Sometimes, hearing lawmakers, experts and officials admit that cannabis is actually safe can be extremely satisfying. Knowing that longstanding arguments in favour of cannabis legalization have been given further weight by those in prominent positions is generally only ever a good thing. But at the same time, there are also instances when and where these kinds of admissions come as something of a slap in the face. It’s good that they’re made and the overall outlook could be a positive one, but they nonetheless provide a rather painful insight into how unfair and even corrupt things can be behind the scenes.
Earlier this month, Belita Nelson told an audience of doctors and nurses at the Marijuana for Medical Professionals Conference in Denver that during her time with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), she was basically in charge of making the public as a whole believe that cannabis was dangerous. This, despite the fact that the DEA is fully aware of the fact that cannabis is harmless. Worse still, she blatantly admitted that cannabis represented the primary ‘cash cow’ of the DEA and one that the agency was unlikely to be giving up anytime soon.
“Marijuana is safe, we know it is safe. It’s our cash cow and we will never give up,” she said.
She admitted that both the fact that cannabis is safe and the way in which it is relied upon by the DEA for funding purposes was actually the first thing she learned when she took up her position in 1998.
“I was having fun, I was very good at my propagandist job—I was the chief propagandist for the DEA,” she said.
Specifically, the role of Nelson was to serve as the DEA’s official international media representative during the six years she worked for the agency. To say that many of her appearances were high profile would be something of an understatement, given the way in which she appeared on Nightline, Oprah and various other highly influential shows. Unfortunately, her primary duty was to highlight and emphasise the apparent ‘dangers’ of cannabis, in order to deliberately and consistently mislead the public. Given the fact that she herself now knows the full truth about cannabis, she not only supports the use of medical marijuana, but has personally founded The Gridiron Cannabis Foundation.
She spoke of how her entire attitude towards cannabis policy changed in the year 2000, two years after she had taken up her position with the DEA. Having grown up in what she referred to as a “Texas Football Family”, she had close ties with the Dallas Cowboys. During this year, one of her close friends with the team received the devastating diagnosis of having advanced lung cancer. Following an intensive course of chemotherapy, his weight plummeted by over 200 pounds and he was so ill he was no longer able to sleep, eat or live any kind of fulfilling life.
“Even if the DEA is behind my name I am not willing to sit here and watch my friend die,” Nelson admitted, stating that in order to help her friend she asked her teenage son if he could help her track down some cannabis. Having managed to get hold of an amount of marijuana to pass on to her friend, he gradually became able to eat again, beat his insomnia and slowly began gaining weight. Alongside cannabis therapy, he began an extensive health and fitness regime which resulted in him living for an additional nine years.
Without the cannabis, both he and Nelson firmly believe he would not have survived another year.
In order to ensure that the cannabis he was provided with was of the highest possible quality and was not putting money into the pockets of illegal drug dealers, Nelson said that she grew it herself.
It was in 2004 while investigating a heroin epidemic that Nelson made the decision to quit the DEA. During their investigation, she found that among addicts making efforts to combat opiate addiction, those that were using cannabis had much higher success rates than others.
Having already seen the important benefits of medical marijuana first hand, this represented the final straw for Nelson.
The Final Straw
“[When they hired me] they forgot to get me to sign a confidentiality agreement—and boy did I know the dirt. They called me in and said ‘name your price, $10,000 a month? $20,000? What do you want Belita?’” she said.
“You know this is safe and you are keeping it from people who are sick! I am not taking your money and you better worry about what I am going to say!” she added, stating that she left the office full of rage and screamed her piece in the faces of her employers and peers.
She had absolutely no plan in mind with regard to what to do next, but made the decision to move to Colorado and find her own place within the local medical marijuana industry. She became an active spokesperson in favour of medical cannabis and was entirely unafraid to use what she had learned during her time with the DEA as evidence where necessary.
“Gradually, I came out of my shell and that dark place I had been because of what I had experience and what I had seen,” she said.
“If you think the DEA are the good guys, they are not. They are really not. We are talking corruption on steroids.”
Toward the end of her address, Nelson reaffirmed the fact that there is still a great deal of research to be carried out, in order to find out the true extent to which recreational cannabis could be implemented on a wider scale for entirely beneficial purposes.
“There is so much work to do here and I honestly never thought I would see us get where we are. This is a very special time—get excited about this, understand we aren’t just doing it for fun—we are changing history folks. Be a part of this, help me change history—let’s see what this plant can do,” she said.
Her words could certainly do with being taken on board by lawmakers in the United Kingdom, who continue in their outright refusal to even consider revisiting cannabis policy. As the United States and many other global regions make significant headway, Great Britain has been accused by experts of falling dangerously and embarrassingly behind the curve.
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