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Happy Easter, Happy Passover, a most spiritual and blessed upcoming Ramadan (June 29,) and Happy Marijuana Day! April 20, aka 420, has become the traditional day of celebration and thanks for those that value the medical, recreational, economic, and spiritual aspects of marijuana use. In celebration of 4/20, weed and a tale of two cities, Bruce Barcott, of CNN contrasts the marijuana laws in two cities and states: Denver, Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal and you can buy two grams for $34, and New Orleans, Louisiana, where a second possession can land you in prison for 5-10 years.

Barcott thinks focusing on the rowdy celebrations today provides the wrong image in comparing between the two cities, suggesting instead that these street and part celebrations have as much relevance to the issue as New York's "St. Patrick's Day parade does to the history of the Irish people". The most important difference between Denver and New Orleans is the number of people in prison for pot," observes Barcott.

In Louisiana, it's not uncommon to serve five to ten years in prison for minor marijuana possession. Five to ten. That's more than some rape, robbery, or aggravated manslaughter convictions. And it's the main reason Louisiana has the highest per-capita prison population in the world.

Last week I spoke with a man who was caught with 2.8 grams of marijuana in his pocket during a classic stop-and-frisk. (Do I need to tell you he's black?) He's the same age as me. He had a wife, a kid, a job. Now he's serving 13 years.

"I don't understand it," he told me. "There are guys in my cell here for violent crimes, awful things, and they're doing less time than me. If I think about it too much it drives me crazy." I felt like I was talking with a modern-day Jean Valjean.

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Meanwhile when he is back in Denver he stops by the Medicine Man shop and buys two grams of pot for $34 even though he barely smokes pot. He is visiting a friend's house for dinner and bringing a little pot along with a bottle of wine in Colorado is now considered the polite thing to do.  

How's it working out for Denver? Since the city's retail pot stores opened on January 1, violent crime is down. Property crimes are down. Cops used to arrest about 10,000 people every year for marijuana possession in Colorado. Now they don't. ... Legal weed hasn't inspired an army of hooligans to tear up the state. It's just kept 10,000 people with a little bud in their pockets from being branded as criminals. Instead of losing their jobs, they keep them. Instead of draining tax dollars as prisoners, they contribute tax dollars as workers and consumers.

Barcott closes by saying you will not see most Colorado pot smokers at these rowdy celebrations. The people you see on TV, in tied dyed shirts and scruffy bieards are more like the "one-day extremists" you might find at a German Octoberfest, or spring breakers in Florida. The more typical reality is almost boring, as illustrated by him and his friend taking a small toke while drinking wine with dinner and having a normal conversation.

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Can you believe the poor father who is spending 13 years in jail in Louisiana for having 2.8 grams in his pocket during a stop and frisk, most likely stopped for "walking while being black." How tragic for his family, and community. I've seen a variety of statistics on how much it cost taxpayers to keep a person in jail - it typically ranges from $40,000 to $50,000 per year. I've also heard that one third of African American males have been "engaged" with the criminal justice system, sometime during their adult lifetimes often for non-violent drug offenses such as marijuana. Once they have criminal records employment can be challenging.

Our drug laws are not only unwise, lacking in compassion, but also racist, and appear to be selectively enforced more aggressively against poor people and minorities. Once people have convictions on their record, they no longer qualify for Pell Grants, housing assistance, our any federal aid.

What a sad,cruel, and self-destructive nation we have become.

Can you image that if President Obama, or former Presidents Carter, and Bush had been at the wrong place at the wrong time, or lived in cities where stop and frisk policies of youth are routine, and they had been arrested for possession of marijuana and unable to finish college. Who can image where they would have ended up. We are wasting talented people like this every day.

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President Obama has two opportunities to ameliorate part of this problem with no assistance from Republicans.

First, he can use his executive power to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 - to a more appropriate Schedule as recommended by Dr Sanja Gupta and many others. Schedule 1 is the most dangerous category with no acknowledged medical use.  Our president should then put pressure on congress, from the bully pulpit, to back this up, so research can be done, for example on the new strains like Charlotte's Web that has proven to be such a godsend for those with seizure disorders that some are becoming marijuana refugees in Colorado. As a Schedule 1 substance doctors may not prescribe it for seizure disorders leading to unnecessary suffering especially with children.  

