, then maybe the feds are running out of reasons to keep up with their “War on Drugs.”

At Freedom Forge Press, we favor limited government. That means allowing individuals to make decisions on their own without being coerced by heavy-handed laws. Is marijuana addictive? Is it “bad”? Does it bring relief from chronic pain and medical conditions? We can’t answer that. And based on the quality of the DEA’s testimony, it seems like the federal government doesn’t know the answers to those questions either.

So in the face of that uncertainty, as long as people are not harming others with some medical or recreational marijuana use, and as long as people are self-funding their own habits, then we say leave well enough alone.

Feed the Beast (a Tax Day poem)

Get your taxes done on time? Here’s a little something we whipped up in honor of tax day:

Feed the Beast

Val Muller

 

They pointed a gun at my head.

“Pay your taxes,” the tax man said.

We know better than you,

So pay your due

And go back to your circus and bread.

 

We stick riders in our laws,

Placing power in cronies’ paws,

And if you object

We’ll keep you in check—

And we certainly can because

 

We’re the government, big government,

And we build the roads.

We’re with you from birth,

When you buy food and clothes.

We’re with you at work,

And we’re there when you die,

And we’re there and we’re there,

Washington’s Great Seeing Eye.

 

We can tell you who you marry.

We decide which drugs are scary.

You pay for us to

Tell you what to do,

And we won’t hear the contrary.

 

We’re the government, big government,

And we build the roads.

We’re with you from birth,

When you buy food and clothes.

We’re with you at work,

And we’re there when you die,

And we’re there and we’re there,

Washington’s Great Seeing Eye.

 

We are the glutton you feed.

We have an endless need

For your money and power;

We grow by the hour

With thoughtless, brainless speed.

 

But you have fed us so,

Whether or not you know,

So before you complain,

Use your brain

To limit our gluttonous reign.

Freedom Friday: Freedom for Shaneen Allen!

shaneen-allenFor this week’s Freedom Friday, we are happy to share that New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, has issued a full pardon to Shaneen Allen.

Allen, a Pennsylvania resident, was in possession of a firearm for which she held a valid and legal conceal carry permit from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Her crime was crossing the Delaware River into New Jersey, home of some of the strictest gun laws.

At a traffic stop, Allen informed the officer that she had a firearm in the car which she was licensed to carry. This triggered her arrest, 40 days in jail, loss of her job, and perhaps most devastatingly, the loss of custody of her children. Due to New Jersey’s Byzantine gun control laws, which some gun control activists continue to push for, Allen would also face felony charges preventing her from owning a firearm in the future as well as a mandatory minimum 3 year prison sentence.

All for exercising what is a black-letter right guaranteed by the Constitution via the 2nd Amendment. In addition to this right, the Constitution requires states to give “full faith and credit…to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.” This should certainly apply to the permitting process whereby states allow law-abiding citizens the right to “conceal carry” firearms.

Allen’s situation is not isolated. And many law-abiding citizens can find themselves in a similar predicament and be victim to overzealous prosecutors and a patchwork of state agreements making a gun permit of one state accepted in a collection of others. To know every possible permutation of what states honor which other states’ permits, you need an interactive map, like this one.

No state has the right to unleash this kind of prosecutorial terrorism on law-abiding citizens. That goes for those who hold the legal right to possess a firearm, and are visiting their state, as well as their own citizens. We prefer to leave it to states to run their own affairs, but each state admitted to the Union shares one federal Constitution. And that Constitution guarantees citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

We tip our hat to the governor of New Jersey and hope that Shaneen Allen’s story will become a call for other states having similar over-the-top gun control laws, like New Jersey (we’re looking at you, Maryland!), to reform their criminal codes to decriminalize the lawful exercise of Constitutional rights!

Debt Files: Peepin’ On the Debt

While wandering around a store this weekend, we saw shelves stocked full of Easter candy: jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, crème eggs, and of course, iconic marshmallow Peeps to name a few.

