Marijuana - The Playing Field is not Level
Commentary by Black Kos Editor JoanMar
I don't smoke. I have never lit up a joint in my life. But I know a lot about the good ol' Mary Jane. I can smell it a mile away. My mother smoked like every day; my father, I have been told, smoked; my older brother smokes, my younger sister smokes (or smoked - she claims she no longer does - I have heard that before), I have had boyfriends who smoked, and I had smelled it on my son's breath a couple times.
I was not going to be my mom, so that meant no smoking and no heavy drinking.
Given all of the above, you may wonder why I am so bothered by seeing that documentary by CNN, Cashing in on the 'green rush.' The series celebrate (the best word to describe what I saw) the "trailblazers" who are making use of the opportunity provided to them in the wake of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
I am not merely bothered by what I saw, I found it to be downright obscene. To be fair, those people did not invent the problem. They are merely doing what any true entrepreneur would do. I ain't really mad at them as much as I'm mad at yet another piece of evidence of just how our two-tiered justice system works.
See for yourself:
The idea that these people could be so joyously celebrating their new found wealth, even as hundreds of thousands of people have suffered and continue to suffer for trying to do what they are doing, leaves a nasty taste in my mouth
In talking about their "pioneering" business, the young (white) couple featured in the series, spoke about a conversation they had with their grandmother. Apparently they mischaracterized the nature of their business and then were forced to come clean to grandma. The wife explains that conversation this way:
On September 5, 2008, Fate Vincent Winslow watched a plainclothes stranger approach him. Homeless and hungry, on a dark street rife with crime, the 41-year-old African American was anxious to make contact, motivated by one singular need: food.More:
Police arrested Winslow, drove him to prison, and locked him up. Six months later, a jury found him guilty of distribution of a schedule I substance (marijuana). Three months after that, a judge sentenced him to life imprisonment with hard labor, without the benefit of parole.
For a transaction that involved a whopping $25.00, Mr. Winslow got a life sentence, and with hard labor to boot.
He is just one example of thousands...if not millions. Whether selling or using, African Americans are more likely to be targeted, arrested, and convicted.
Whites and blacks use marijuana at roughly the same rates; on average, however, blacks are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, according to a comprehensive 2013 report by the A.C.L.U.Another ACLU report details the long lasting, life-changing effect of being arrested for keeping company with mary jane:
In Iowa, blacks are 8.3 times more likely to be arrested, and in the worst-offending counties in the country, they are up to 30 times more likely to be arrested. The war on drugs aims its firepower overwhelmingly at African-Americans on the street, while white users smoke safely behind closed
When people are arrested for possessing even tiny amounts of marijuana, it can have dire collateral consequences that affect their eligibility for public housing and student financial aid, employment opportunities, child custody determinations, and immigration status.It seems to me that there is something sad and downright immoral about how the ganja god has chosen to distribute his/her blessings. In the same state, in the same country, in the same world, some people experiencing great fortune while others are behind bars for doing the exact same thing. If we can't have a level playing field, at least show a little awareness about what's happening around you.
One law for everyone; those in Buk-in-hamm palace, and those standing in the shadows furtively scratching at the edge of the sumptuous pie.