Second, our President can order special committee's to review the cases of all of those in federal prisons for non-violent drug offenses for recommendations for amnesty before he completes his final year. Someone told me the President can not pardon state criminal, which surprises me. He should encourage state governors to do the same. Apparently, of the over 2 million prisoners we have incarcerated some have estimated as many as 800,000 might be serving times for non-violent drug offenses.

Even if we "only ended up" granting pardons to half of them, or about 400,000, we could save an enormous amount of money. What is $50,000/year * 400,000 = $20 billion a year savings to taxpayers.

Imagine the possible value to these people and their families and loved ones whose lives have been tragically shattered by our insane, and cruel drug laws. The value of a second chance could be priceless, and perhaps, one of the most noble and compassion legacies President Obama could leave in his last term of office.

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Let's start this now and see how far we can get by the end of his term. Complete pardons so these people can start their lives over and even get Pell Grants to go back to school or qualify for federally assisted drug counseling.

We can use these savings to bolster our social services and mental health programs, like the people of Portugal are doing, because the even sadder truth is that many of these people are mentally ill, or have other mental or social problems which they were trying to self-medicate before they got arrested.

One of America's "dirty little secrets" is we keep many of our mentally ill locked in prisons for drug offenses because we lack the compassion and wisdom to create more effective solutions like many other countries have proven work better. (Such as Portugal.)  

So. happy marijuana day. Maybe we should visit someone in jail today to gain some perspective about what we are doing here.    

Originally posted to HoundDog on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 12:49 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Gay Folks Get Married. Routinely (16+ / 0-)

    Transfolk come out. With growing expectation of personal safety.
    Pot is not far behind.

  •  GREAT diary, pup. (13+ / 0-)

    Another one I wish I had written myself. This tells me that your productivity is worth it.

    Of COURSE pardons for marijuana crimes. The citizens of Colorado and Washington state should have explained that already from their votes on the issue.

    Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

    by Dave in Northridge on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 01:26:13 PM PDT

  •  I need a bottle of win... (9+ / 0-)

    Nice diary; I concur.

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 01:27:35 PM PDT

  •  The First President I Voted For Who Won (7+ / 0-)

    Was Bill Clinton. I thought he would make it legal.

    I voted for Carter once.

  •  A happy 4/20 to everyone, as well! (10+ / 0-)

    We definitely need to stop the criminal war on marijuana - not just in some states, but throughout the nation.

    Thanks for the excellent diary - tipped and recced.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 01:46:50 PM PDT

  •  How would you like to smoke a joint, legally, (12+ / 0-)

    one day, and the next day get charged with a felony for doing the same thing?  
    That happened to my son.
    If someone flew to LA from WA they could get 5-10 years for something they did legally just the day before.  In the same country.
    It's crazy.  

    "Fragmented and confused, we have no plan to combat any of this, but are looking to be saved by the very architects of our ruination."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 02:17:22 PM PDT

  •  Let's be realistic. (4+ / 0-)

    That $20 billion represents a considerable industry. Human husbandry is a profitable enterprise, a guaranteed income stream as long as the lawmakers play along. And they will play along because their campaign coffers might suffer, if they don't. The military industries and human husbandry are keeping them in power.
    The TEA party people are actually on the right track. They just haven't figured out that to corruption originates on Capitol Hill.
    Are the new arrivals going to be any better? Not if they come with the lust for power in their hearts.

    by hannah on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 02:19:48 PM PDT

  •  Uncle Sam has multiple neuroses (8+ / 0-)

    this one isnt the oldest, or the deepest running. But it sure is stupid. And incalculably destructive.

    Thanks HD.
    Happy 420 to all

    •  and a means of enforcing de facto racism (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      selective enforcement and prosecutions resulted in a 4:1 ratio, something no modern civilization should accept.
        At all.

        The law was a tool to keep the newly mobile  brown and black minorities under the white grimy thumb.

      Racism pure and simple, since recast in a multipurpose  class warfare model....fringers: political protesters,  white hippies and white bikers.

