Pleased MLK Day!
If Martin Luther King Jr. had been alive in the present day, he would virtually actually advocate to finish the Struggle on Medicine. Dr. King by no means spoke publicly about medication or hashish particularly: he was assassinated in 1968, two years earlier than President Nixon signed the Managed Substances Act (CSA). However it’s effectively established that the Struggle on Medicine was and is a conflict on minorities and folks of shade. It’s the antithesis of equality and justice. And it’s nonetheless going robust.
After I first wrote an MLK Day weblog put up 5 years in the past, FBI knowledge indicated that “marijuana arrests [were] rising, at the same time as extra states legalize[d] possession and sale of the plant.” There have been 663,367 marijuana-related arrests that yr. In 2019, the quantity dipped to 545,601. In 2020 that quantity fell appreciably to 350,150 (probably accelerated by COVID). Nonetheless, that unacceptable quantity represents a hashish arrest each 90 seconds all through america. Most of these arrests cowl easy possession, and a majority goal individuals of shade.
I’m terribly, terribly dissatisfied in our management on this. Most of our leaders are cowards, beginning on the very prime. On the marketing campaign path, Joe Biden pledged to “decriminalize the usage of hashish and mechanically expunge all prior hashish use convictions.” That promise sits moldering proper right here on the “Black America” web page of his web site. Biden has performed nothing. In the course of the first yr of his presidency, it appears probably that 300,000 (or extra) Individuals have been arrested and convicted of easy possession of marijuana. Penalties vary from low-level misdemeanors to life imprisonment with out parole in excessive instances.
We graded Joe Biden a “D” again in 2019 when canvassing the presidential candidates on hashish. He was on the unsuitable facet of the drug conflict for many years; and now the president is dragging his toes. We graded V.P. Kamala Harris considerably greater, floating her a “B”. That looks like an error in hindsight. Since ascending to the White Home, she additionally has dissatisfied.
4 years in the past this week, I went after Harris fairly laborious on this weblog. I criticized her place on hashish as “largely simply discuss”, explaining:
There are a number of the reason why Ms. Harris has been catching important flak for her half measures on hashish, as in comparison with different officers: 1) she hails from California, the primary state with a medical hashish program and the world’s largest hashish economic system; 2) she comes from the chief facet, having served as California Lawyer Common; 3) she is a celeb nationwide politician, who is commonly floated as a 2020 presidential candidate; and 4) she is continually speaking in regards to the failed Struggle on Medicine. In actual fact, she talks about it just about each single day.
However it’s all discuss. As California Lawyer Common, Ms. Harris did little to advance her state’s curiosity as to hashish. In 2014, when she was requested for her opinion on legalizing adult-use hashish, her response was dismissive laughter. As a state Senator, she has did not sponsor and even co-sign any invoice to re- or deschedule marijuana (and there are some good ones). Except for a lot of speaking, Harris’ one huge transfer has been to place collectively a petition to decriminalize marijuana nationwide (however to not revise the CSA). My eight-year-old niece might try this.
When it turned politically handy for Harris to return round to marijuana reform, she did, together with by her sponsorship of the MORE Act previous to leaving the Senate. However now Harris is the vp, with the power to advocate and form drug coverage like by no means earlier than. It’s been crickets. In December, even some Republicans criticized Biden and Harris for “continued silence” on hashish coverage. It’s not a stretch to say that Dr. King would have agreed.
Exterior of the White Home, different federal representatives proceed to combat for hashish and drug coverage reform. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker despatched a stout letter to the Lawyer Common in October, requesting that the Division of Justice start the marijuana descheduling course of. The Home Judiciary Committee cleared the MORE Act only a few weeks earlier than that. Profession advocates from Bernie Sanders to Earl Blumenauer proceed to press ahead relentlessly. We even have Republican proposed laws at this level. However in the end, Biden and Harris maintain the keys.
It’s not all horrible information, I suppose. Except for arrests trending downward, states proceed to decriminalize marijuana; to legalize and license the plant; and to expunge convictions in matches and begins. Many native actors are doing what they’ll. However it’s not sufficient. As we wrote final yr, regulation of hashish – in addition to the composition, orientation and momentum of the business at giant – is nowhere close to the place it must be on civil rights points.
Change has to return from the highest down, in addition to the underside up. Dr. King wrote that we’ve got a ethical duty to disobey unjust legal guidelines. We’ve an ethical duty to alter them too.
Greater than something, marijuana reform is a civil rights and social justice difficulty. All of our readers ought to keep in mind that in the present day.