Any rational observer (which excludes conservatives, by definition) would conclude that the so-called “War on Drugs” is misleadingly named. Not the “war” part of the construct; that part’s accurate. From the extra-constitutional surveillance, “stop-&-frisk” policing, coercive consent searches and no-knock warrants to the military equipment provided to local law enforcement by the Department of Defense (including tanks… tanks!), the tactics and weapons deployed against U.S. citizens in the drug war are indistinguishable from those deployed by the U.S. on foreign battlefields in actual wars.
Likewise, our rational (non-conservative) observer would be dead-on accurate were he/she/they to rename the entire endeavor the “War on Black (and brown, and other, but mostly Black) People Who Use Drugs.”
That this is so cannot be disputed (in reality). For the facts of the matter, see the ACLU report A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform. In it, you will learn such facts as these:
Analysis conducted by the ACLU shows that due to racial profiling and bias in marijuana enforcement, Black people are 3.6 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar usage rates. This disparity has not improved over the last decade, and in fact, disparities have actually worsened in most states.
“3.6 times more likely” is a national average. On a state level, the Black/white racial disparities can get much worse: in Montana it’s 9.6 times more likely, Illinois 7.5, and in no state is it equal or less than even. Hell, it’s 1.5 times in Colorado, where weed has been legalized since 2012. At the county level, the disparities can get much, much worse. And this is before racialized sentencing disparities factor in.
Even so, a marijuana arrest is much more than an arrest. The ACLU report also addresses what it calls the “collateral damage” that often comes along with it, including:
- Denial of public benefits based on use, arrests, or convictions for marijuana
- Drug tests for benefit eligibility
- Separation of families in the child welfare system
- Loss of driver’s licenses
- Loss of federal financial aid
- Bans on participation in the marijuana industry for those with drug arrests
- Felony disenfranchisement [i.e. loss of voting rights]
Taken together, the “collateral damage” accrues to the individual, families and entire communities. And we’re not talking about violent traffickers and cartel kingpins here:
Nine out of 10 of marijuana arrests are for possession. While arrests for possession have decreased nationally since 2010, the rate of decline has stagnated and, in recent years, has even reversed upward despite popular reform movements.
For the whys, the hows and the history of the matter, see the The Last Prisoner Project’s extraordinarily comprehensive and beautifully written report Criminal Injustice: Cannabis & The Rise Of The Carceral State. It tracks the intertwined threads of politics, ideology and the perverse incentives that perpetuate the racist injustices of the weed war, and is worth a read for the highlighted quotations alone.
There are many who agree that the “War on Drugs” has been an abysmal failure by virtually every measure. (To hear the ACLU tell it, a majority of Americans agree.) The cost in blood and money lost in waging it is likely incalculable at this point, to say nothing of all that “collateral damage.”
But I disagree. By certain measures, the “War on Black (and brown, and other, but mostly Black) People Who Use Drugs” has been a spectacular success. It’s not exactly a secret that there are powerful factions in the country who are going to great lengths to disenfranchise Black voters. Take a look again at the ACLU’s list of “collateral damage,” and you’ll notice that for those same powerful factions, many of the harms listed are quite openly and enthusiastically touted as features, not bugs.
I’d say this war is working out very well indeed – for conservatives.
It so happens that today, there’s something you can do about this, at least at the federal level. I received an email from RootsAction as I was writing this:
Here’s candidate Joe Biden: “I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone – anyone who has a record – should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.”
We couldn’t have said it any better. In fact, it was our public pressure that compelled him to say it.
Here’s what President Joe Biden has done: ______________. Nothing! He has not pardoned a single cannabis conviction.
Text of Petition:
While running for President, you committed to the American people that you would expunge marijuana convictions.
Yet more than one year into office, you have not taken a single action to provide relief to those still held back by a criminal conviction.
Millions of Americans have been subjected to a marijuana-related arrest and criminal conviction. Branding these individuals as lifelong criminals serves no legitimate society purpose and results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, voting rights, professional licensing, and student aid.
Further delay is completely unwarranted. The time for action is now.
In November of 2019, you said “I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone – anyone who has a record – should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.”
This action would be a meaningful step in moving our nation beyond the harms of the senseless and cruel policy of marijuana criminalization and prohibition. Furthermore, this would set a tremendous precedent for state and local leaders to follow in your footsteps and facilitate the expungement of millions of cannabis records that were assigned under state and local criminal codes.
Please, honor your promise and take action to pardon marijuana offenses now.
After signing the petition, please use the tools on the next webpage to share it with your friends.
Please sign and share if you are able and inclined.
Day 1 of Black History Month 2022 (Lori Teresa Yearwood) is here.
Day 2 of Black History Month 2022 (Mallence Bart-Williams) is here.
Day 3 of Black History Month 2022 (Emmett Till) is here.
Day 4 of Black History Month 2022 (A Tale of Two Citizens) is here.
Day 5 of Black History Month 2022 (Trayvon Martin) is here.
Day 6 of Black History Month 2022 (Franchesca Ramsey) is here.
Day 7 of Black History Month 2022 (National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and the Black Aids Institute) is here.