And as our sweet tooth was being tempted, we thought, hey how much of this stuff could we buy with the national debt? Quite a bit as it turns out (as one would expect with more than $18 trillion to play with). And that’s pre-Easter candy pricing!

Check out our other national debt comparisons at www.freedomforgepress.com/debt, and if you have an idea for a debt file, let us know in the comments or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

peeping-into-the-national-debt-infographic

Debt Files: Gasoline and the National Debt

You asked for it!

A few weeks ago, we asked for interesting items, services, or ideas to translate the national debt into. And some of you had some pretty interesting ideas!

Here’s the first one: Gasoline and the National Debt. Others will be coming soon; you can find them on our blog or see the running collection here.

Got an idea you’d like to see us try to relate to the national debt? Post it in the comments or find us on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll see what we can do!

gasoline-and-the-national-debt

Freedom Friday: Questioning Climate Change

climate change

For Freedom Friday, we were heartened to read about a recent victory for the First Amendment. The Wall Street Journal editorial “Climate Free Speech: Dissenters push back against political intimidation” explains how Senators Barbara Boxer, Ed Markey, and Sheldon Whitehouse sent out over 100 letters to organizations disagreeing with the President’s stance on climate change. The letters demanded information about these groups’ funding. Following a similar inquiry by House Democrat Raul Grijalva, these inquiries are clearly an attempt to intimidate and to silence rational debate on the issue of climate change.

We have long felt that the debate on climate change is not settled and should be kindled rather than silenced. Scientific inquiry requires a constant testing and retesting of hypotheses in order to confirm or disprove scientific “facts.”

There are simply too many variables in the climate change phenomena to jump to a weakly-supported conclusion that human activities are solely responsible for climate change—and that the only cure for this is government regulatory policies that are harmful to the US economy. There are too many factors yet to be examined, such as natural patterns in climate change (the Little Ice Age, for instance, happened before massive industrialization), solar activity, action and reaction of carbon and heat energy in the atmosphere, and the extreme impact of volcanic eruptions, which can negate our miniscule efforts to limit our own gaseous outputs.

But regardless of your opinion on climate change, the more important point is this: “’singling out’” scientists ‘based solely on their interpretations of scientific research’ is a threat to free inquiry.” That’s a statement from the American Geological Union, and we agree. One of the elements that makes this country great is free speech. Unlike other nations, we don’t have to be afraid of our government if we choose to express our opinion—or, at least, we shouldn’t be.

Because of the fear-mongering and intimidation, the climate change debate has once again seated itself largely on party lines—with one party adamantly accepting climate change and another adamantly arguing against it. As usual, such debate clouds the issue in question, causing emotion rather than reason to prevail. So we support any organization that stands up for the right to hold and express one’s opinion without fear of intimidation or reprisal.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff puts it quite nicely:

“Democrats and their allies have failed to persuade Americans that climate change is so serious that it warrants sweeping new political controls on American energy and industry. So liberals are trying to silence those who are winning the argument. We’re glad to see the dissenters aren’t intimidated.”

Updating the Trillion Dollar Page

packs-163497When we first started Freedom Forge Press in 2012, the US government debt had topped $16 trillion, a number that is so large that it doesn’t have much meaning for people.

So we thought, why not use other things from the news, such as events, or items of interest that people could use as a visual for the volume of money that  government politicians are borrowing to pay for their spending schemes?

Items such as sporting events, dollar bridges to Mars, bottles of champagne, even iPhones and…Furbies!

But governments and politicians have been busy – doing what governments and politicians do – which is spending money they don’t have and adding record amounts of debt to our national balance sheet without regard for where the money is coming from or what burdens it will place on our children and grandchildren.

In January 2015, the US government owed $18 trillion dollars ($18,000,000,000,000.00), and so it is time to update our page.

