Two out of the three Tri-States have now decriminalized marijuana. A bill to do just that passed both the Connecticut Senate and House, and is on its way to Gov. Dannel Malloy’s desk to be signed into law. The Governor can be given direct credit for pushing decriminalization in Connecticut, but who would have thought it would actually pass?
This isn’t just good news for stoners or proponents of court and prison reform: legislation like this positively affects the quality of personal freedom for everyone in the country. Marijuana prohibition, like alcohol prohibition before it, has been a catastrophic failure. The catastrophe doesn’t just come from the fact that the availability of recreational cannabis has never been lessened, never mind eliminated, but that (just like alcohol prohibition created organized crime) pot prohibition created an immense, flourishing underground of suddenly criminal activity, and the law enforcement apparatus who made it their business to prosecute U.S. citizens for getting baked and listening to jazz. Any step taking teeth out of a law like that is worth nixing, but that’s not why Connecticut did it.
Decriminalization simultaneously shrinks government costs and creates new income for states. They like that, and the citizens of those states have been found to enjoy it very much here outside of prison yespleasethankyou. Do you remember that TV commercial a while back that make you hate the phrase “win, win“? Well, hate it no more.
Just a few days ago, minor offenses could have been devastating to the individual and their family. A loosely-defined “usable quantity” misdemeanor could get you a year in prison and a $1,000 fine for the first offense before this. Get caught with a joint a second time and it became a felony with a $3,000 fine that could land you in prison for five years. Jail time like this hurts lives. and costs the state of Connecticut tens of thousands of dollars per inmate, per year. That is ultimately what made the law change.
Plenty of people, both in the state government and out, recognized that pot is largely harmless to the people who use it and those around them. That’s not enough to change a law, though. Once a law has been in place for a long time it develops its own inertia, just being in place makes it resistant to change. Add a minority of screeching hysterics who should be characters in a 1930’s propaganda film, not writing letters to 21st century congresspeople, and pot legislation had become almost impossible to change.
ALLIGATOR: “And who would have thought-”
Shut up, Alligator.
ALLIGATOR: “And then what happened?”
AND THEN I FUCKING CALLED A FRIEND FROM FLORIDA WHO KNOWS HOW TO FUCKING GRILL AN ALLIGATOR!
And then the recession hit.
Connecticut is now recovering in a lot of places, but the state had been losing businesses and jobs to other states and countries for decades, and the housing bubble recession just made everything worse. Forget justice, pot prohibition was helping to empty the state’s wallet. Partial repeal would help, and that became a plank in Dannel Malloy’s winning gubernatorial campaign. Marijuana decriminalization steers enforcement towards harder drugs yes, but that’s probably a good thing, and anyway it’s for another discussion. This is where we get to that “quality of freedom” bit: this isn’t just a great mark of progress for the courts, or the stoners, or the state’s budget: this is a landmark piece of legislation for American freedom.
Marijuana prohibition was and is deeply, deeply racist lawmaking. When the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was created in 1930, Harry J. Anslinger was named its director. My bet is we’ve all laughed hysterically at Reefer Madness. He’s the man who brought you those laughs, unintentionally. This is a direct quote from him – it might make you laugh, but it shouldn’t – he said this with a straight face in his 1937 testimony to the U.S. Congress in support of the Marihuana Tax Act. This is why Americans have been put in jail for three quarters of a century:
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others. It is a drug that causes insanity, criminality, and death — the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
He helped push the unconstitutional “tax” through that year.
There are hundreds of other pieces of evidence which demonstrate the inherent racism of pot prohibition, but the point is that the federal government of the United States has kept this legislation in effect, despite its gruesome history, despite scholarly research and scientific fact proving marijuana is neither addictive nor any more harmful than inhaling any other type of smoke, and despite the myriad medicinal and industrial uses of the plant. We are coming to a point in American history where people’s bullshit detectors are keen, and thus more people than just stoners could smell which one, pot or its prohibition, was worse. Small gains are being made in quite a few states these days, but these small gains represent a huge change.
Marijuana prohibition is an example of a nonsensical, frankly bad, law being handed down to the American people from above. Decriminalization of marijuana relies on people putting pressure on their state and federal governments, encouraging economic and legal reform. Decriminalization is a rising tide of popular opinion lifting American policy off the rocks. This is people making their voices heard and regaining control over their bodies, minds, and personal freedom – no revolution needed. This was done with it with fiscal reasoning, scientific medical study, and it was done with words. It’s an example of people telling their government how to live instead of the other way around. That’s freedom, people.
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