Tag Archives: DC

Civil Rights, Drug Wars, Policy, Washington, DC

(Part 2 , see Part 1 – Our first article is about why African-Americans are less supportive of legalization than outsider groups who are trying to impose it on Washington, DC and elsewhere.)

Discussion of marijuana legalization centers mainly on personal freedom, flaws in the criminal justice system, and a theory that government can regulate it and take profits away from cartels and criminals.  There is no evidence that it is possible to regulate marijuana, and black markets persist in Washington and Colorado.  Since the regulation theory has largely been disproven by the two states and by studies, this article concentrates on criminal justice.

Can anyone truly believe legalizing marijuana would end racial discrimination in America? (Recent evidence in Denver and Seattle after the legalization of marijuana in Seattle suggests that racial discrepancies in arrests don’t end.)  However, these disparities are the main reasons people cite for supporting legalization of pot in Washington, DC.

Taking on the ACLU Positions

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L Lanier addressed the racial divide in arrests in the Washington Post.  Some of her comments specifically responded to a American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report.

Washington, DC, Police Chief Cathy Lanier
Washington, DC, Police Chief Cathy Lanier

“The ACLU also appears not to understand our city very well,” she wrote. “It is, indeed, a sad fact that blacks represent a disproportionate number of arrestees in the District; the proportions are similar for marijuana arrests, for other narcotics and all arrests.  But this is a complex issue that cannot be boiled down to an allegation that MPD (Metropolitan Police) selectively enforces the law against our black communities.”

Lanier points out that police in certain neighborhoods received a higher volume of calls from residents complaining about drugs, and that 59% of the police officers are black, a proportion higher than the city’s population.  Blacks are arrested more for marijuana because they tend to smoke it in public among groups, unlike whites who more often smoke in the privacy of their residence or clubs.

Cathy Lanier is the most popular citywide public figure in Washington, DC, with an approval rating over 70%.

Drug Policy in General

Chief Lanier emphasized that the police department in Washington, DC, is strongly committed to supporting youth.  The goal is to prevent youths from ending up in the criminal justice system for a minor transgression. Since she has been in the police department for 24 years and chief of police for seven, she has first-hand knowledge which the ACLU lacks.  She realizes that where there is already criminal activity, trying to put the marijuana under regulations may mean that criminals would branch out to other forms of crime and selling other drugs.

Much of the country agrees with rehabilitating drug addicts and drug abusers, rather than punishment.  While states vary, the drug treatment model is becoming more prevalent.   Transforming our drug policy rather than adopting complete tolerance and normalization of drugs  is a wiser policy.  The answer is not legalization.

We need a non-partisan national discussion, that considers all sides of the issue.  Mandatory minimum sentences don’t accomplish the goals desired when they were established. Three strikes laws should be abolished.  Prisons-for-profit aren’t allowed in most of the country, but they could also be banned.

“War on Drugs” Rhetoric

The idea that the “war on drugs” is a war on black and Hispanic communities is too simplistic to explain a situation.   The ACLU, which has had an important stake in legalization efforts in Maine and Washington (2 states with low African-American and Hispanic populations), uses this arguments to press legalization of drugs.

Wealthy white drug dealers can probably afford more expensive lawyers than minority drug dealers, a different matter.  Black males have been disproportionately jailed for violating drug laws.  Michelle Alexander, who wrote The New Jim Crow, supports legalization of all drugs.  However, she is now lamenting that legalization has benefited the white males who are now making all the profits.

The cause of racial problems of the United States and drug violence in Central America shouldn’t be seen as one-dimensional issues.  The argument that the violence of drug gangs and cartels is caused by US policy shows a lack of understanding of the nature of drugs.

The drug policy – violence theory also demonstrates a poor understanding of the nature of humanity.  Gangs and cartels are money-making paths that bring profits quickly.  Anyone can be lured into the profit motive without fully thinking of the harm, particularly when a person is young and risky behaviors make it seem exciting.  There is a certain “high” that comes from evading the law.

Criminal businesses will be always be attractive to both the rich and the poor.  Some cartel leaders are well-educated and even rich.  If it were only about income inequality, many would get out of the drug trade sooner.  We need to foster opportunities for the poor, so they don’t see drug dealing as a route out of poverty.  Regardless of circumstances, they’re hungry for power and wouldn’t lose power over people, if pot became legal. They would branch out to other crimes such as human trafficking, and to stronger drugs.

