How Investors Can Crush Cannabis Prohibitionists

Can $10 Million Keep the War on Drugs Alive?

Written by Jeff Siegel
Posted May 6, 2016

reefermadnessagainLast month I learned about a man named Mel Sembler.

Sembler is a former U.S. Ambassador to Italy and is known in political circles as a very successful fundraiser. As a result, he's made a lot of friends in Washington.

He's also the guy that recently announced he was raising $10 million to fight a cannabis legalization ballot initiative in Florida.

That's a lot of coin, so it got me wondering …

What kind of person is so enthusiastic about prohibition that he would seek to raise $10 million to fight anyone looking to end it.

Here's what I found …

In 1976, Sembler and his wife founded an adolescent drug treatment operation called Straight, Inc.

According to Maia Szalavitz from, Straight, Inc. ran nine programs in seven states from 1976 to 1993. It was also a haven for child abusers.

At all of Straight’s facilities, state investigators and/or civil lawsuits documented scores of abuses including teens being beaten, deprived of food and sleep for days, restrained by fellow youth for hours, bound, sexually humiliated, abused and spat upon.

According to the L.A. Times, California investigators said that at Straight teens were “subjected to unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse… and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting.”

It's also been reported that Straight regularly admitted teens who didn't actually have serious drug problems.

In 1982, 18-year-old Fred Collins, a Virginia Tech student with excellent grades, went to visit his brother, who was in treatment for a drug problem at Straight in Orlando, Florida.

A counselor determined that he was high on marijuana because his eyes were red (this would later turn out to have been due to swimming in a pool with contacts on). He did admit to occasional marijuana use, but insisted he was not high at the time, nor was he an addict. Nonetheless, he was barraged with hours of humiliating questions, strip-searched, and held against his will for months until he managed to escape.

He won $220,000 in a lawsuit he filed against the program for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery. Ultimately, Straight would pay out millions in settlements before it finally closed. However, to this day, there are at least eight programs operating that use Straight’s methods, often in former Straight buildings operated by former Straight staff.

Now apparently, all the Straight programs were funded by a nonprofit called the Straight Foundation, which still exists, but under the name Drug Free America Foundation. And the Drug Free America Foundation works with the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA).

Stay with me, here, because this is where it gets interesting.

Get that money!

As reported in the Nation, the CADCA is heavily reliant on a combination of federal drug-prevention education grants and funding from pharmaceutical companies.

Founded in 1992, CADCA has lobbied aggressively for a range of federal grants for groups dedicated to the “war on drugs.” The Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997, a program directed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, was created through CADCA’s advocacy. That law now allocates over $90 million a year to community organizations dedicated to reducing drug abuse. Records show that CADCA has received more than $2.5 million in annual federal funding in recent years.

It should come as no surprise that these types of anti-legalization groups feed from the trough of filthy lucre funneled in by pharmaceutical corporations, private prison companies, and law enforcement unions – all of which stand to lose a lot of money in the absence of prohibition. And I don't buy for a second that Mel Sembler isn't wetting his beak somewhere in the mix of this giant potpourri of propaganda. It certainly wouldn't be the first time. His infamous Straight, Inc. landed hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal money while it was in operation.

Of course, it's no secret that folks like Sembler, who are very well-connected, aren't often treated like the rest of us. Make no mistake, if you started a “rehab” facility where abuse and kidnapping were standard operation procedures, you'd be bunking up with a convict behind bars right now.

Yet Mel Sembler is free to live in a world where politicians eagerly await his blessings and campaign contributions. And he's free to use his influence to raise $10 million to fight an initiative that could not only help millions of sick people treat themselves as they see fit, but help dismantle the war on drugs.

This is our world, dear reader. And while I can't stop this guy from peddling propaganda and raising money to strengthen his own axis of evil, I can share with you two ways to battle guys like Mel Sembler.

First, you can simply support the good folks over at United for Care, who are actively raising money right now to counter Mel Sembler and his prohibition protagonists. Here's a link:

Another way to fight prohibitionists is to make it harder for them to get support from the government. And the best way to do that is to invest in the legal cannabis companies that are helping local and state governments generate significant tax revenues.

It may seem like an indirect way to facilitate the end of prohibition, but it's proving to be a very successful one. Plus, you get the added benefit of making a few bucks while pushing guys like Mel Sembler into the corner of irrelevance – where they belong.