David BienenstockJune 16, 2020

Police have used cannabis prohibition as a pretext to trouble and arrest Black individuals, and different individuals of shade, for many years. Police companies not solely implement these unjust legal guidelines, they assist create them, shield them, and improve the human struggling that flows from them. (AdobeStock)

To love cannabis is to know this plant is each a life-saving drugs and a splendidly life-affirming enhancer of music and ice cream sundaes.

To love cannabis can be to be a part of an extremely numerous and inclusive world group of individuals introduced collectively to rejoice and share this most helpful botanical species.

But to love cannabis can be to see this identical plant senselessly demonized by the authorities, in an effort to prop up a century-long marketing campaign of racist, abusive, corrupt, counterproductive and overtly merciless policing.

While super progress has just lately been made in direction of legalization, the complete variety of cannabis arrests in the United States has truly risen every of the final three years.

All of those arrests disrupt the lives of the focused people, their households, and their communities. Many of those disruptions are actually devastating. A routine interplay with regulation enforcement over easy possession can lead to arrest, incarceration, job loss, housing loss, denial of pupil help, monetary break, the lack of your kids, or getting shot to dying by police.

Policing targets individuals of shade and the poor

In each state—even states which have legalized—these arrests vastly disproportionately goal the poor and individuals of shade.

So a lot so, that if you don’t occur to be poor or an individual of shade, you may not really feel the oppression of these 650,000+ annual cannabis arrests (in the United States alone!) as immediately as you ought to.

Actually, as you should.

In his 2000 stand-up particular Killin’ Them Softly, Dave Chappelle made this very level in an allegorical story about smoking a joint together with his white buddy “Chip.”

A cannabis arrest each 18 seconds in America

To love cannabis is to know that each regulation in opposition to it’s an affront to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

But it’s obtained to be greater than that.

For greater than a century, the police on this nation have terrorized our communities by placing tens of tens of millions of us in handcuffs, sending peaceable, kind-hearted individuals to jail for many years, raiding our compassion golf equipment set as much as provide the sick and dying, taking pictures our canines in no-knock armed raids of our properties, snatching us off our personal porches and road corners, arresting most cancers sufferers of their hospital beds, spying on us, sending snitches and narcs after us, combing via our ashtrays for a seed or a stem, or failing all that, simply planting weed on us—and for what?

Someone will get arrested on this nation for marijuana each 18 seconds.

Doesn’t that make you indignant?

Even if you’ve by no means been busted your self, even when you’ve by no means had a buddy or cherished one busted, to really love weed is to know that when the police abuse any one in all us, none of us are free.

Police actively creating extra victims

If the conflict on marijuana hasn’t personally, immediately affected you but, or even when it has, let’s all take a second to cease and take into consideration Jesse Snodgrass.

In late 2012, an undercover narcotics officer in Riverside, California, infiltrated the local high school and befriended a lonely, remoted pupil named Jesse. Jesse was new to city and had been identified with autism in addition to bipolar dysfunction, Tourette syndrome, and a number of anxiousness issues.

Sensing a weak goal, this narc despatched a 17-year-old particular wants pupil—who’d by no means beforehand been concerned with cannabis—greater than 60 textual content messages begging for assist discovering weed. The narc mentioned he wanted it to deal with his anxiousness.

Jesse understood anxiousness all too effectively. He additionally felt intense stress to not lose his solely buddy, so he spent weeks looking out earlier than lastly managing to purchase half a joint off an unhoused one that lived downtown.

He introduced the half-joint to his buddy, who pushed a $20 invoice into his hand to ensure it counted as a “sale.” Soon after, a crew of armed law enforcement officials entered Jesse’s classroom, arrested him in entrance of his classmates, and dragged him off. The police took 22 college students into custody that day at three completely different excessive colleges as a part of a coordinated marketing campaign .

Jesse spent the night time sleeping on the ground of a detention middle utilizing rest room paper as a pillow. That was his reward for placing himself in peril to attain weed for his “friend.”

Nobody concerned in the police operation confronted self-discipline. Jesse’s dad and mom sued the college. Their case was dismissed.

Please watch this 2014 documentary from VICE Media and think about that Jesse’s your son, your brother, or your neighbor.

Actually, cops do ‘make the laws’

When requested to defend this indefensible coverage and its horrific prices to the public, the police usually reply with a shop-worn line: “Hey, we don’t make the laws, we just enforce them.”

But to this point, each single marketing campaign to finish cannabis prohibition has been met with organized and well-funded opposition from police, sheriff’s departments, and different regulation enforcement organizations that revenue off the American jail industrial complicated. Which means the individuals and establishments most intimately concerned in imposing these unjust legal guidelines stay steadfastly dedicated to ever-bigger budgets, harsher penalties, and fuller prisons.

It’s not that the regulation forces cops to arrest individuals for cannabis. They need to arrest and imprison individuals for cannabis.

It’s not safety, it’s oppression

Some small proportion of cops might actually consider that weed people who smoke pose a risk to society so extreme as to justify all the no-knock raids and draconian sentences. But anybody so willfully ignorant or irredeemably delusional has no place in any place of authority.

