By Kim MacCloskey
Posted Jun. 11, 2016 at 4:08 PM
A recent article reported that a 38-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his part in a conspiracy to grow marijuana in an old factory building on 11th Street. It sounds like it was a sophisticated operation, capable of growing more than 1,000 plants.
For all intents and purposes, this person’s productive life is over. After 10 years in the federal penitentiary, what kind of job will he be able to get? When he gets out, depending on where he lives, he may not be able to vote ever again. Assuming he had a wife and family, what’s going to happen to them?
Apparently he couldn’t find a job good enough to make the marijuana operation not worth the risk. Would this be true if our Congress had passed a jobs bill to repair our crumbling infrastructure, which would have created millions of $20 and $30 per hour jobs?
And isn’t a 10-year sentence a bit harsh for growing a plant that several states have completely legalized? Whatever happened to letting the punishment fit the crime?
Our whole “War on Drugs” was the brainchild of President Richard Nixon, who in 1968 decided that he needed a way to deal with his “political enemies," the anti-war protesters (epitomized by the hippies) and African-Americans.
One of his chief advisors, John Ehrlichman, admitted in 1994 that “we knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Yet the War on Drugs continues, and another person’s life has now been effectively ruined.
The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, yet has 25 percent of the world’s prison population. We have more people in prison than Russia, China, Iran or North Korea. Our per capita rate of people incarcerated is also the highest in the world, and nearly seven times as high as China, according to the BBC.
In the last 40 years, our country has spent a trillion dollars on its War on Drugs, and all we have to show for it is more incarcerated people than anywhere else, this in the “land of the free." We are currently having an epidemic of heroin and accidental overdoses on other opioids. Clearly our war has been an epic failure.
It is time our country tries a new approach. Many countries around the world have other ways of dealing with drugs, including outright legalization (which allows addicts to get medical help for their addiction) to decriminalization and others. We should look to these other countries to see what they are doing. Arrogantly claiming we are the best country in the world and refusing to learn from others is just ignorant.
- How many more people’s lives are going to be sacrificed for Dick Nixon’s political dirty trick?
Kim MacCloskey is a Durand resident.