The topic of marijuana reform in the United States took an interesting turn on Capitol Hill earlier this week, when a number of congressional leaders blamed the recent eruption of violence against Baltimore law enforcement on the failed exploits of the American drug war.
During a press conference to discuss the reintroduction of legislation to legalize money generated by the cannabis industry, federal lawmakers took the opportunity to point out that Baltimore would not be in its current state of fiery disarray if not for the misaligned policies Uncle Sam has imposed against the possession of controlled substances. Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon took to the podium on Wednesday, to explain how the War on Drugs has manifested a seething undertow of tension across the nation, spawned by decades of filthy police state tactics aimed at locking up otherwise law-biding citizens for the possession of a plant.
Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, who also attended the press event, explained that police shakedowns for marijuana have become a scourge on civil society.
“Right now when you see all of this disturbance in our inner cities, a lot of that has to do with frustration that’s been a problem when police end up having to search people to see if they can find some joint in their pocket, a little piece of weed, in order to ruin their life and put them in jail,” he said. “That doesn’t happen a lot in Orange County, but I know it happens in the inner city.”
While the correlation between the domestic drug war and the Baltimore riots may sound like a stretch to the average citizen, pertinent details surrounding the cause of this televised uproar supports this theory wholeheartedly. Reports indicate that 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who allegedly died by the hands of police officers, had a history of charges ranging from intent to distribute to possession of marijuana. When taking this into account, it is impossible to deny that the prohibition of cannabis, which is now legal in some fashion in over half the states, was the catalyst to the unsavory chain of events that lit the fuse earlier this week in Baltimore.
Retired officer Neill Franklin, who served a collective 35-years with the Maryland state police and the Baltimore Police Department, and now heads the advocacy organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, recently told The Huffington Post that the raucous backlash stemming from the death of Freddie Gray is something that could have, undoubtedly, been avoided by castrating the drug war. Not only does the black market drug trade endanger police officers, Franklin explained, but it also puts the cops and the communities they serve at war with one another.
“The drug war is central to what’s going on in Baltimore,” he said. “We have tasked our police officers with an impossible job of enforcing these drug laws in our country. But it’s not just impossible, it’s disheartening. It’s a job where there is no progress.”
Although some lawmakers do not believe legalizing marijuana would do much to remedy the issues that have caused many communities, like Ferguson and New York City, to come unhinged over the course of the past few months, there is enough evidence to suggest that eliminating the penalties associated with the possession of marijuana could have a significant impact on maintaining peace across the country.
After all, the latest FBI crime statistics reveal that over half the drug arrests made in the United States are the result of petty pot possession – around 700,000 people taken into custody for this offense in 2013. Most of these arrests, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, were brought down against blacks and Hispanics, who have been found to be as much as eight times more likely to get busted for this offense than their Caucasian counterparts. Unfortunately, the majority of these people are then pulled away from their families and otherwise compliant social existence to become a living, breathing statistic within the largest prison population in the world.
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