Though the new year brings opportunity for change, the issues of the previous year are not magically resolved. As we work to bring our resolutions to fruition, the Trump administration has already reminded America why voting in the midterm elections ought to be on everyone’s list. (All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be contested, so keep your eyes peeled for local elections and go vote.)
Trump couldn’t go a day in 2017 without making headlines, so of course we couldn’t make it a whole week into 2018 before Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided to “crack down” on marijuana.
Sessions revoked the “Cole Memo,” which was put in place under the Obama administration in 2013. It set guidelines for how the federal government should enforce drug laws in states that had legalized marijuana for recreational use. Essentially, it allowed businesses complying with state law to be left alone by the federal government. Sessions has made it easier for U.S. prosecutors to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that already legalized it.
The war on drugs has always disproportionately affected minorities. Richard Nixon’s former domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman even admitted it to Harper’s magazine in 2016, according to a CNN article.
“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, 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,” Ehrlichman said. “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.”
According to Sessions, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” So, who is Sessions really talking about? Despite the use of the drug being nearly identical for all races and 57 percent of adults supporting the legalization of the drug, the ACLU has found that black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested than white people.
Louisiana is still ranked first in the U.S. when it comes to the incarceration rate, and placing a drug with zero recorded deaths and medicinal properties in the same legal category as heroin isn’t helping that, but of course Louisiana wants more people in jail. Our economy depends on it. Slavery is still legal in the U.S. in the form of prison labor. Yes, you heard me: slavery is still legal in the U.S.
Article I of the 13th Amendment clearly states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
These laws more than likely aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but it’s important for the community to be aware of the scrutiny we’re under. This year, let’s strive to be cautious and informed. Knowledge is power. Know your rights, know the law and get to know your legislators and representatives.