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Our society has a drug problem. But it's not what you think.

The problem with drugs, is how we treat those who do them. In America we have some of the toughest drug laws in the western world. We lock away more people in the United States than anywhere else. More than Iran. More than China.

Think about that...

Half of the people in Federal prison are there for drug offenses. While around a quarter of state and local prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.

We spend 228 Billion dollars a year on the Federal prison system. Imagine being able to eliminate half of that money spent to incarcerate non violent drug offenders,and instead spending it on treatment programs for those taking hard drugs.

You know, crack, cocaine, and meth. The really dangerous ones. Not to mention prescription drugs, that are very much legal.

Most of the drug offenders are there for use and possession of Cannabis, or Marijuana. Surveys show Cannabis as the third largest recreational drug in America. And 50% of Americans favor the legalization of Marijuana. According to Gallup polling as of 2011.

But nonetheless a DEA official by the name of Michele Leonhart has no idea whether or not Marijuana is more dangerous or addictive than crack or heroine. Even in the face of many studies that show that it is not as harmful to health nor is it as addictive as other drugs and therefore shouldn't be classed as a schedule one drug along with the likes of heroine and methamphetamine's.

Jill Stein said it best in her presidential debate:

"Marijuana is dangerous because it's illegal, it's not illegal because it's dangerous."

So why are we spending so much money locking people up for something that isn't even as harmful as alcohol or tobacco?  It's a long history when it comes to why we made marijuana illegal, and not really the focus of this article. But I can tell you one of the reasons why we continue to have harsh drug laws is because of the private prison industry and the influence of money in politics.

The private prison industry makes money off incarcerating people, in fact: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, the two largest prison corporations made over $2.9 billion in revenue in 2010.

Those corporations use a strategy of lobbying, direct campaign contributions as well as networking in order to influence politicians into making laws that are meant to put more people into those private prisons. The three main prison corporations contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 Million to state politicians according to

Besides the human cost of being incarcerated, the drug war and the associated stigma of being convicted of a drug offence (even a minor one) can follow a person forever.

A good example of how the drug war can haunt someones life and prevent them from getting back on their feet is a guy I used to know from high school.

His name is Justin, and he's living out of his truck.

A former recreational user of marijuana, Justin was hit with a charge of marijuana possession September of last year. He ended up paying over $2000 in court fees and drug classes as well as six months probation. No longer a pot user, Justin has tried to get back on track after losing his house but faces job discrimination due to the drug charge on his record. Even his plans of going to college have been taken away as he is unable to borrow federal student loans to help cover his tuition costs, as well as to help him pay for things like food and rent.

With no options, as well as no way to afford food as there is now a law preventing college students from being able to get food assistance unless they work at least 20 hours a week. Justin has had to put his life on hold just to be able to afford food.

Having to quit school to eat is not something one should have to do in the richest country on Earth.

It wasn't until recently Justin had to move his camper due to complaints from people in the area, now with nowhere to go, and no money Justin finds it incredibly hard to find the strength to keep up his dreams of one day having a normal life.

"Its just what life is throwing at me. Handling this with dignity is going to be the hard part."
Justin Posted on his Facebook wall, explaining to friends what he continues to go through.

The problem with this drug war is that it takes away dignity from those who are trying to get their lives back on track. With so many doors closed by the stigma of having marijuana classified as a schedule one drug; so many people have found it extremely difficult, especially in this economy to rebuild their lives.

The hypocrisy of the current administration as it pertains to the drug war is that the president himself has done marijuana before. Barack Obama knows personally how harmless smoking marijuana really is, and yet he hasn't done anything to promote legalization. He has even increased raids upon dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal under state law. The Obama administration continues to raid dispensaries and use his authority to overrule state laws.

Why? It's the money.

Sadly as long as there is money involved, coming from the private prison corporations, from paper companies, to big pharma that all see hemp as a danger to their business interests. Getting Marijuana decriminalized is going to be nearly impossible to do. While people like Justin and many others will continue to suffer a stigma for doing something that harms no one, and even more people will continue to fill our prisons and jails in order to feed the for-profit prison industrial complex while also filling the pockets of bought politicians in Washington.

This drug war is unconstitutional, anti freedom, and anti American.

We can do better.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Cannabis is not a drug, it's only a plant. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    THC is the primary psychoactive "drug" produced in significant quantity by the resin glands only in the female flowers and to a lesser extent the leaves of just some of the varieties of the entire genus of cannabis plants. The hemp varieties grown for fiber, food and fuel does not produce significant THC by any parts of their plants.

    Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

    by RMForbes on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 12:21:05 PM PST

    •  Thanks.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      For the distinction.

      This is the kind of knowledge our regulators need to know when classifying Cannabis.

      They only see the THC variety of the plant and classify the whole thing as dangerous.

      And neither are dangerous.