As for the relaxation, we should come to the uncomfortable however apparent conclusion that they merely take pleasure in fucking with “undesirable people” with impunity. And cannabis serves as a handy pretext to just do that—even in circumstances the place cannabis has nothing to do with something.

Cannabis as a pretext to fuck with Black individuals

When Michael Brown was shot to dying by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, his lifeless physique was left for 4 hours in the road. The authorities later went out of their solution to publicize the incontrovertible fact that Brown was wearing socks decorated with cannabis leaves.

When Sandra Bland was pulled over by police in Hempstead, Texas, (a city actually named for cannabis) and later died whereas held in jail, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis claimed “she swallowed a large quantity of marijuana or smoked it in the jail.”

As if that justified each abuse of their constitutional rights and human dignity.

In neither of those circumstances did the authorities truly declare cannabis as the explanation for dying—since cannabis has never caused a single death in human historical past. They simply used cannabis as a smokescreen, to smear their victims and distract from their very own crimes.

Yes, legalize it. But that received’t repair the police

The authorized cannabis trade has rightly confronted criticism for permitting wealthy white individuals to revenue off the plant whereas so many individuals of shade stay incarcerated for doing the identical factor. Even wealthy white assholes have latched onto this critique.

Two issues to contemplate

Drill down slightly, nonetheless, and what seems like one drawback is definitely two issues that throw one another into stark reduction.

The financial drawback of wealthy white individuals getting richer off cannabis is an outgrowth of the institutional racism embedded in capitalism. Put one other method, the authorized cannabis trade is more and more stuffed with wealthy white individuals getting richer as a result of it’s now like each different trade.

In some cities and states, fairness applications have been carried out to assist stage the taking part in subject. But it’s clear there’s much more to be done, and this have to be a right away and pressing precedence for regulators, trade leaders, and shoppers. Cannabis ought to rework capitalism, not the different method round. But make no mistake: It will likely be an extended, uphill battle.

Legalizing is an enormous assist, however not the complete answer

The second drawback, nonetheless—that folks of shade proceed to be arrested and incarcerated for cannabis—is a political drawback. Legalizing cannabis is the answer.

When Washington, D.C., legalized in 2014, the arrest charge for Black individuals fell by more than 99%. The remaining arrests have been attributed to every little thing from underage possession to unlicensed cultivation and gross sales. Even with that staggering drop, nonetheless, Black individuals nonetheless stay 4 instances extra doubtless than white individuals to be arrested.

Statistics from many different states inform the identical story.

The excellent news is that legalizing cannabis massively reduces the variety of individuals, of all backgrounds, compelled into encounters with regulation enforcement. The dangerous information is that after legalization, the police stay simply as racist as earlier than.

Because the conflict on weed is just not now, and by no means has been, about weed.

It’s about conflict.

‘We couldn’t make it unlawful to be Black’

Many years after the reality, Richard Nixon’s former home coverage chief admitted that the trendy conflict on medication was began as a solution to assault the President’s two chief political enemies, “the antiwar left and black people.”

“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black,” John Ehrlichman told a reporter in 1994, “but by getting the public to associate 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.”

For a fuller illustration of how policing and white supremacy are intertwined, take a look at this video by the crew at John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight:

The conflict on medication is the new Jim Crow

As anybody who’s learn Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking e-book The New Jim Crow is aware of, that’s precisely what the police did. And do. And will maintain doing—over cannabis or for another purpose—so long as we give them huge budgets, unchecked authority, and an unwritten mandate to go after the poor, minorities, and political dissidents.

According to a 2017 report by the Center for Popular Democracy, most massive cities spend greater than 25% of their basic fund budgets on police. Chicago and Oakland have spent 40%. The NYPD’s price range now involves greater than $6 billion yearly, in a metropolis dealing with a housing disaster and a transit disaster, the place individuals lack entry to fundamental healthcare and kids fall asleep hungry.

Giving weapons of conflict to those that ‘protect and serve’

Those figures don’t embody cash from the federal authorities.

Between  1990 and 2017, the Defense Department equipped native police departments with $5.4 billion in military aid. Those grants introduced ways and gear beforehand deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq to America’s cities and rural communities.

All of which suggests the officers of the regulation that kick down your door in the center of the night time over a dime bag present up in a tank and appear like RoboCop. Meanwhile medical doctors and nurses put on trash baggage to guard themselves from a lethal pandemic.

That’s what you support if you support the police.

So if you love weed and don’t support the police, what comes subsequent?

Act domestically. You, your voice, and your vote management your native metropolis council, which controls the police price range. Start studying tips on how to change issues with this Practical Guide to Defunding the Police by Tessa Stuart.

David Bienenstock's Bio Image

David Bienenstock

Veteran cannabis journalist David Bienenstock is the writer of “How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High” (2016 – Penguin/Random House), and the co-host and co-creator of the podcast “Great Moments in Weed History with Abdullah and Bean.” Follow him on Twitter @pot_handbook.

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