Nationís Marijuana Laws Were Founded in Bigotry

Nationís Marijuana Laws Were Founded in Bigotry
Posted by CN Staff on April 20, 2007 at 09:13:41 PT
By Roshan Bliss, Guest Columnist
Source: Exponent
Indiana -- President Jimmy Carter once told Congress that "penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this clearer than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use."That was in 1976. Today, despite the efforts of Carter and many others like him, laws prohibiting marijuana continue to carry penalties and consequences far more damaging than an individual's actual use of marijuana.
Not only does marijuana prohibition harm the individual, but it is taking a grave toll on American society as well. The damage done by marijuana prohibition far outweighs the good it is doing, and for this reason marijuana should be decriminalized. To understand why marijuana should be decriminalized, we must first understand why it was made illegal. Early in the 1900s, Mexico's political conflicts sparked a surge of Mexican immigrants into America's southwest region. Although marijuana already existed in various forms in the U.S., the new immigrants are credited with being the first segment of the population known for marijuana use. The practice also became popular in African American culture around the same time. The popularity of marijuana among minorities made racism a powerful tool for the opponents of marijuana. Racist politicians used hate to push anti-marijuana legislation through. One Texas senator claimed that "all Mexicans are crazy and this stuff is what makes them crazy." A 1934 newspaper complained that "marijuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men's shadows and look at white women twice." Media sensationalism put forward blatant lies and misrepresentations of marijuana that misinformed the public and stigmatized the harmless herb. The San Francisco Examiner went so far as to claim that "three-fourths of the crimes of violence today are committed by (marijuana users)." As a result of the pandemonium worked up by politicians and biased media about the marijuana "epidemic," marijuana was made illegal at the federal level in 1937.Previous prohibition laws were reinforced in the '90s by the new "War on Drugs" - a campaign aimed at reducing the demand for and the supply of illegal drugs. But the war has failed on its own terms. Despite its legal status, 83 million Americans admit to having used marijuana. Punishing smokers for their use has not decreased demand for marijuana, it has only increased arrests of otherwise law-abiding citizens. In 2005, marijuana arrests reached 786,000, of which fully 88 percent were simply for possession - a completely non-violent crime.This rise in arrests adds to the already heavy workload of the justice system. According to a study by BBS News, at least 135,488 people were being incarcerated for felony marijuana charges in 2002, not including another 20,000 being held while they awaited trial. With overcrowding already being a serious problem for the U.S. prison system, the influx of these harmless offenders is making it harder to put and keep real criminals in prison. But overcrowding is not the only problem. It cost $22,174 a year to house a federal inmate and $16,600 a year to house a state inmate in 2002. By the end of 2002, American taxpayers spent $1.8 billion to imprison marijuana offenders for that year alone. This does not include costs associated with the new inmates from the next year, juvenile incarcerations, police salaries and equipment, legal investigations or lost economic productivity of the imprisoned. In fact, a Harvard economics study, endorsed by over 500 economists, concluded that the U.S. stands to save up to $13.9 billion every year by ending marijuana prohibition. Imagine how many under-funded social programs that could be revitalized by that kind of money. In light of the futility and harmfulness of marijuana prohibition, decriminalization's benefits are hard to ignore.Space does not permit a discussion all of prohibition's injustices (the racial disparities of arrest rates, the unfair denial of education to marijuana offenders and the personal costs victims of marijuana arrests and their families, to name a few). Still, it is plain to marijuana supporters - and hopefully now to you, as well - that not only is prohibition not working, it is causing our country and its citizens untold damages for almost no gain whatsoever. Marijuana prohibition is a policy founded on hate, ignorance and distortion that is doing Americans no good. The rational and responsible response to these glaring inadequacies in our county's policies is change - change that will stop injuring innocent people, burdening our justice system and wasting valuable resources. It's time to finally take the hint that Jimmy Carter dropped more than 30 years ago. Roshan Bliss is a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts and a member of Pudue's chapter or the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He can be reached via e-mail at:  rmbliss purdue.eduFor more information on marijuana and how you can help, visit: or Source: Exponent, The (Purdue U, IN Edu)Author: Roshan Bliss, Guest ColumnistPublished: April 20, 2007Copyright: 2007 Purdue Student Publishing FoundationContact: opinions purdueexponent.orgWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives
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