      •  THC was rescheduled in late 2010 (2+ / 0-)

        Both synthetic and organic THC was quietly rescheduled to Schedule III by the DEA so that Big Pharma could sell their grossly overpriced Marinol and Sativex.

        Sec. 1308.13 Schedule III.
        * * * * *
        (g) Hallucinogenic substances. (1)(i) Dronabinol in sesame oil and encapsulated in a gelatin capsule in a drug product approved for marketing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)--7369.
        (ii) Any drug product in hard or soft gelatin capsule form containing natural dronabinol (derived from the cannabis plant) or synthetic dronabinol (produced from synthetic materials) in sesame oil, for which an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) has been approved by the FDA under section 505(j) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 355(j)) which references as its listed drug the drug product referred to in the preceding paragraph (g)(1)(i) of this section--7369.
        Note to paragraph (g)(1): Some other names for dronabinol: (6a R-trans)-6a,7,8,10a-tetrahydro-6,6,9-trimethyl-3-pentyl-6 H-dibenzo [b,d]pyran-1-ol] or (-)-delta-9-(trans)-tetrahydrocannabinol]
        (2) [Reserved]
        * * * * *
        Dated: October 19, 2010.
        Michele M. Leonhart,
        Deputy Administrator.

        Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

        by RMForbes on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 01:56:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Do you know where you got your (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    $228 billion per year on the federal prison system figure from?  Most of the time I hear it in the $50 to $60 billion a year range which would equate to roughly $25,000 to $30,000 per year per inmate.  A quick internet search re-enforced my memory but one internet site does not a fact make.

    I'm pro-legalization and would favor the states making their own decisions on which drugs to legalize or keep prohibited but I really want an honest discussion as possible and your $228 billion figure is far different than what I've heard.

    In addition, it's probably poor logic to assume that just because x percent of all offenders are in prison for drug offenses that if we legalized pot all across the nation that x percent of the prison costs would disappear.  Yes, costs could go down but not nearly by the same percentage as those incarcerated for drug offenses.

    Keep up the fight though!

    We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

    by theotherside on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 01:18:45 PM PST

    •  Well... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      The 228 Billion figure comes not only from actual incarceration but the entire system, police, corrections, and judiciary.

      In addition, it's probably poor logic to assume that just because x percent of all offenders are in prison for drug offenses that if we legalized pot all across the nation that x percent of the prison costs would disappear.  Yes, costs could go down but not nearly by the same percentage as those incarcerated for drug offenses.
      Not necessarily, remember these are non violent drug offenses, if you let people go and eliminate the drug charge from their records then they wouldn't have that stigma on them anymore of being an offender. That means they can find jobs and have normal lives again. And of course you'll have the people who will go back to prison. But I think a large amount of them will not. As for costs, look at how much we spend on enforcement, court costs alone for marijuana.

      There's no guarantee sure but Colorado and Washington are the great experiment, if prison populations and costs end up going down because of decriminalization like I think I will I'll be right, if not then I will concede the point.

      •  Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in my post (0+ / 0-)

        I do think that costs will go down with the legalization of pot.  However, let's examine either prison costs or police costs.   If you eliminate all arrests for pot possession or distribution and let's say in that particular state that those arrests accounted for 20 percent of the arrests or 20 percent of the days in jail, I don't think you will see a 20 percent reduction in either police costs or prison costs.

        You would have to go into a whole analysis about fixed costs versus variable costs of each of these systems which is not conducive to a comment on a website.  After time these bureaucracies may adjust and not see a need for as many positions due to the decreased work load due to fewer drug busts but that would be a longer term issue.

        Hopefully, in the mean time, the cops can focus more on rape, murder, burglaries or perhaps drunk driving.  But we shall see how it plays out.  I just hope CO and WA don't mess it up.  I don't favor handing the pot trade over to big business and would rather have either the government or specially created non-profit agencies put in charge of the trade.  The "profits" from the trade would be poured back into drug education and drug rehab.

        Pot, no matter how benign it is, shouldn't merely be treated like tennis rackets and sold in an open market.  The genie is out of the bottle for alcohol but it doesn't mean we need to make the same mistake for pot.

        We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

        by theotherside on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 04:14:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't understand why we lock up drug users. (2+ / 0-)

    Marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, which are legal, so that ought to be a no-brainer.

    But what about seriously nasty stuff like crack, heroin, speed, and barbituates? If someone is going to mess up their life by using one of these, then how does it help to mess up their life first by locking them up in prison?

    Before the temperance movement cocaine and opium were legal and easy to get. There were people who were addicted, but it wasn't an epidemic. Alcohol was and is a worse problem.

    I would not want anyone close to me to be addicted to any of these drugs. I also would not want them to be addicted to alcohol or tobacco. I have seen lives destroyed by the legal drugs and it is terrible to watch. But I do not see how prison would have been a better solution.

    If we wanted to really reduce the amount of screwed up lives in the world we would prevent people from dating and marrying the wrong partners. Frankly, I have seen more grief from that than from drugs.

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