Dare I Mention the Word - Marijuana
The following is a response to blogger Paul Hammond's posting on Barack Obama's position on marijuana.
America’s criminal justice system has over the past few decades evolved into a criminal justice industry where vested interests and corporate interests have propelled our country into the largest prison in the world, and the largest prison population in the world. And it is not just the two million who languish in cells; it is the millions more affected as families and communities are disrupted. It is not just the millions incarcerated; it is the consequences of the world’s greatest crime university that takes in young men who committed small crimes and turns out hardened criminals and recidivists. It is not just the millions who sit imprisoned, but the fact that one in three adult black men in America are felons or ex felons – deprived forever of not just their suffrage, but disadvantaged regarding housing, employment and education opportunity. And a huge portion of those entering this system for the first time are there for relatively small illegal drug offenses.
We fail to recognize how barbaric we appear relative to all other western countries and many third world countries when it comes to crime and punishment. We fail to understand that The Netherlands, where small amounts of recreational drug possession is decriminalized, that for every person per population that Holland puts behind bars, America puts fourteen. That’s right, we incarcerate at a rate fourteen times as high, on a relative basis, than does The Netherlands. These are hard facts.
And as for marijuana use, the middle class, clean cut, white suburban high school student, who goes into the murky shadows of inner city realms to find a bag of grass, is coincidently exposed to predatory drug pushers who will acquaint our young lad with a far more dangerous and addictive menu.
Our pharmaceutical industry and our physician enterprises are all too eager to prescribe any of an assortment of “legal” mood changing chemicals to their affluent patients. But marijuana, a medicinal for centuries, cannot be even seriously studied for its efficacy.
I lived recently in Amsterdam for two and a half years. There were three coffee houses within blocks of the middle class canal house where I lived (not like the more psychedelic tourist trap Amsterdam coffee houses that cater to the world’s backpacking youth). These were not shady crack houses with disreputable clients, they were bright and warmly friendly gathering places where well dressed neighbors met, sipped coffee, would perhaps ceremoniously roll and share a Dutch marijuana and tobacco joint, and relax amidst an environment where crime is virtually unknown, excepting the occasional bike theft.
We, as Americans, arrogantly insist that we are the beacon to the world, but fail to look outward for solutions that other countries have long ago found to a myriad of social issues – not the least, an undeniable urge of many to chill out with an occasional marijuana smoke.
I can’t fault Obama too much for backing off this subject on which an inordinately influential segment of our population still views with irrational hysteria – I only hope that more, like you, will have the courage to come forward and insist that marijuana be fairly judged in the civic square relative to tobacco and alcohol use.