Seeing through the smoke


Christopher Gallagher

The darkness of cannabis prohibition has got to give

Ar 180519960
Adobe Stock
Ar 180519960
Adobe Stock

We are living in an era in which social justice has returned to the forefront of the political scene. The Internet, which has replaced traditional forms of media as the primary source of information, along with its ability to unite great numbers of people around movements that they find meaningful, is a primary factor in this change. Blame (or credit) the current administration and their (often bumbling) public commentary, especially when combined with the unbridgeable gap created by our outdated two-party system. Recognize that the politically correct mindset has changed what is acceptable in both national and international discussion.

There are three vexatious components of cannabis prohibition. This trio is woven deeply into the fabric of cannabis law. Alone, each is adequate reason for consideration by all living under the Stars and Bars and in this era of American global dominance, but their grouping under the banner of a failing “War on Drugs” (a.k.a. “What We Don’t Like To Call A War on People”), begs for reform.

I am going to start with the most reprehensible of the three: privatized, for-profit prisons. Take a minute to think about this core concept. These institutions, in order to function and make money, need to be full of prisoners, many of whom are there as a result of drug charges. I am going to let the Corrections Corporation of America’s 2014 Annual Report stand on its own as an explanation of where they stand:

“The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances.”

It sounds like they were – a mere four years ago – behind the times with legalization and the proper way to treat human beings. That’s not even counting the outrageous amounts of money they have spent opposing changes to cannabis laws, which only cements them in that bass-ackwards place.

Racism, as we have seen here, has always been part and parcel of prohibition. That has not changed. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, of the 8 million cannabis arrests between 2001 and 2010, black people were charged 3.73 times more often than white people. This is the case EVEN THOUGH both groups use cannabis at nearly the same rate.

Then we have the Drug Enforcement Administration’s asset forfeiture program, under which the agency may take cash and property without charging its owner with a crime. This one is near and dear to my heart. When they came down my street without a warrant in 2012, they had been told that I was in possession of $200,000 cash. That was not the case, and the case was turned over to the local authorities. I still get a chuckle over what must have been a terrible afternoon for the agent, who had to explain to his superior that they would not be entering a couple hundred grand into evidence, but a couple grand instead. This little game they play may be coming to a timely end, as members of both parties in both houses of Congress have proposed bills that would end the unconstitutional practice.

To paraphrase the great Robert Hunter, it is reasons like this, one way or another, the darkness surrounding the failed prohibition of cannabis has got to give.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at chrstphrgallagher@gmail.com.