Tag: War on Cannabis

STILL More Arrests for Cannabis Than All Violent Crimes Together

We’ve made so much progress all across the nation legalizing and regulating cannabis for both medical and adult use, that it baffles the mind that we are still arresting and jailing so many people for cannabis in this nation. While some people try to brush off the importance of ending cannabis prohibition, the war on the cannabis community continues to ruin lives and disrupt an industry that is one of the bright spots in today’s economy. In fact, the United States arrests more people for cannabis than for all violent crimes combined:

According to the Uniform Crime Report, which was compiled by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, police in the U.S. made 10,085,207 arrests in 2019. Of that total, 545,602 were for cannabis violations. That number is higher than the 495,871 individuals arrested for violent crimes and represents more than 5 percent of all arrests carried out by law enforcement that year. Cannabis arrests made up about one-third of all drug-related arrests despite being considerably safer than other illicit drugs or opioid-based prescription medications. 

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“Police across America make a marijuana-related arrest every 58 seconds,” said Erik Altieri, executive director at NORML. “At a time when the overwhelming majority of Americans want cannabis to be legal and regulated, it is an outrage that many police departments across the country continue to waste tax dollars and limited law enforcement resources on arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens for simple marijuana possession.”

The total number of arrests only tells one part of the story. There is a notorious disparity between rates at which white people are arrested versus those from black and Latinx communities. However, the rates at which these groups consume cannabis are similar. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, black Americans are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related violations. 

It is imperative that we don’t remain complacent and continue to urge our federal officials to end prohibition. Too many people are losing their freedom and livelihoods and cannabis businesses can’t flourish without reasonable banking and tax policies. Cannabis businesses in legal states are creating jobs and generating revenue for important social services, and it is simply nonsensical and un-American to continue the harmful and wasteful war on the cannabis community.

Be sure to take advantage of living in the great legal state of Oregon and enjoy the selection and deals at Kind Leaf, Eastern Oregon’s premier craft cannabis boutique. Discounts available for Oregon Medical Marijuana Program Patients, seniors, veterans, and everyone utilizing the pick-up window. Order online via Leafly to save time.

Juneteenth Commemorates the End of Slavery, but Slavery Still Exists in American Prisons

When you are fighting for equality and civil rights, it is extremely important to celebrate your victories. There are so many things wrong in this world, that we can easily get overwhelmed and burnt out unless we take the time to find joy. After celebrating, we activists then can move onto the next political or cultural battle, recharged and ready to create more positive change.

Like many, my heart is filled with hope seeing so many people taking to the streets and getting active fighting for freedom. Juneteenth, the day commemorating slavery finally ending in the United States, is certainly a day to reflect and celebrate important victories. However, after acknowledging the day, we need to remember that slavery actually still exists in American prisons as The Atlantic has covered:

In the shining promise of freedom that was the Thirteenth Amendment, a sharp exception was carved out. Section 1 of the Amendment provides: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Simply put: Incarcerated persons have no constitutional rights in this arena; they can be forced to work as punishment for their crimes.

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In this new era of prison industry, the criminal “justice” system, the state determined the size of the worker pool. Scores of recently freed slaves and their descendants now labored to generate revenue for the state under a Jim Crow regime.

More than a century later, our prison labor system has only grown. We now incarcerate more than 2.2 million people, with the largest prison population in the world, and the second highest incarceration rate per capita. Our prison populations remain racially skewed. With few exceptions, inmates are required to work if cleared by medical professionals at the prison. Punishments for refusing to do so include solitary confinement, loss of earned good time, and revocation of family visitation. For this forced labor, prisoners earn pennies per hour, if anything at all.

A significant number of convicted prisoners can be safely released, as Time Magazine comprised a team of criminologists, lawyers, and statistical researchers to analyze criminal codes, convictions, and sentences to write the report How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated?. Time reported:

We found that approximately 39% of the nationwide prison population (576,000 people) is behind bars with little public safety rationale. And they can be released, significantly and safely cutting our prison population.

How did we get to this number? First, many people who are in prison shouldn’t have been sent there in the first place. For example, we found that 25% of prisoners (364,000 people), almost all non-violent, lower-level offenders, would be better served by alternatives to incarceration such as treatment, community service, or probation. Second, another 14% (212,000 prisoners) have already served long sentences for more serious crimes and can be safely set free.

Releasing these inmates would save $20 billion annually, enough to employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers.

The war on cannabis and greater Drug War have created a New Jim Crow system that not only deprives people of their freedom and educational and employment opportunities, but also perpetuates modern day slavery. Even for people that don’t get sent to prison solely for cannabis or other nonviolent drug offenses, these victimless “crimes” put people in the system in the first place, or end of being probation and parole violations that end up imprisoning them. Let’s reflect this Juneteenth, but remember that we have a lot of fights left to win, including truly ending slavery in the United States of America.

More of this: Los Angeles Expunges 66,000 Cannabis Convictions in Just One Day

The cannabis legalization movement is sweeping across the nation state by state and has become a mainstream national issue as well. Legalizing and regulating cannabis ends harmful arrests, creates jobs and generates revenue for state coffers. However, after ending criminal penalties there is a lot of work to be done for both businesses and the cannabis communities. One thing desperately needed for so many people is the expungement of old criminal offenses.

Thankfully, many places are moving forward with expungement laws and policies. Los Angeles County is the latest locality to expunge old cannabis convictions as Leafly reports:

Los Angeles County district attorney Jackie Lacey announced Thursday the filing of a motion to expunge 66,000 marijuana convictions dating back to 1961—including 62,000 felony convictions and 4,000 misdemeanors. A superior court judge signed the order Tuesday.

According to reports, Lacey’s motion removes felonies from the records of 22,000 people. About 15,000 individuals now no longer have a criminal record at all. Cannabis convictions can alter life trajectories—narrowing education, housing, and employment options for decades after something as little as getting busted for a joint.

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L.A. County cannabis prohibition took a notorious toll on minority communities located there. While cannabis use rates are roughly similar across racial and ethnic groups, drug enforcement focused on high-drug crime minority neighborhoods, resulting in arrest disparities. Los Angeles County is 44.6% Latino, 48.7% white, and 11% Black. Lacey’s motion affects 53,000 people, 32% Black, 45% Latino and 20% are white.

Even in places that have passed expungement laws, like Oregon, the process is too complicated, cumbersome and expensive for many. Providing for expungement is a better policy than not allowing it, but we really need to pass automatic expungement laws to eliminate barriers to clearing this old, unfair convictions. Kudos to L.A. County DA Jackie Lacy and others that are helping fix the ills created by the harmful and failed War on Cannabis.