Gateway drug to incarceration.

LA times offers a great OP-ED, The racism of marijuana prohibition. Authored by Stephen Gutwillig, the California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the piece clarifies the terrible damage done, especially to blacks, by zealous enforcement of malignant marijuana laws.

Gutwillig writes:

  • An 18-year-old convicted of a felony is headed nowhere fast. In this sense at least, marijuana is indeed a gateway drug; it is a feeder for the criminal justice system, disproportionately for black kids.

The article points out how arrests for real crimes, such as rape and murder have fallen, as have rates for actually solving these violent crimes. Meanwhile, in California, arrests for possession of cannabis have soared. Last year, nearly 800,000 Americans and over 75,000 Californians were arrested for possessing pot. With the exception providing employment security to the police, prosecutors, jailers and urine testers, these arrests did nobody any good. In fact, such arrests represent a major investment of negative social capital. Instead of a positive investment such as educating a young American, arresting him or her for marijuana possession is instead a negative waste of resources.

  • Financially, education will enrich the youth. The increased taxes he or she will pay will increase the treasury. Financially, arrest will impoverish the youth. The decreased taxes he or she will pay will decrease the treasury.
  • Socially, during education the youth will develop important contacts for success throughout life. Socially, the young American’s arrest and incarceration will develop criminal contacts for success in a life of crime.
  • To the family, an educational degree, such as a high school and college diploma, is a huge asset to all and a unifying force. In the family, an arrest, especially a felony drug “crime”, is a horribly corrosive force, tearing the family bonds, separating all with iron bars.
  • Personally, any educational achievement is a key personal asset and widens potential contributions to society.
  • Personally, any marijuana arrest is a huge lifelong handicap, throwing up barriers to education and employment. The damage is done by the penalty, not the cannabis.

Law enforcement that is addicted to the gateway drug of marijuana prohibition. An American, mostly young and often black or Hispanic is arrested, on the average, every 38 seconds. With the severity built into the drug laws of the last 40 years of rabid drug war legislation, making felony marijuana arrests are far easier than actually protecting people and solving real crimes.

Rigid criminalization and draconian punishment for cannabis must end, for a dozen good reasons. Prohibition does not work, and ramming marijuana prohibition down the throats of Americans is un-American. It is also costly, cruel and counterproductive, building negative social capital, birthing the “incarceration nation.”

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