Paul Cienfuegos’ October 21, 2014 Commentary on KBOO Evening News
(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org, or subscribe via ITunes.)
Greetings! You are listening to the new weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.
I am really worried that the social movement to legalize recreational marijuana is going to end up being taken over by giant agricultural corporations, like monsanto. In fact I think it’s inevitable, if the folks who are writing these laws don’t start paying a lot more attention – and soon – to the problem of constitutional so-called “rights” for corporations.
We’ve been down this path before, and it isn’t pretty. Over and over, I’ve watched, as powerful new social movements were crushed by corporate industry. Two examples are the organic food movement and the eco-forestry movement.
Here’s a brief review of what happened, and why it’s critical that we not let this happen again to recreational marijuana.
Case Study Number One:
Back in the late 1970’s, I witnessed the birth of a new food safety movement. Local farmers across the country were organizing to get their state governments to define a new category of food that they referred to as “organic” food. The directors of the giant food corporations had not yet recognized the enormous potential for profit-making in the new organic foods marketplace, so they didn’t try to weaken the new organic standards being passed by many state legislatures.
Local farmers also set up not-for-profit organizations that monitored and certified organic farms and food processors. The system worked well. But in the years that followed, the organic foods market began to grow by 20% annually, and the directors of giant food corporations took notice.
Fast forward a handful of years, and virtually every organic food company had been purchased by a giant corporation. To make matters worse, these corporations set up their own for-profit organic food certification companies, which created an obvious conflict of interest. In the end, state organic standards were replaced by federal organics standards managed by the USDA, which was the final straw that broke the back of this social movement. Now, “organic food” would, for the first time, be defined by unaccountable industry-led regulatory agencies and global trade regimes.
I witnessed an effective movement for food safety – that had been founded by local farmers – be transformed into a monolithic corporate-controlled industry where the only goal was maximizing profit. It did not have to end up this way. The farmers who started this movement in the 1970’s could have written and passed state laws that guided this powerful new social movement in a healthier direction. But they couldn’t see far enough into the future to do so.
Case Study Number Two:
In the 1990’s, I witnessed the birth of another powerful new social movement. Forest-land owners and environmentalists were organizing to challenge the dominance of the clear-cut logging industry, by creating a new standard of logging that they defined as “eco-forestry”.
As with the early organic food movement, the existing logging industry paid little attention at first to this fledgling new eco-forestry movement, which allowed the movement to develop its own eco-forestry certification standards, administered by its own not-for-profit certifying organizations, with virtually no interference from the logging industry. Again, the system worked well.
What happened next was almost identical to what transpired with the organic foods movement.
Eco-forestry certified lumber became a hot new commodity. The directors of the big logging corporations decided they wanted a piece of the action, so they formed for-profit eco-forestry certification companies that began to certify modified clear-cuts as eco-forestry.
The eco-forestry movement was rapidly transformed into just another monolithic corporate-controlled industry where the primary goal was maximizing profit. Again, with enough foresight, this could have been prevented.
In both of these case studies, constitutional so-called “rights” for corporations played a central role in our social movements losing control over the very definition of “organic food” and “eco-forestry certified lumber”. And because of this, many would now argue that we can no longer even trust the safety or the integrity of these products.
A corporate takeover of the movement to legalize marijuana is also inevitable, IF the pro-legalization organizations continue on the path they’re on, refusing to distinguish in their law-making between an actual human person and a corporate person.
Which is why, on November 4th, I’m voting NO on Measure 91 – that would legalize recreational marijuana in Oregon – because it does not distinguish between my growing and selling of marijuana, and monsanto corporation’s growing and selling of marijuana. And for me, that’s a fatal flaw.
If Measure 91 passes, it’s time for Oregon counties to organize Community Rights ballot initiatives that would ban for-profit corporations from engaging in the growing, marketing, or selling of marijuana, until we can amend our new state law.
In the long term, the best solution is to strip all for-profit corporations of their so-called constitutional “rights”, so that they can no longer interfere with our right to create healthy communities. Can we afford to do anything less?
You’ve been listening to the new weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News. I welcome your feedback.
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(* I don’t capitalize “chair” or “toaster”, so why should I capitalize monsanto? Corporations don’t even exist in the material world – they’re merely business structures, so I don’t give them the recognition of capitalization.)