By Pebbles Trippet
Marijuana legalization is dangerous. It will make us a threat to our government. Or so we are told.
But according to Jeffrey Miron, Harvard University, it costs close to $20 billion annually to outlaw marijuana. The country could not only save that by ending marijuana prohibition, but could also reduce prisoner populations, which are alarming and climbing : 1.5 million in China, 2 million in the US. There has been an 80% increase in US federal prisoners since 1970, caused by mandatory sentencing laws, not higher crime rates.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s statement about reforming drug policy, expected this week, may include giving judges discretion in applying mandatory minimum sentences and perhaps further reducing the shockingly racist and disproportionate sentencing guidelines for powder cocaine vs crack cocaine. These are obvious long overdue reforms, and would result in releasing a fraction of prisoners, largely the poor and people of color, but it is not enough.
These reforms are piecemeal, and do not come from an enlightened government that wants to admit its culpability in a 40-year long unpopular drug war, but rather from dangerous incarceration consequences of a bloated prison system largely stemming from “drug crimes”.
So many bodies locked in cages piling on top of each other under tortuous conditions has led to the current hunger strike in California prisons, with many prisoners feeling they have nothing to lose if they die from taking a stand. This heartbreaking situation makes me yearn for the days of public stockades where people faced their accusers and public scorn one on one. Now millions of prisoners are locked away in cages, like dungeons, based on their drug stash.
Out of sight, out of mind will never bring justice.
The entire drug war needs to be rethought, reversed & renounced by policy visionaries who assess drug issues from a medical, rather than a criminal perspective. Marijuana should be removed from Schedule I of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (“no medical purposes”), with prescription access and research approval restored. Cannabis prohibition should be repealed altogether with police priorities shifted away from non-violent to violent crime.
There has been a definitive cultural shift in the past couple of years, where the popular majority in poll after poll is embracing reasonable regulation to replace marijuana prohibition. Imagine that.