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The System Has Failed

This is what I've learned from jury duty and prohibition of marijuana.

Who was I to decide the fate of a man? How can I be judge, jury, and executioner of someone I have never saw before in my life? What qualifies me for this job? I sit and listen to the differing stories from each person on the stand. I sit in a room with 11 other people who want to believe either he’s guilty or he’s innocent. We only know what we’ve been told. One vote the wrong way could send an innocent man to prison, or set a criminal free. How do we choose? Sure there is evidence on both sides, but which is more compelling? What if we are wrong? What if we are right? What if we believe that since no property or person was injured or damaged, no crime has been committed? We are just 12 people trying to decide who is wrong, and who is right.

I think that it is no secret that our system is broken. We have people in prison serving major sentences for possession of marijuana. Not selling/distributing, just in possession. Meanwhile, a person can sexually assault a child or even kill said child through irresponsibility, and they get probation. How is this a fair and even assessment? If I get caught with home-made white liquor, I may get a fine for possession of a non-taxable substance, but that would be about it. Yet people are serving maximum sentences for smoking or possessing marijuana. A lot of these people happen to be African American and other minorities. Not because they are the only ones who do it, but white people have a better chance of getting a lesser sentence.

It’s a scientific fact that alcohol does more damage than marijuana. The only reason alcohol is still legal is the amendment against prohibition. Why can we not change this amendment to include marijuana? We have non-violent offenders sitting in over-crowded jails, simply for smoking pot and getting caught. Their lives have been ruined, they have trouble finding work, all so the government can squeeze out a few more dollars. Many states are legalizing medicinal marijuana, and a few have even legalized recreational marijuana. These states have seen an economy boom, so much that it increases their school funding, and some are even paying back citizens. It can become a slippery slope when it comes to drug testing, since marijuana stays in your system longer than alcohol.

Now this is where it becomes interesting. There is a little known clause known as jury nullification. This basically states that if there is no property or bodily damage, and no wrong doing against another person, no crime has been committed. This is legal to do, no matter what officials may tell you. This will clear the charges against the person. I believe that a guy sitting in his own home, smoking or growing marijuana for his own personal use has done no wrong, therefore, I would call for a jury nullification.

I’ve spoken about why alcohol is legal, but why is marijuana not? Simply put, it was used and propaganda against minorities. It was said in 1927 that “all Mexicans are crazy and marijuana makes them crazy.” In 1934, it was stated that “marijuana makes negroes look people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows, and look at white women twice.” Fear-tactics began to spread that the minorities were snaring white children with marijuana.

By 1930 a medical and surgical journal stated that marijuana would make those people rush madly at their enemies, and massacre everyone in their grasp. It was around this time that marijuana would be linked with violent behavior. In 1930, a new division of treasury was formed, the federal bureau of narcotics. This was formed mostly since they couldn’t outlaw it on a federal level, so they used tax restrictions to get around it. Hence this bureau, headed by Harry J Anslinger. He used references from “the gore files” which told tales of axe-murderers who were on reefer and as he put it, “the negroes." He was quoted as saying “Marijuana makes the darkies think they are as good as the white man.” He enlisted the help of William Randolph Hearst, who was a well-known racist, and had an interest in the timber business, so he wanted no part of hemp growth.

In 1937, Anslinger finally brought his proposal before congress. He included many of Hearst’s editorials, which included the stories mentioned above and many racial slurs. The one thorn is Anslinger’s side was a Dr. William C. Woodward, who was on the legislative council of the AMA. He slammed Anslinger for distorting the facts to push his own agenda. There was a lot of banter back and forth, however in the end, yellow journalism won over actual science. On the house floor, the discussion was short, speaker Rayburn didn’t exactly know what the bill was about, and a committee member jumped and claimed a representative backed the bill 100%, and with that marijuana became illegal on a federal level.

Since then, there has been a failing war on drugs. This includes politicians passing stiffer penalties, more tax payer increases to fund law enforcement and prisons, racist’s applications of drug laws, and political contributions corporations like big pharmaceutical and alcohol corporations. Drugs in the street still exist, a lot of times in poverty stricken areas that the government keeps poor, where the people have no choice but to deal to survive. This keeps the prison complex flowing, although prison time hasn’t been shown to decrease the use or sale of drugs. This has caused more deaths from opiates and methamphetamines, as well as other hard drugs.

We are slowly improving. There are needle exchange programs to help stop the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis coming from used needles. However, we can do more. Some European countries have special places that users can come and be provided a safe place to use drugs. They have people on hand in case of an overdose. There drug usage rates have slowly declining with the improvements they have made. We here in the U.S. would rather send someone to prison or let them die in the name of the failing drug war.

Marijuana is not a gateway drug. In fact, he has shown promise to help ease pain more than dangerous opioids, it can help with issues such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. It can even be an aid in cancer patients. However it feels like we are still stuck in 1927, and are refusing to acknowledge scientific facts. 

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