It’s been really shitty to be Mary Jane in this country, for a long, long time. Mary, like her friends Toby and Al, can have some quite amusing effects on your mind and body. Those effects were portrayed decades ago to be spawned from the fires of Hell themselves, and in an all-too-familiar way, Mary Jane was forced into the shadows, forced to live her life on the lam. It should also be mentioned that even though the Long Arm of the Law tried its best to restrain Mary Jane, she never went away, not really anyway.
Sure, the Law has done its best over the years to harass and corral Mary as best they could. They would take any of her friends, even those who just liked to relax with her after a long day of work, and throw them behind bars. You get caught bringing Mary to the masses and you’re going to spend even more time in jail, but if you own a liquor store you can make dates for your customers with Toby and Al all you want, as long as the buyers are of an adult age.
Why can’t Mary be treated with the same calm and logical restraints and controls?
Because our fucking country is stupid when it comes to drug policy. That’s why. The longer the war on pot continues, the more absurd it gets. This isn’t 1937, or even 1967. We’re in the 21st Century and as a nation we have been midnight toking in closets, garages and basements for decades. Our president’s childhood involves a group of friends whose overriding connecting element in their relationship was marijuana. It’s a farce at this point, how we treat marijuana.
If it were a gateway drug, by now the streets would be littered, overflowing with meth addicts and crack heads, because that’s how many people fucking smoke pot in this country. I just don’t understand the need to pretend anymore. No, not everyone smokes pot, in fact it’s probably a relatively small minority in the grand scheme of things. However, enough people do partake of the wacky tobaccy for us to figure out that marijuana usage doesn’t lead to anything other than a relief of pain, stress, nausea, and if you’re a little girl who has battled hundreds of seizures a day, it also can provide almost instantaneous relief from debilitation like no other drug has been able to up to this point.
Interestingly though, the tide really does seem to be turning. The state of Illinois — the state that President “Choom Gang” Obama represented — just passed their own medical marijuana laws, becoming the twentieth state in the union to give the thumbs-up in some capacity to pot smokers. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a CNN host and medical professional who the country seems to have faith in as it pertains to medical issues, made huge headlines last week when he announced he was reversing course and endorsing the use of medical marijuana, inspired in part by the story of that little girl whose seizures have been all but eliminated. The evidence is mounting every day that the last eighty years of policy towards cannabis has just been outright wrong, and has done nothing but throw far, far too many people — many of whom are disproportionately African-American — into jail, creating a new subclass of citizens who are even further entrenched in the cycle of poverty and incarceration and what makes it worse is that the current administration doesn’t want to do anything about it, despite promising to do so in 2008 when running for the White House the first time…or do they?
The common refrain from marijuana advocacy groups — and yours truly — has been one of utter shock and disbelief at the idea of a man who we all know smoked a ton of marijuana as a kid having the audacity to run on a platform of drug policy reform, and then turn around and become even more ruthless and focused on raiding medical marijuana facilities than even his Republican predecessor. It has always been just one more scrap of evidence that Obama was most certainly not the Kenyan Socialist Uber-Liberal usurper of law and order that the tea swilling set would have you believe, but that he was rather just a pre-1992 Republican in Democrats’ clothing. But as of Monday, it appears that Obama and his attorney General Eric Holder are ready to change that — at least in some ways.
Though the reforms that Holder proposed on Monday don’t end the War on Drugs, they at least seek to address some of the most egregious and frankly shameful side-effects of our drug policies for the last thirty years. Harsh, minimum mandatory sentences are the biggest reason so many low-level, non-violent offenders are behind bars right now. When the overwhelming majority of those incarcerated represent one racial group in particular, that too speaks volumes about the failure levels of the policy in place. We all know that Wall Street bankers and brokers do drugs. We all know middle-aged conservative men suck down Cialis and Viagra like it’s going out of style, and all those pharmaceuticals are traded and sold just as heavily on the black market as dope is. It’s a farce that more white people aren’t in jail for drug offenses, and it looks like Holder and Obama are going to try to tackle that inequity head-on.
In a speech in San Francisco on Monday, Holder said “A vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem rather than alleviate it.” Do not let your cynicism get the best of you on this one. It cannot be over-stated how important it is that the Obama White House is the first presidential administration to admit any failures of the War On Drugs, much less to admit a wide-spread failure. Oh sure, presidents from Reagan to Clinton and both Bushes have said things like “more can be done,” but platitudes don’t mean shit when an entire race of people is being incarcerated at an alarming rate over offenses that many of us don’t even consider to be an offense in the first place.
I have been and will continually criticize Obama harshly for his hypocritical stance on drugs, and the war on pot in particular. He deserves that criticism, and until we see the 97 Federal prosecutors actually acting on the new prosecutorial discretion they have, and until we actually see the older non-violent offenders released as Holder has told the nation’s prisons to do, I’ll continue to do so. That’s what accountability is all about. This is still a great start on the road to rational vice laws and policies though, and it’s okay to take a few minutes and applaud the Obama Administration for finding a way around our broken Congress to actually do something good for the country. We’re still a long way off, but no one can deny it’s been a pretty good couple of weeks for Mary Jane, and with a little continued good luck, the good times may be here to stay.