As cannabis Prohibition is being slowly (and reluctantly) put to death in the United States, “law enforcement” targeting cannabis usage is actually going steadily up in the U.S.
Even the raw numbers for cannabis arrests in the United States continue to increase: 663,367 arrests in 2018 versus 659,700 arrests in 2017. Worse, the vast majority of these arrests (roughly 90%) are for simple possession.
Now consider this: U.S. states are steadily legalizing cannabis, with more and more states fully legalizing cannabis. In those states, arrests for cannabis possession should be dropping to near-zero.
For example, in 2018 California legalized recreational usage of cannabis, meaning it was no longer a crime for its 39 million residents to possess cannabis for either medicinal or recreational use. That’s 12% less people in the U.S. who should be potential targets for cannabis arrests, yet total arrests went up not down.
In other words, the number of cannabis arrests in the U.S. per capita is rising steadily. There are two components to this very disturbing statistic.
Part of it is simple civil disobedience. The majority of the American people now know that cannabis Prohibition was always a fraud. There was never any justification for it.
Consequently, even in U.S. states that have full or partial cannabis Prohibition in place, increasing numbers of Americans are ignoring this unjust law. The numbers support this.
Then there are the political dinosaurs: the politicians in the U.S. (mostly Republican) who are responsible for the fact that Prohibition hasn’t already completely ended in the United States. They choose to continue to prosecute (persecute?) cannabis users.
These politicians continue to live in the past, wallowing in their anti-cannabis prejudice. They justify their phobic attitudes toward cannabis by citing anti-cannabis mythology that has already been discredited.
The writing is on the wall. Federally, Congress is committed to ending Prohibition, reflecting the support of the vast majority of U.S. voters (2 out of 3 Americans). If the current Republican administration continues to obstruct legalization, it will be swept away – in the next election.
Even as cannabis arrests are increasing, the political movement to expunge cannabis convictions is accelerating even more rapidly. At the state level, several states already have some form of pardons are expungement of cannabis convictions in place.
In states that are now moving toward legalization, expungement of convictions is automatically being included in draft legislation. It is now widely acknowledged in the United States that cannabis convictions are mistakes that need to be erased. Federally, a national pardon for cannabis convictions will very likely be part of any broader bill that legalizes cannabis and ends Prohibition.
At the same time, anti-cannabis dinosaurs among both political parties and law enforcement institutions continue to pile up 100’s of thousands of new convictions.
Wasting tax-dollars in arresting these ‘offenders’.
Wasting tax-dollars in prosecuting these ‘offenders’.
Wasting tax-dollars by (in some cases) incarcerating people for so-called cannabis ‘crimes’.
It gets worse.
In states where cannabis is fully legal (and cannabis arrests should be near-zero), African-Americans are five times more likely to be arrested than whites. That’s double the ratio that exists in states that still have cannabis Prohibition.
It provides even more ammunition for U.S. cannabis activists who consider cannabis arrests/prosecutions to represent a race crime.
It’s highly unlikely that Congress will act to end Prohibition before the 2020 election – with the Grim Reaper (Mitch McConnell) still blocking any path to cannabis legalization. This provides Donald Trump with a gift-wrapped political opportunity.
Citing “the winds of change”, President Trump could issue an Executive Order placing a moratorium on cannabis arrests for simple possession (through the 2020 election). There would be important practical and political advantages in such a move.
- By legalizing hemp (but not cannabis), it’s now increasing difficult to prosecute any cannabis offenses because of the difficulty in legally distinguishing hemp from cannabis. Many prosecutions are already being abandoned.
- (As noted above) wasted tax dollars. A moratorium would instantly free up billions of tax dollars for more productive uses.
- Perhaps most importantly, declaring a moratorium on cannabis arrests would help Trump deflect criticism over his own racist track record.
Trump himself could cite “justice for African-Americans” as a key element in his decision. With a majority of Republican voters (53%) now in favor of legalization, it would be a winning political strategy.
As some Americans are (finally) being pardoned for cannabis convictions that should have never taken place, even greater numbers of Americans are being arrested, prosecuted, and convicted.
It is totally unjust.
It is incredibly wasteful.
It is unbelievably foolish.