In the United States, cannabis is legal for recreational use in 11 states while 33 other states allow some form of medical use. One would think that with this widespread legalization, which seems to be speeding up, that police officers would start concentrating their efforts elsewhere and arrest actual criminals who hurt people — not kidnap and cage innocent people for using a plant. Sadly, however, the incentives for arresting cannabis users are too addictive and the police state marches on, laying waste to all the lives it touches along the way.
Illustrating this utter insanity, and showing why the United States has the largest prison population in the world, is the fact that in 2019 more people were arrested for cannabis than all violent crimes—combined.
According to the recently released Uniform Crime Report police arrested 545,602 people for cannabis related crimes in 2019. That arrest rate is 9% higher than the 495,871 people arrested for violent crimes the same year.
As Forbes points out, cops aren’t arresting cannabis kingpins with thousands of pounds of pot, they like to prey on the little people, known to cops as the low hanging fruit.
The vast majority of these arrests (92%) were for simple possession of the drug. 500,395 of those arrested for cannabis were simply found in possession of cannabis. Even if we take out all the arrests for being involved in unregulated cannabis commerce and just focus on arrests for cannabis possession, the numbers still outpace arrests for violent crimes.
“Police across America make a marijuana-related arrest every 58 seconds,” explains Erik Altieri, the Executive Director for cannabis advocacy group 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.”
On top of the fact that kidnapping and caging people for a plant that heals and helps them is utterly inhumane — it’s also racist. According to the ACLU, black people are nearly 400% more likely to be arrested for pot despite similar usage rates to whites. The report from the ACLU also shows that in some states, like Montana and Kentucky, black people are arrested for weed nearly 10 times as often as white people, and in some counties, blacks were 50 times more likely to be arrested.
Sadly, the overwhelming majority of protests happening about police reform in America right now are silent about these facts. If we truly want to stop racist policing, we can eliminate a massive chunk of it literally overnight by telling our employees, police officers, to stop arresting people for arbitrary substances deemed illegal by the state.
In America, the area of government that is most responsible for maintaining a racist system, allowing racist actors to oppress their targets with impunity, and perpetuating the suffering and plight of millions through the persecution of morally innocent individuals — is the war on drugs.
Without a doubt, the war on drugs fuels the racist system by targeting minorities and the poor. It serves to increase interactions between police—who are often caught joining the force to act out their racist desires—and the citizens.
The drug war, from the police departments to the court systems, unequivocally targets and punishes minorities harder for the same victimless crimes for which their white counterparts receive slaps on the wrist.
As TFTP previously reported, a report in Harper’s Magazine, written by Dan Baum set the record straight and relieved all doubt over the intentions of the drug war. John Daniel Ehrlichman, counsel and domestic policy chief to President Richard Nixon, stated that the war on drugs was literally created — to criminalize blacks and hippies.
According to Baum, he tracked down Ehrlichman in 1994 at his engineering firm in Atlanta, Georgia.
“You want to know what this was really all about?” Ehrlichman bluntly asked Baum of the war on drugs. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
To this day, the racist intentions behind the war on drugs serve to further oppress black communities. The war on drugs is still creating criminals out of otherwise innocent individuals who’re caught in possession of arbitrary substances, removing their opportunity for employment by giving them criminal records, and guaranteeing a difficult future within the working class.
It is no coincidence that the ACLU refers to the drug war as the new Jim Crow.
The end to prohibition cannot happen fast enough. For decades otherwise entirely innocent black and brown people have been the target of cops attempting to meet their quotas and profit off the war on drugs and America having the largest prison population in the world is what we have to show for it.
It is no secret that a marijuana conviction is a blow to individual freedom—even if you were lucky enough not to go to jail or have already gotten out. A drug conviction limits the ability for people to get a job, borrow money, or even find a place to live. This attack on freedom then leads to a function known as recidivism which limits an individual’s choices thereby fostering an environment which will lead to that person ending up back in jail.
The case for reparations could even be made for all those whose lives were ruined by the drug war. Although a pardon and freedom would be far easier and faster. Until these protesters start calling for an end to the drug war, very little will change.
As Joe Rogan said nearly a decade ago, “Prison is for rapists, thieves, and murderers. If you lock someone up for smoking a plant that makes them happy, then you’re the f**king criminal.”
545,602 people were thrown in a cage last year for that plant. That took a lot of f**king criminals.