One issue that the Sun Bay Paper has been closely following is the status of marijuana in the US today. While we are called the UNITED States of America, when it comes to pot laws we are anything but united. Yet, with an estimated 50 million people currently smoking pot, it is no small matter.
Right now in 23 states, pot is legal either medically, recreationally, or both, while right across the border in other states people are arrested for simple possession.
In 2012, four scholars published a book entitled “Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know.” The book, published by Oxford University, represented 70 collective years of experience on the issue. They found that 700 thousand people are arrested every year on possession charges. That’s a large number, but the FACT is that fewer than 400 of those arrested ever serve a state or federal sentence.
But that doesn’t stop our presidential wannabes from using inflammatory rhetoric to pander to voters. Let’s take Bernie Sanders, the current political alternative darling of the Democratic Party. Sanders has admitted to smoking pot in the past, and probably comes closer than any other major presidential candidate to endorsing the legalization of marijuana. He reaffirmed that stance Tuesday night, when Anderson Cooper asked him “if you were a Nevada resident, how would you vote on the upcoming referendum to legalize marijuana in Nevada on the 2016 ballot?
Sanders said, “I suspect I would vote ‘yes.’”
That’s all well and good, but before the eruption of applause had died in the room, he added “and I would vote yes because I am seeing in this country too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses. We are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana.”
As has already been established as a matter of fact, his statement is just not true.
Hillary Clinton is no smarter. When asked if she would give her position on legalizing marijuana at the Tuesday night debates, Clinton said “No.” While she didn’t get the same applause Sanders did, she did make the same factually inaccurate follow-up statement.
Clinton said “I completely agree with the idea that we have to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana. Therefore, we need more states, cities, and the Federal government to begin to address this so that we don’t have this terrible result that Senator Sanders was talking about, where we have a huge population in our prisons for non-violent, low level offenses that are primarily due to marijuana.”
So here are the two leading Democratic candidates for President of the United States, talking on an internationally broadcasted debate, quoting facts that don’t exist. And they want to carry the nuclear football? Don’t take my word for it. Even one of the most liberal, pro-Democrat news agencies in this country – MSNBC – took note of Sander’s and Clinton’s gaffes this week, stating “there’s not a legion of pot smokers or pot dealers in prison primarily due to marijuana, according to the best available data. There are a lot of people in this country behind bars for other drug charges, but if sanders and Clinton are for legalizing all drugs, they have yet to say it.” Indeed.
It would be highly illustrative to end this editorial here, simply to make the point that these two major candidates can’t get their facts straight, but one could also suggest the inability of voters to do any research since Clinton and Sanders are the two most popular Democratic candidates according to most polls. That doesn’t speak well for voter acumen.
However, I can’t leave this page without making one other point that neither MSNBC nor other media have made. Why in the world would we utilize the law enforcement resources of the United States to arrest 700 thousand people a year, well knowing that less than 400 of them will actually be given any jail time as a result of being arrested for pot possession?
I propose that the answer is quite simple – our judicial system has become a business. The preparations for arrest, the arrests themselves, the bookings, the bails, the probation officers, the drug schools, the counseling sessions, the follow-up court hearings, all provide employment for an industry out of control. And it is an industry, make no mistake about it.
You may recall an article in the Sun Bay Paper a few months back about the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA). This hugely profitable company makes its money locking people up. It has also been shown that many politicians, their families, trusts, attorneys, and business associates have a huge sum of money invested in the shares of CCA and the other similar entities that profit from this system.
It’s a shame when the potential future leaders of our country can’t get their facts straight on a current important issue, but it’s damning to think that their “misstatements” may be a smoke screen to deflect the American people from the fact that they are invested in a system of justice that is anything but just.