Cannabis Reconsidered: A Paradigm Shift – from Escalating Punishment to Least Harm
There is a video online showing a SWAT team invading a home, terrifying a woman and her 7-year-old son, shooting two dogs, shoving a man up against a wall, and cuffing him. He cries out in anguish, “You shot my dog? You shot my dog? She was a good dog!” His cries of anguish must have risen to heaven and God must have heard, because plenty of us here on earth have. And our reaction is that this is wrong. This level of violence on the part of law enforcement is wrong. This is a heinous state of affairs and it shocks the conscience.
Our next reaction is to ask ourselves, “How did we get to this place?” And we find that the genesis of the War on Drugs was in corruption and racism. Two corporatists made their competitor’s product illegal and wrapped that in racial hysteria. By stoking fears of Mexican laborers and black jazz musicians, William Randolph Hearst insured forests would be leveled for newsprint and DuPont insured that BP would ruin the Gulf for plastic bags.
Cannabis prohibition entered a new phase when President Richard Nixon ignored his own commissioned report advocating for legalization and used his War on Drugs as vindictive political retribution against the hippies harshing his Vietnam war.
Our current phase in cannabis prohibition is from President Ronald Reagan’s privatization of prisons – prisons for profit. Halliburton makes prisons and profits from full prisons. And cannabis smokers are an easy bust. One expects that the next phase of the War on Drugs will be the privatization of enforcement duties over to Blackwater.
Further examination of cannabis prohibition enforcement patterns reveals more corruption. Minority communities bear the brunt of the War on Drug’s activities. A greater percentage of the poor and people of color are labeled felons than well-to-do whites. This has cascading repercussions in social mobility when an entire class of people are prohibited from student loans, housing vouchers, and other aides to upward mobility. Creating a permanent underclass guarantees prison profits, and thus the downward vicious cycle. This is the logical consequence of cannabis prohibition. One cannot deny history.
The truly inspirational action we can take in the face of this is to come together as caring human beings and determine that we, together, will change this state of affairs by turning our backs on the present paradigm, that of ‘Escalating Violence and Punishment’, taking cannabis out of the realm of law enforcement, and putting cannabis into the realms of health, with the new paradigm of ‘Least Harm.’
If all of us declare cannabis to be a medical herb, due all the respect and responsibilities of an aide to human well-being, immense benefits will immediately be manifest. Wrongs will be righted – those imprisoned will be released, and more blessings will flow – those in pain will find relief. Other things, like industrial applications and medical research, will generate jobs and paychecks – not trivial benefits, at all. And law enforcement will be able to pay more attention to more grevous crimes.
As voters are asked whether they would vote to end prohibition, many rightly complain that they do not know enough about the issue, realizing that everything they have heard, the racist Reefer Madness campaigns, may be wrong, but what is the truth? How do we know, if we relegalize cannabis, that hell won’t break loose?
I propose that we call for a moratorium on the War on Drugs, a cease fire, a stand down. Effective immediately. In the span of time from now until election day, we will see with our own eyes what changes take place or not. We all must stand up and insist that our community leaders stand up. Each of us act – print out letters, articles, anything persuasive, and meet face-to-face with our religious leaders and encourage our law enforcement departments to join LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Let’s start the discussion. End the War on Drugs, starting with a cease fire.
And in the duration, allow cannabis in places like hospice, where the medical and spiritual sides of cannabis will shine, giving those starting their last journey respite from pain, and a boost of energy for their inspirational, creative, and spiritual needs.