MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The most basic instinct of humans is self-preservation and keeping free from personal harm. So when you have a nation where police arrest more people for marijuana possession than for violent crime, it would appear that protecting citizens from physical harm takes second place to enforcing archaic laws demonizing a weed that induces euphoria and an urge to eat.
After all, alcohol is socially sanctioned as a way of relaxing with friends or alone. No one gets busted for sipping from a can of beer on the front porch or drinking champagne at a swanky charity fundraiser.
Yet despite the action of 18 states to legalize the medical use of marijuana -- and in Colorado and Washington State to decriminalize it for recreational use – arrests at the local and federal level are proceeding full steam ahead, to the detriment of public safety – given a limited amount of law enforcement resources.
The Huffington Post recently highlighted an FBI report that revealed, "in 2011, marijuana possession arrests totaled 663,032 — more than arrests for all violent crimes combined. Possession arrests have nearly doubled since 1980, according to" the FBI.
Americans interested in not getting mugged, beaten, hit by their husbands, etc., should think about the implications of a law enforcement culture that ups its arrest records – and wastes police and court time, not to mention prison costs – by making easy marijuana pinches. This policy is from the White House down, given that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has spent a good part of the Obama years cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries. President Obama and the DOJ are currently sending mixed signals, with Obama playing the good cop while the DOJ plays the bad cop, leaking that it is pursuing how to strategically challenge the Colorado and Washington State recreational use laws.
Lost in the executive branch DOJ position that federal law must prevail is the sheer harm that such a counterproductive active criminal pursuit of marijuana users is at all levels of government law enforcement.
As the Huffington Post trenchantly points out:
Taxpayers have shouldered the cost of arresting and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of people for the possession of marijuana, often in small quantities for personal use. Some national estimates put the annual cost of marijuana arrests above $10 billion, and low-level arrests for marijuana possession cost New York City alone $75 million in 2010. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed decriminalizing possession of 15 grams or less — even when flashed in public view — last week in his State of the State address.
"Every year, this process needlessly scars thousands of lives and wastes millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious crime," Cuomo said. "It’s not fair, it’s not right. It must end, and it must end now."
It is a financially wasteful use of public funds to criminally pursue marijuana possession due to a tattered, discredited and dying social prejudice among older Americans.
It is a policy dangerous to our personal well-being, because while cops are booking Americans for a few joints found in a pocket, an armed robber is getting away in an alley somewhere.
It is a tragic farce that is maddening enough to make you reach for a double shot of bourbon, on the rocks.