The Trump Administration Continues the Racist and Disastrous War on Pot

If polling is correct, pot no longer gives Americans fits. Recent Gallup polls indicate that 64 percent of Americans approve of legalizing marijuana — the highest level of public support in almost 50 years. Nevertheless, we have an administration that is tone deaf to the will of the people and insists on reinstituting failed policies of decades past.

But there are members of Congress who are listening. Earlier this week, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in the House of Representatives. Both agree that legalizing marijuana under federal law is an important step to confronting and eroding the harms that the failed war on drugs has had on people across the country, disproportionately Black and brown communities.

In addition to legalization, the bill would cut federal funding for state law enforcement and prison construction if a state disproportionately arrests and incarcerate people of color for marijuana offenses. It also would retroactively apply to those currently serving sentences and allow people in federal prison for marijuana offenses to go to court and ask a judge to reduce their sentence.

When Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the bill in the Senate last summer, he acknowledged “our country’s drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed. … [T]hey don’t make our communities any safer.” Booker, like Lee and Khanna, understands that laws that do not make communities safer must be questioned, and in this case, stricken.

Currently more than one in five Americans live in the eight states and the District of Columbia that have legalized small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, not to mention the 29 states that approve medicinal use. The federal government should follow the states, and the people, and legalize pot.

In a groundbreaking 2013 report, the ACLU documented that Blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite comparable usage rates. Even more disturbing, in the District of Columbia in 2013, where Black people make up 49 percent of the population and whites and people of other backgrounds make up 51 percent, nearly 91 percent of the people arrested for marijuana offenses were Black. These stunning statistics led D.C residents to support marijuana legalization in 2016. They should likewise spur people to support the Marijuana Justice Act.

As John Ehrlichman, former domestic policy chief for Richard Nixon, has confirmed, the war on drugs was never about the stated purpose of protecting the health and safety of the American people. Instead, it was really about undermining the Black and anti-war communities. In 1994, Ehrlichman told journalist Dan Baum the real motivation behind 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.”

Unfortunately in 2018, we have an attorney general who is stuck in the past and has embraced these divisive Nixonian policies and tactics. Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded several Obama-era policies that recognized states’ rights to legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.

Although this administration does not recognize or seem to care about the harm that antiquated drug policies have caused to communities of color, it is refreshing to see that some members of Congress — like Cory Booker, Barbara Lee, and Ro Khanna — do. They are fighting back with the Marijuana Justice Act, which lives up to its name and would be important to criminal justice reform for our nation.

View comments (27)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

If 85% or so of US citizens want murder to be legal its possible it would be made legal. Congress responds to the will of the people (or we vote them out of office) so if a large percentage of the population want a law changed it gets changed - eventually. The Constitution doesn't say anything about Congress considering morality when passing laws. Even if you did find something in the Constitution to use against such a law the Constitution can be changed as well.

BobW

There are some drugs both legal and illegal for treating conditions like yours! Turn America into a communist state because of marijuana? You have been drinking the conspiracy cool aid.

BobW

False equivalency is a non-argument. It's nothing more than verbal diarrhea that does little more than demonstrate your lack of knowledge. As for medicinal use (not medical use) of the drugs you mentioned, guess how many of them have given birth to the opioid crisis.

Anonymous

I'm a 61 y/o puertorrican living in SC due to Hurricane Maria's. Been a cannabis user since the 70s, went to college, worked +25 yrs as a RN and last December visit a doctor here for the first time. Without my knowledge he order a drug screening on my urine sample that came positive for THC. Last time I consumed cannabis was in PR around Sept/28-30. The sample was taken on December 20, inside the timeframe of 12 weeks of possible detection. He caused me of using in the 10 days previous to the test and was basically agresive and extremly rude. His nurse told me I CAN'T GET out of the building to call my daughter I was really afraid that they could call the police/or restrict my liberty. I'm planning to go back to Puerto Rico, where the medical cannabis program is growing strong. Never felt more insulted and aggravated in my life. Also, later found this holier than thou "health professional" is the only one in this area with a reprimand for "controlled substance deviation for self use" (is in his WebMD profile). It's the first time in my life, as a nurse, that saw a doctor treating a patient like this.

Anonymous

Why continue to support the cartels? Why continue to punish people for a benign substance with hardly any ill effects? Why not legalize this?

Anonymous66

Just for future reference, many proponents of marijuana laws believe "pot", "weed", etc. bring back the old stigmas of this vilified plant. They prefer marijuana and medical/recreational marijuana. Just Saying.
As a recovering alcoholic for some time now, I now see that alcohol, not marijuana, is the "gateway drug". At 13, my non-Hippie parents didn't keep marijuana in the bottom kitchen cabinet. It had old bottles of alcohol for an occasional social event at the home. That wasn't the age of my first drink but it was how we started with an afternoon of "around the World"! With the stomach issues I had as a young teen, I preferred marijuana over alcohol a few years later at 17. It wasn't until a personal marital split with three children, did I stop one and start abusing the other since alcohol was legal and easily purchased.
Don't forget in the 1930s it was Big Agra worried that the hemp plant, cousin to marijuana, which has no to virtually any THC, was going to supplant cotton and it was improperly classified by our government. Today it's Big Pharma worried about their destructive drugs and their exorbitant profits.
Thank You for your support on this issue!

GWC58

We’ll need a new, Democratic controlled, Congress to get any cannabis reforms moving. If, come January 2019, Pete Sessions still has his chairmanship no cannabis bills will move!

Pages

Stay Informed