Thirty-three states now have some form of medical marijuana laws on the books and 11 of them have taken the next logical step to regulate the recreational adult production, sale, and use of the plant as well-meaning that the vast majority of Americans live in a state that allows them some form of access to legal cannabis.
Are all of those markets flawless? Hell no! None of them are, but they are – in theory, anyway – supposed to provide at least a modicum of confidence that those residents should be safe from the negative repercussions of the failed, but still active, War on Drugs in this country.
We know that over the past decade, drugs are the number one reason that Americans have gotten arrested and we also know that, unfortunately, cannabis has reigned as the most common ‘drug’ tied to those arrests. To make matters even more despicable, 86 percent of cannabis-related arrests today are for mere possession, a stat that has risen by nearly 20 percent in the past 30 years.
Analyzing arrest data dating back to 2004, researchers recently revealed that about 40 percent of drug-related arrests were for possessing or selling a quarter of a gram or less. 20 percent were for possessing or selling drugs weighing between just a quarter gram and one gram! 2004 might have been a long time ago, but recent history paints just as bleak a picture.
Ten years might is an eternity in the cannabis movement, as recreational markets didn’t emerge until roughly five years ago, and even deep-rooted medical marijuana markets like in California were still pretty primitive in 2009.
But even over just the past three to five years, cannabis-related arrests continue on a drastically upward trend despite the fact that cannabis reform, almost always accompanied by calls for criminal justice reform, has spread so rapidly in that window of time and despite the fact that more than 2 out of 3 Americans now thinks that the plant should be legal nationwide for adult use.
As mentioned, almost all new cannabis-related legislation is rightfully mandated by advocates to include provisions for social equity and criminal justice reform, most effectively employed by expunging (or clearing) past low-level cannabis-related crimes in areas where those acts are no longer crimes. These lingering criminal records for absurdly minor offenses can haunt a person for the rest of their lives, fouling background checks that can impact housing, employment, benefits, and so much more. Yet, still, cops continue to pick that low hanging fruit and make these basic arrests that will almost certainly be splashed with white-out in the not-too-distant future.
When you look at the chart above, you cannot deny the sharp uptick in arrests beginning at the start of the Trump Administration which, if you remember, originally installed the vehemently anti-cannabis Attorney General Jeff Sessions. While no official announcements were ever made about cracking down on cannabis users, the numbers don’t lie and more than 663k Americans were arrested last year alone on cannabis charges.
Compounding the injustice is the fact that minorities, African Americans particularly, are far, far more likely to become one of these cannabis arrest statistics than their Caucasian counterparts, despite the fact that we all love/use weed relatively equally.
BIG CITY OF DREAMS
According to New York State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, there were 75,897 arrests for drug felonies and misdemeanors in New York in 2018. Roughly 35 percent of them involved a white suspect, but 37 percent of them involved black suspects, despite the fact that black folks make up just 19 percent of the overall population. This isn’t happenstance or coincidence and it certainly isn’t any sort of indictment of the African American race, but rather an indictment on the unjust priorities of police officers.
New York lags well behind neighboring states and trailblazers further west when it comes to cannabis legalization, and although the state’s governor recently vowed to expunge as many as 150,000 past cannabis convictions the gesture rings a bit hollow when his jackbooted cops are still out ruining lives over the plant.
When we say “the plant”, it appears that injustice, discrimination, and poor police work do not have a THC limit, as a recent headline about hemp illustrated the ignorance that is so deeply rooted in the Big Apple.
Late last week, NYPD cops took to social media and the local news to do a touchdown dance after claims that they had nabbed an illicit interstate shipment of cannabis being shipped from Vermont into the Empire State totaling 106 pounds.
A nosy FedEx worker tipped off authorities when a package in their possession was unboxed and field-tested to reveal sticky, fragrant, plant matter containing trace amounts of THC.
Of course, they were wrong. The truck was full of federally legal, CBD-rich hemp and both the farmer and the buyer had the paperwork to prove it. When the brother of the owner of the Brooklyn-based CBD shop that had ordered the completely legal product went to the police station to sort it out, they arrested him because COPS ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND.
Will they apologize? Even if they do, does that undo the harm they have caused? Shouldn’t this be totally avoidable in the twilight of 2019?
Apparently not, because this BS has been happening all across the country this year as the Feds still haven’t clued the rest of us in as far as exactly how legal “legal hemp” really is.
Ronan Levy, the man who owns the CBD store in Brooklyn that caters to ailing pets has pled Not Guilty to multiple felony counts of criminal marijuana possession even though, by the definition set forth by the US Department of Agriculture, none of it was “cannabis” as it all fell way under the 0.3% THC cap placed on all compliant hemp.
Idiotic cops posing for pictures with shit-eating grins surrounded by bales of biomass feels like a scene straight out of a Super Troopers movie but I gotta tell ya, it’s not funny anymore.