      Now, to be fair to police and prosecutors some, not all of these non violent mj convictions were the only miscreant's actions , mj arrests are really sometimes the only thing they could make stick, evidence is in wide use, very common, easy to plant......that the arrested was an asshole, was a criminal, and LEO and DA couldn't get them for that,

       or they used MJ as a way to grind some poor bastid to try to get him to rat out some real or imagined co-conspirators

      or the MJ was a plea because, just because..

      ....but that's why your citizen's committees have to review these cases on a one at a time basis, but quickly.

      And another sad part is some have been arrested for low level MJ crimes, but have since in their overlong prison stay have become real criminals, that is also really criminal and very sad.
      I like your recommendations and other's as well. This has got to be fixed.

      And you know what?

      If we don't, the republicans will, guaranteed. And what delicious angst that would cause, and I would cheer and rub it in.

      What else have they got to regain popularity besides war with Russia?

      This machine kills Fascists.

      by KenBee on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 05:59:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Normal conversation"? (3+ / 0-)
    The more typical reality is almost boring, as illustrated by him and his friend taking a small toke while drinking wine with dinner and having a normal conversation.
    Normal conversation? I dunno, but when I get high I usually turn into a blithering idiot or the human equivalent of a laughing hyena (which is half the fun of it, of course).

    You can't stop progress (or is that "profit"?)

    by Miscweant on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 02:40:30 PM PDT

    •  You do know that it is possible to use cannabis (6+ / 0-)

      without turning into a blithering idiot or laughing fool, right? When cannabis is legal it is not necessary to get crazy stoned every time we use it anymore because it's legal. It's the same idea of bringing a bottle of wine to share with friends at a meal. You don't need to get everyone blitheringly drunk do you?

      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 Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 03:16:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  because it's legal (3+ / 0-)
        You do know that it is possible to use cannabis without turning into a blithering idiot or laughing fool, right? When cannabis is legal it is not necessary to get crazy stoned every time we use it anymore because it's legal
        It also becomes realistic not to smoke it any more.

        Because it's legal, edible forms are returning to regular use, both medically and recreationally.

        Once one removes the dangers of smoking from the picture, the use of marijuana in its own right has essentially no harmful effects at all. If you stay out from behind the wheel of an automobile while under the influence, your chances of seeing harm are less than with any kind of alcohol.

        "It's high time (and then some) that we put an end to the exceptionalistic nonsense floating around in our culture and face the fact that either the economy works for all, or it doesn't work AT all." -- Sean McCullough (DailyKos user thanatokephaloides)

        by thanatokephaloides on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 03:42:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are preaching to the choir (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HoundDog, thanatokephaloides

          I personally haven't smoked cannabis in decades and even in my last year of college I was famous for my oatmeal/raisin cookies infused with my homegrown.

          Since I had more than enough cannabis to meet all my medicinal and recreational needs I didn't need to smoke it anymore, so I stopped. I have to admit to occasionally taking a hit off of a joint at a party but usually refused to smoke it. I usually ate it and drank herbal cannabis tea. I would bring my cookies to parties to share. I'm sure you are right, legalization will reduce the smoking of cannabis significantly.

          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 Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 04:58:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hey RM, I have a friend who was asking me if you (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            thanatokephaloides, RMForbes

            can just eat it raw, or if you have to bake to "activate" certain cannaboids?

            Back in the old days, I remember reading that one should first back dope one intends to eat at about 350 for 30 minutes.

            But, when I start to see all  that smoke going up the chimney I think "this can't be right."

            What's your expert view of the whole pre-backing thing?  How long and what temp?

            Can you use microwave?

            I then wondered if this might be to sterilize it. My "friend" one time purchased some weed that was supposed to be pretty good, but everytime he smoke it he had really bad throat and sometimes ear infections next morning.

            Not having easy access to this stuff in his professional situation he experimented with baking it for 30 minute or it started smoking in the oven.

            This cured the infection part, and he reported that it seemed morepotent after than and it did not take much to eat to get high about 2 - 5 hours later. -- even just a gram or two worked.

            So when hearing this I wondered if the baking might be to sterilize it from any bacteria, or if it somehow "activates" or changes the chemical cannaboid profile or does something to the THC?

            You seem to be one of the site experts.

            "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

            by HoundDog on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 05:23:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Cannabinoids will vaporize at 350 degrees (0+ / 0-)

              So heating cannabis at 350 degrees for 30 minutes in an oven would be very wasteful.

