One of the biggest reasons so many law enforcement agencies and other related anti-drug organizations want to maintain the War on Drugs is that it generates huge profits for all sorts of people.
From seizing assets under civil forfeiture law to fueling the multi-billion-dollar-a-year mass incarceration industry, a surprisingly large and diverse group of organizations and companies have found ways to benefit from the criminalization of drugs.
And since marijuana is the most widely used illegal substance, anti-marijuana laws are particularly lucrative.
Now, investigative reports coming out of Maricopa County, Arizona have detailed the specific ways that anti-marijuana laws in the Grand Canyon State generate big time profits for a few people, while many more end up footing the bill.
According to Ray Stern, who writes for the Phoenix New Times, current anti-marijuana laws in Arizona make cannabis possession without a medical marijuana card a felony.
Once a person is arrested for marijuana possession, they can either face conviction or participate in a program conducted by a “non-profit” drug treatment corporation called the Treatment Assessment Screening Center, better known to Arizonans as TASC.
“Defendants pay up to $1,300 for the program, which includes a mandatory drug-treatment lesson and up to six months of urine testing,” Stern explained.
“Defendants who decline to take the deferred-prosecution deal, and those who fail the urine tests—and, therefore, the TASC program—are prosecuted for a misdemeanor and usually given probation.”
And here’s where things start looking a little shady, especially for anybody concerned with the War on Cannabis.
While TASC is designed to include those who violate the full range of drug laws—people caught with cocaine, heroin, or other hard drugs can also get out of a conviction by completing a TASC program—marijuana offenders make up the huge majority of TASC participants.
In fact, Stern found that from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2015 there were 3,160 offenders referred to TASC and 2,356 of them were in for marijuana possession.
That means that marijuana users generate 75% of TASC’s overall business—and it turns out that business is pretty lucrative for a few high-ranking executives.
According to Stern’s investigations, TASC was hired to run the program by former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley back in 1989. One of Romley’s own men—Larry Cronin, who at the time ran the county’s Assets and Forfeiture Bureau—helped found and launch TASC.
Barbara Zugor, who was CEO of TASC until 2014, made between $360,000 and $476,000 annually. Her husband, another TASC executive, pulled in $140,000. TASC’s new CEO reportedly makes at least $133,475 a year.
In 2013, TASC had somewhere around $18 million in net assets.
And fueling the entire machine is all those low-level, non-violent marijuana offenders. No wonder so many law enforcement officials and anti-marijuana spokespeople are working to vilify cannabis—if marijuana becomes legal, they’re going to lose a lot of very profitable business.
The profit-generating collusion between Arizona’s anti-marijuana laws, law enforcement agencies, holding facilities, and privately operated drug treatment facilities is just one example of how the War on Drugs actually operates. But it helps paint a clear picture of what’s really at stake for those trying to preserve outdated cannabis prohibition laws.