Benicio del Toro in the 2012 film Savages
Benicio del Toro in the 2012 film Savages

 When Drug Wars Occur

Drug wars happen when growers and cartels compete to have the strongest, most potent strains of marijuana.   High-THC plants bring higher profits, but the marijuana industry pretends that government is to blame for the greedy, violent wars between drug cartels.

We can see the violence that comes with the competition in the drug trade in the book and movie, Savages of 2012, with Benicio del Toro.  An earlier movie  Blow, in which Johnny Depp played notorious drug dealer George Jung, tries to illicit sympathy for the criminal who was instrumental in bringing the Columbian cocaine trade to the USA.  It is clear that greed and adventure motivated Jung, without concern about the harmful consequences to others.

Marijuana advocates who say “drug wars don’t work,”  play into current anti-government sentiments.  They say those who don’t agree with marijuana must be taking money from the drug-making companies, the police unions, alcohol industry, the prison or prison guard industry.  Otherwise, how could anyone not believe in their psychotropic drug that has been manipulated — to become stronger and to work medical miracles, as they claim? In their twisted logic, they say the US has created cartel violence in Mexico. Violence of course has many causes including poverty.   On the other hand, there is evidence that cartels have moved out of Colorado into Central America, and are causing our heroin epidemic today.

 

Two.Is.Enough.D.C. Fights Washington Going to Pot

Two Is Enough D. C. has formed to fight off marijuana legalization in the  District of Columbia this fall.  Although it has taken years to reduce the smell and litter of cigarettes, the public health benefit could be erased and replaced with the widespread infiltration of marijuana smoke.

Polls show that DC voters favor legalization, but they need to look at what has happened in Colorado and Washington state.   One wonders how, after seeing what alcohol and tobacco do to health, voters can want a third vice.   The answer appears to be the huge amount of money backing full legalization.

The Money Behind Marijuana

The change of public opinion has gone hand-in-hand with the large influx of money to fund marijuana legalization.  Since the early 1990s, money-fund manager George Soros has been providing  financial backing to groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project.   Together Soros and the late Peter Lewis donated approximately 100 million dollars to legalization and medical marijuana campaigns.  The well-organized marijuana lobby has gained some backers in Congress: Dana Rohrabacher of California, Jared Polis of Colorado, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Stephen Cohen of Tennessee.

Laws revolving around marijuana have gradually changed.  Support is especially strong in the western states, where politics involves personal freedom and individual rights.  A movie released in 2011, Guns and Weed, reflects the views of many who have advocated for this freedom.  Unfortunately, the freedom issue has become stronger than protecting children.  Legalization legitimizes a vice and promotes the greed of both dealers and governments, at the expense of future generations.

The  normal course for changing marijuana laws has been decriminalization, followed by introducing medical marijuana and finally allowing voters to tax and regulate.  About a year ago, medical marijuana was implemented in the district.  This spring the city council voted to decriminalize pot, with a $25 fine.

Only one city council member in Washington, DC, Yvette Alexander, stood firm against the measure.  The fine for kids smoking marijuana in public is now less than the fine for smoking cigarettes. It is likely that the marijuana lobbyists, such as NORML and Drug Policy Action Committee, have worked long and hard to gain the support of politicians in Washington, DC.

Typically voters don’t even notice what is happening because these lobbying groups talk only from the side people going to jail or the inefficiency of drug wars and suggest that drug money could go to governments instead of criminals.  The first medical marijuana initiative passed in California back in 1996.  California voters rejected full legalization in 2010, despite being outspent 10 to 1.

How Congress Can Respond

One member of Congress, Andy Harris of Maryland, a physician, has tried to stall the implementation of decriminalized marijuana in Washington, citing the negative effects it has on children.   The marijuana lobby waged an expensive, negative advertising campaign against Harris and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who has also stood firm against the pot lobby.

Congress has the ability to slow legislation in the district.  A House budget bill passed last month included a provision to block not only a legalization effort but the decriminalization bill  that is now in effect.   Rep. Harris argued that the law has no drug-treatment component, even for minors, and that the fine for a young teen who is caught with a joint would be half that of the city’s $50 ticket for underage smoking of a cigarette.

A three-member D.C. Board of Elections voted unanimously today to approve the ballot initiative.  Malik Burnett, leader of the D.C. Cannabis Coalition, turned in more than 57,000 signatures to get the referendum on the November ballot.   However, he was not sure how Congress would ultimately react to this legalization effort, but he said that the vote “will send a message that D.C. is serious about reforming its marijuana laws.”