              However, Rick Simpson is now telling us that a higher quality medicinal product can be produced by vaporizing cannabis at 300 to 400 degrees and collecting the condensed cannabinoids in a tilted chamber. This process seems to increase the potency even further than the decarboxylation of THA and CBA acids into delta 9 THC and CBD, it is not clear what process is responsible for this increase in potency. This process also eliminates nearly all other impurities usually found in cannabis oils. I'm going to have to give it a try.  

              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 Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 07:39:29 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  To say it has no harmful effects... (0+ / 0-)

          is not a statement that I would agree with. We simply don't know yet. However, to say that occasional use of cannabis that is orally ingested has a risk that is worth the recreational enjoyment is something that I think is true.

          •  Compared to the alcohol in wine (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            cannabinoids have no harmful effects at all. Cannabis is not only the least toxic of all the things we use recreationally, it is actually therapeutic for many people. To say there is a significant risk in using cannabis is quite a stretch.  

            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 Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 09:39:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I didn't say significant risks... (0+ / 0-)

              and I think that we will continue to disagree that light use of cannabis is as safe as light use of wine. I'll disagree with the President on that count, also. Light use of alcohol - again, particularly red wines - has been shown to be beneficial to many, many people. I don't believe there are many researchers that question this any more. Light use of cannabis has not been shown to be beneficial to an otherwise healthy individual. There might be anecdotal evidence, but there are no good longitudinal studies that have proved this.

              However, it might well be found that certain cannabis extracts are beneficial if ingested in safe manner - as long as we can get away from this stupid smoking of them. Certainly I'm sure that various extracts will be proven to be beneficial to those with various maladies. The question is whether or not they are beneficial or harmful to a healthy individual.

              I just disagree that recreational marijuana use (or as some technically prefer cannabis) is safer than light use of alcohol.

              •  Insomnia caused by the stress of modern life (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                a2nite, thanatokephaloides

                is a common problem and a hot cup of herbal cannabis tea at bedtime is the best cure for insomnia that I know. Many people that suffer from serious sleep disorders develop other serious health problems including heart disease. Alcohol causes insomnia while cannabinoids, particularly CBD, promote a healthy sleep cycle.

                Yes, there are things in red wine that are helpful in small quantities but the alcohol in the wine negates all the good things when too much is consumed. The cannabinoids in cannabis resins work together in concert with each other, making them more therapeutic and less detrimental both in small quantities and when higher amounts are consumed.

                You will never be able to convince me that cannabis use is more harmful than alcohol use on any level. There are not any long term studies proving that light cannabis use is harmful to the user either. We can't do good longitudinal studies because the DEA will not allow them. These studies might find cannabinoids to be medically beneficial which would be a threat to the DEA's operational budget. The only cure for our current problem is to remove the DEA from controlling the scientific study of cannabis.

                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 Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 11:32:02 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  LOL me too. Perhaps I got carried away with (3+ / 0-)

      sobriety and the somber tone I fell into.

      At least I didn't claim they pause before desert to do some advanced work on next year's taxes.

      I'll go back and change that to something more plausible. But that what the author said.

      He also said he was not a smoker and only voted for the legislation after discovery the craziness of the prison thing. '

      He is probably one of those people who really did not inhale.

      "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

      by HoundDog on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 03:31:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This business... (12+ / 0-)
    Once people have convictions on their record, they no longer qualify for Pell Grants, housing assistance, our any federal aid.
    Getting rid of that...should be a big priority.   If memory is correct, that was enacted during Bush I years, and is perniciously punitive and has already helped destroy lives, education and careers.

    The right political leadership can make getting rid of this provision a bipartisan issue.

  •  HoundDog (4+ / 0-)

    Great diary.
    Happy 4/20 Easter.




    I`m already against the next war.

    by Knucklehead on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 04:27:14 PM PDT

  •  Cool photos knuckle head. Very cool. Did you have (0+ / 0-)

    a "friend" take those for you?

    I've never seen one with such big buds on them.

    "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

    by HoundDog on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 05:24:52 PM PDT

  •  I love living in Seattle (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have a medical card, because we haven't quite gotten the whole rec thing being sold out there, yet.  