Do you have an idea for an item or event that could be translated into national debt figures? Post your idea in the comments section for this post and give us a link to a page where we can find out what the item or event costs. (Even if you can’t find the page, give us your idea anyway, and we’ll try to figure it out.)

When you’re done, tell your elected officials that it is time to stop mortgaging our future and to get America’s spending and debt under control.

Then, tell a friend!

Freedom Friday: Congratulations Wisconsin!

Wisconsin-Break-Chain

Governor Scott Walker signed a bill into law in Wisconsin that prohibits unions from collecting mandatory union dues. We say “Congratulations, Wisconsin!” Wisconsin joins 24 other states, becoming the 25th in the Union to enact such a law.

Employees can still join unions. Employees can still pay union dues if they feel that their unions are providing a worthwhile service. Unions can no longer exact payments from members who don’t want to be part of the union.

President Obama was quick to condemn the new law as “anti-worker,” but what could be more anti-worker than taking someone’s wages against their will to support an organization that does not represent their workplace desires, and more often than not, makes contributions to political parties that may not represent their values.

At least one recent poll suggests the law is a pretty solid hit for the people of Wisconsin. They’d have voted for the law themselves by a margin of 62-32.

Suppose by virtue of living in a town, you were required to join the local gym and pay dues. What if the gym doesn’t have the newest equipment? Doesn’t have very good locker rooms? And management doesn’t much care to improve anything because, well, they’re guaranteed their mandatory dues whether they fix up the place or not.

All of a sudden a new mayor comes to town and says, you don’t have to join the local gym anymore – you are still free to stay if you want, but our guess is the gym management will have a new-found interest in providing value to members in exchange for voluntary, rather than mandatory, dues.

Employees own their labor, not unions. So an employee should have a right to sell his/her labor to the employer of his or her choosing without having to pay a cut to a union boss for the privilege of working. That’s un-American; that’s wrong.

So today on Freedom Friday, we salute YOU Wisconsin!

Government Power Springs Forward

Victory-Cigar-Congress-Passes-DST.jpegDaylight Savings Time (DST) is a great example of how the government is slow to deal with change (if it ever does), and pushes wasteful and ineffective policy solutions – sometimes even on a bipartisan basis.

Although DST has been with us since the dawn of the 20th Century – and traces its roots earlier in time – the current incarnation of DST began in 2007, following implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The law was passed in a largely bipartisan (85-12) vote in the Senate with more controversy arising in the House (249-183) from House Democrats who took an ideological stance that the proposed law did not go far enough to place mandates requiring energy producers to use more expensive but politically friendly renewable energy in their overall energy production mix by 2020.

The arguments we often hear in favor of DST are that it saves energy. And of course the federal government knows best how to direct the activities of individuals from a national level. Have no fear, Department of Energy (DOE) “experts” conducted a study which estimates that the policy results in a savings of 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours.

The government produces the most optimistic case for DST resulting in actual (albeit scarce) energy savings. Multiple sources across the ideological spectrum cast doubt on the effectiveness of the government’s DST policy for saving energy.DOE sheepishly acknowledges, “this might not sound like a lot.” And at least it is right on this point. The US produces more than 4,000 billion kilowatt-hours of energy on an annual basis. Meaning the nation’s DST policy puts everyone on edge for a net savings of about 0.03% of total energy produced in a year’s time. This doesn’t even amount to finding a penny on the sidewalk; it is finding about 3 hundredths of one.
DOE DST Savings
But despite the Department of Energy’s optimism produced by their “experts”, the litany of scientific studies and arguments against the effectiveness of DST changes are overwhelming.

Let us Google that for you!

Virtually all sources from the resulting search screen show no support for the widely held belief that DST results in energy savings. In fact, contrary to the DOE’s experts, another 2008 scientific study suggests that the government’s manipulation of our clocks may actually increase energy use when compared to doing nothing. The National Bureau of Economic Research issued a report demonstrating that “contrary to the policy’s intent — DST increases residential electricity demand. Estimates of the overall increase are approximately 1 percent.”

