Tired of fake organic food and phony eco-forestry lumber? Get ready for marijuana – brought to you by Monsanto Corporation!

By Paul Cienfuegos, published October 20, 2014


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, if the folks who are leading these legalization efforts don’t start paying a lot more attention - and soon - to the problem of constitutional so-called “rights” for corporations. In fact I think it’s inevitable. At this point, there is nothing to stop corporations like monsanto from growing and selling genetically modified marijuana, because the folks who are writing our marijuana legalization laws are not paying attention to the very real difference between actual human persons and corporate persons, and who gets to play. And that’s a serious problem!


We have been down this path before. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it isn’t pretty. Over and over, I’ve watched as powerful new social movements were squashed by corporate industry. Two examples are the organic food movement and the eco-forestry movement.


Here’s a brief review of what I’ve witnessed, 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, when I was going to college, I witnessed the birth of a new food safety movement – local farmers across the country were organizing to get their respective state governments to begin to define a new category of food that they referred to as “organic” food. The directors of large food corporations had not yet recognized the enormous potential for profitmaking in the new organic foods marketplace, so the efforts of these local farmers went virtually unnoticed by corporate America.


In the years that followed, one state legislature after another passed very strict laws defining a whole new category of food, and the organic foods industry was born. The 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 began to take notice.


Fast forward another handful of years, and virtually every organic food company had been sold to a giant vertically-integrated corporation. To make matters worse, big food corporations set up their own for-profit organic food certification companies, which created an obvious conflict of interest. And even worse than that, state-level organic standards were replaced by federal organics standards managed by the USDA, which was the final straw that broke the back of the social movement. Now, “organic food” would, for the first time, be defined by industry-led regulatory agencies and unaccountable global trade regimes.


I watched an authentic safe food movement - that had been led by small farmers - be transformed into a monolithic corporate-controlled industry where the only goal was maximizing profit. It did not have to end up that 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 much 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 incredible new social movement. Forestland owners and many other citizens were organizing to challenge the dominance of the clear-cut logging industry, by creating a whole new category of logging practices that they defined as “eco-forestry”.


As with the early organic food movement, those in charge of 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.


But this also soon changed as eco-forestry certified lumber became a hot new commodity. At which point, the directors of the big logging corporations decided they wanted a piece of the action too, so they formed for-profit eco-forestry certification companies that began to certify modified clear-cuts as eco-forestry – again an obvious conflict of interest as the certifying company made money, each time it approved a logging plan.


So as with the movement to create a safer food supply by certifying food as “organic”, I watched the eco-forestry movement be transformed into just another monolithic corporate-controlled industry where the only goal was maximizing profit. Again, it didn’t have to end up that way. The folks who started this movement in the 1990’s could have defined it in such a way that the corporate logging industry would have been unable to take it over.


In both of these case studies, constitutional so-called “rights” for corporations played a central role in our social movements losing control over these very important societal decisions. And because we lost control, many would now argue that we can no longer even trust the integrity of “organic food” or “eco-forestry certified lumber”, and that in fact, we’re going to have to start all over again with new terms and new certification processes just to ensure these products are safe in the future. Is this really the best we can do?


Unfortunately, a corporate takeover of the movement to legalize marijuana is also inevitable if the pro-legalization organizations don’t start paying attention soon to the difference between actual human persons, and corporate persons, and who gets to participate.


Which is why I’m voting NO on Oregon’s 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 does pass, then it’s time for Oregon counties to immediately begin to organize Community Rights ballot initiatives that would ban for-profit corporations from engaging in the growing, marketing, or selling of marijuana, county by county, until we can amend our new state law.


The real solution, in the long-term, is to strip all for-profit corporations of their so-called constitutional “rights”, so that they can no longer interfere with the public’s right to create a more sustainable and democratic society. Can we afford to achieve anything less?


Want to learn more about the Community Rights movement, and the almost 200 communities in eight states that have already passed legally groundbreaking ordinances? Visit PaulCienfuegos.com and CELDF.org. Subscribe to Paul’s weekly podcast via ITunes at CommunityRightsPDX.org. And check out our “Community Rights TV” channel on youtube.


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