    There are a number of places very near me.  My favorite is the Cannabis Farmer's market.  There are normally between 10 and 15 vendors each selling a wide variety of strains.  they sell a lot of oils and other stuff.  


    by otto on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 05:48:52 PM PDT

  •  This is just the start (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Next should be legalizing HEMP growing and production.

    •  Actually it is now already legal to grow hemp (0+ / 0-)

      It was legalized in the most recent farm bill signed by the President this year. It allows hemp to be grown in every State on an experimental basis. Several States have already began permitting for this growing season. It may not be completely legal yet but it's a start.

      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 Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 08:00:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As a resident of Louisiana I am dismayed to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    admit that this state has the highest number of it's citizens incarcerated per capita than any other state. Largely due to  the minor non-violent drug arrests of young African-American males. Gov. Booby Jindal's private prison-industrial system profits greatly from this. Thanks for the great diary!    

    "Onward through the fog!" - Oat Willie

    by rocksout on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 09:07:54 AM PDT

  •  Big Green Money Train's Sham Pieties (0+ / 0-)

    Recreational Marijuana sales are big, big business.  We are talking billions. So let's take all this "Happy Marijuana Day!" stuff and put it in proper perspective.

    Recreational MJ propaganda like this is no different than Philip Morris or Anheuser-Busch using American flags or images of patriotic figures to push tobacco or alcohol use.  The idea is to continue to convince people to offer their political support for "appropriate regulation" (or non-regulation as the case may be) and to open their wallets to buy their products.

    The supposed political content here - let's help poor oppressed minorities stay out of jail and put the drug cartels out of business - is about as legitimate as the old Virginia Slims ads telling women to smoke cigarettes since "You've come a long way baby!"

    The drug cartels out of business?  MJ sales may be down, but the cartels (as was predicted by those who knew best what they are about) have simply shifted to heroic production.  Cheap potent heroin is now flooding the US and the shift is directly traceable to the drop in cannabis revenues:

    As the patterns of the drug trade in the US shift, expect this to continue to generate daily drug-related violence and crime in the US.  

    The idea that minority youth are disproportionately in jails partly due to racist laws has validity.  But legalizing recreational MJ is not going to address the root causes of bigotry.  The idea that recreational MJ is somehow going to advance racial justice in the US is one of the biggest hoaxes of all - a combination of paternalism and greed.  

    As anyone who participates in minority civic organizations can attest, some of the biggest donors are the alcohol and tobacco industry.  Expect recreational MJ sellers to join them on the dais.  Depressed high-unemployment areas, particularly those that are predominantly minority, are already known to have few banks and food markets in their neighborhoods.  But there is a liquor store on every corner.  That doesn't happen by mistake.  Alcohol, tobacco and MJ sellers know where and how to create and maintain demand.  Just like predatory lenders, they hang out in places where they can generate income.

    It is ironic that recreational MJ is promoted as a "leftist" cause when Marx and Engels saw the spread of cheap alcohol as a way for the capitalist ruling class to maintain social control.

    Meanwhile, for those who care about climate change, Mother Jones has some interesting thoughts about the explosion in MJ cultivation attendant upon recreational legalization:

    Count me skeptical that the spread of MJ cultivation and cheap heroin is going to lead to a new dawn.

    And the tradeoff?  While liberals generally tout the importance of government regulation of foods and drugs that humans consume, the recreational MJ political juggernaut is working to convince people that the Food and Drug Administration is run by a right-wing anti-MJ conspiracy.  Yes, the same FDA liberals count on to adjudicate the safety of new products is a force of evil when it comes to recreational MJ.  Hence, the only route is the vox populi - the ballot box.  

    This puts the big money in play, as alcohol and tobacco have also used our money corrupted political process to get things legislatively they could not get through the federal regulatory process.  The MJ industry is going them one better, abetted by this supposed "progressive" slant of "helping" minorities.

    If we are to legalize recreational MJ, let it be subject to the same legal process any other substance has to go through.  What is happening now is like Pfizer getting untested cancer drugs onto the market through a referendum rather than waiting for FDA approval.

    "Hidden in the idea of radical openness is an allegiance to machines instead of people." - Jaron Lanier

    by FDRDemocrat on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 01:05:17 PM PDT

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