On the issue of marijuana legalization, Democrats need to grow a spine, and Republicans need to show they are not talking out of their asses.
Over half the country now supports marijuana legalization. A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reveals 52% of all drug arrests in 2010 were for pot, with over 7 million people busted for possession between the years 2001 and 2010. These arrests have real consequences both for the person arrested and the rest of the country.
All wars are expensive, and the War on Marijuana has been no different. Not only have states blown billions that could have been otherwise invested, but the personal cost to those arrested is often significant and can linger for years.
Those arrested for marijuana possession, even small quantities, can face obstacles when trying to find a job or get student financial aid. For the rest of the country, these arrests and jail sentences amount to billions of wasted taxpayer dollars.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the ACLU reports a severe racial component to our War on Pot. Blacks are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to whites, even though pot use among blacks and whites is about the same.
Over the last twenty years, police have turned much of their zeal for fighting the misguided War on Drugs towards the enforcement of marijuana laws in communities across the country. And like America’s larger War on Drugs, America’s War on Marijuana has been a failure. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the aggressive enforcement of marijuana laws has not diminished the use or availability of marijuana; in fact, use has increased.
Marijuana usage rates are comparable among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are over 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly mires hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system, crowds our jails, wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars, fails to reduce marijuana use and availability, diverts precious police resources away from solving serious crimes, and is carried out with staggering racial bias.
Democrats have an opportunity here. They could take a stand, rise up, and vocalize the rational reasons to legalize marijuana. But because Democrats care way too much about conservatives backlash, instead of standing up for what’s right, they cower in fear. Republicans, if they were consistent, would embrace legalization because it would mean freedom of choice, along with smaller, less intrusive (and less expensive) government. But instead, Republicans adopt a “tough on crime” stance, oblivious to ideological contradiction, for which they border on insanity, supporting anti-drug policy that has proven a failure for decades.
But for now, I’m putting this issue squarely on President Obama’s shoulders. I know it will take congressional legislation to change federal law, but I’m going to sound like a Republican here for a moment when I say — President Obama needs to show some leadership on this issue. The difference is that Republicans actually use that line to diminish the power of this president, where I use that line with all sincerity. Stop filling up our prisons and wasting taxpayer dollars on a futile effort to get human beings to stop using a drug they will never stop using.