Like the millions of American black males whose lives have been devastated by anti-cannabis laws in the USA, another victim fell yesterday, this time in Africa. His name is Obama, George Obama, half-brother to American president Barack Obama. Allegedly, he was found in possession of a small amount of cannabis, known in Kenya as bhang.
Will Obama’s brother George be helped by his cannabis arrest? If imprisoned in Kenya’s horrifying lockups, doubtless he will be tortured. Torture is common in Kenyan prisons. Indeed, several hundred prisoners die each year, many under torture. Does Africa benefit from Obama’s arrest, and possible imprisonment and torture?
In the USA, an American, often a young black male, is arrested for cannabis possession roughly every 38 seconds. Each arrest tears at that person’s life, family and community. The DEA stubbornly maintains a ludicrously harsh Schedule I classification for cannabis. Because of this draconian classification, severe punishments are inflicted by the state upon the American citizen so charged with possession of this age-old plant. Such arrests are at an all-time high. Does America benefit from these arrests?
True, Schedule I status for cannabis helps fuel one of the USA’s fastest growing industries, imprisonment. Prison guards and their bloated unions benefits, enough to finance campaigns against drug law reform. But just as the young American and their families are injured by overly harsh laws and overly zealous enforcement, so America too is wounded. The total number of Kenyans in prison is small. By contrast, the USA is the planet’s major jailer, with over 2 million prisoners.
Hopefully, George Obama’s last name will keep him from joining fellow Kenyans in the torture cells of Nairobi prisons.
Now if only his half-brother would strike cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule V classification over at the DEA. By doing so, he could save millions more Americans, black, brown and of all colors, from the worst of the soul-searing, family-killing consequences of arrest. He could slow the rapid and shameful rise of the American prison population. Somehow, such a rational step now seems unlikely from Barack Obama, considering the pro-drug war mongers with whom he has surrounded himself at Vice-President, Attorney General, Chief-of-Staff and now Drug Czar.
Barack Obama, give us some change we can believe in! Reschedule Cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule V.