Rather than a savings of 0.03%, there appears to be a cost of about 1 percent of energy consumption. Not surprisingly, this follows another pattern from government “experts” who claimed that government control of health insurance would result in $2,500 in annual savings to the average family, when in fact, the opposite has taken place, and the average family has experienced a net cost increase of $7,500.

Apart from energy savings, the DST-imposed time changes have been associated literally with killing people. One study associates the loss of an hour sleep with additional risk for heart attacks. Another links DST to increased street crime. And another study attributes driving fatalities to drivers having to re-acclimate themselves to darker driving conditions.

Other studies have determined other, harder to quantify costs and impacts such as the expense of changing software, managing transit schedules, even hindered agricultural production. One of our favorite articles from the list we perused was by Tom Zeller at Forbes.com. His summary of the critics’ positions says it best:

“But critics of DST also argue that most energy-use analyses fail to account for a variety of potential costs associated with routine time changes. These would include everything from impacts on human health and crime rates to the costs of adjusting mass transit schedules, hindering agricultural work, and, well, putting a large segment of the population into a foul mood.”

If energy savings was the stated goal of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the government failed miserably in its attempt. So why was the Energy Policy Act of 2005 necessary? It must have done something worthwhile. The text of the legislation tops 550 pages, so surely there is something in there that was beneficial for the public good. Right?

Of course not.

As we leaf through the legislation and associated analysis, we find that like many other laws the federal government produces, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 does little more than spend money we don’t have for questionable purposes. Questionable, but profitable – from the point of view of politicians and their lobbyist allies.

Public Citizen offers a succinct summary of the law’s winners, and what it cost in terms of political contributions to receive such generosity from the treasury.

Oil and Gas Subsidies: $6 Billion
Coal Subsidies: $9 Billion
Nuclear Power Subsidies: $12 Billion
Electric Power Company Subsidies: $1.7 Billion

All told, the estimated value of subsidies and special tax deals totals $28.7 billion from 2007 to 2015. Not a bad return on investment considering that energy industry lobbyists contributed approximately $115 million in campaign contributions from 2001 to 2005 with about 75 percent of that cash going to the political party in power at the time – Republicans.

Once again, the public was sold a bill of goods, citing a national urgency to curb energy consumption and be responsible stewards of the environment. Studies have demonstrated that rather than decreasing energy demand, DST actually increases energy usage. Additionally, the policy has been linked to inefficiency, higher costs of doing business, higher crime, even death. While many people continue to believe that they’re doing their civic duty to this end in the twice-per-annum ceremony of adjusting clocks, the only real accomplishment appears to be the government giving away money it does not have to energy producers that had already been adequately incentivized by the free market – considering the high prices of energy during this time.

Americans should take away two things from their semi-annual Daylight Savings Time ritual. First, both political parties, even one claiming to be for limited government, are more interested in growing their own power and collecting political tribute than they are in effective policy-making. The second, following from the first, is the fewer things the government is in charge of, the better off we all will be.

Photo Credit: “Victory-Cigar-Congress-Passes-DST” by United Cigar Stores Company (sponsor); artist unknown – Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, WWI Posters, LC-USZC4-10663

Freedom Friday: The DC Sled-In

Capitol SleddingWhile we were stuck at home yesterday for a heavy DC-area snowstorm, we couldn’t help but smile to learn that DC-area children and their parents were staging a “sled-in,” protesting a law that prohibited them from sledding on United States Capitol Grounds.

Though efforts were made to seek an exception to the rule, the bureaucrats would not cave. However, we were pleased to see that despite the numerous children caught breaking the law, no one was arrested for doing so—or even prevented from having fun.

While we don’t encourage lawlessness, we do love a common-sense approach to making and enforcing laws, and it seems that even though these young’uns had a day off from school, they still got to learn a lesson in civil disobedience, common sense, and freedom.

You can read more here:

Photo Credit: Associated Press