As the national conversation on legalization turns more towards ending the drug war, at least in regard to marijuana, some may be starting to think that the battle is coming to an end. When Gallup Polls continue to indicate that the majority of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana, it is encouraging to know that we have numbers on our side. With several states now that have legalized, and twenty three that have medical marijuana laws on the books, it does seem as if we’re approaching a tipping point. However, this is certainly not the time to give up the fight. According to the same polls that indicate 58% of America thinks that weed should be legal, only about 35% people aged 65 and up who were surveyed were on board. Obviously, that’s much better than 15 years ago, when only 17% thought marijuana should be legal, but that’s still a good portion of our population. Not that we have to have a majority in every age group, but the elderly certainly have much to gain from greater accessibility to the best medicine in world.
Not only do we still have some work cut out for us, in regard to convincing others to support legalization, but there is definitely a transformation that must occur among our political leaders, authority figures, and court systems. So many of those who are deeply entrenched in these environments, with various intersections and overlapping responsibilities, have had a lot of training, indoctrination even, encouraging them to believe that the cannabis plant is on par with such damaging drugs as heroin. This has been a great disservice to us all, but it is something that we must approach with great compassion and sensitivity. Police officers, judges, and even politicians are all humans and they have all become part of a system that was designed to oppress and malign people, in order to incriminate, incarcerate, and deprecate them to the point of dehumanization. Though the choice to be involved in this unjust system was for them to make, the fact that they must transition to a new understanding of reality and accept a new paradigm will be difficult nonetheless. So, we should be ready and willing to show them much compassion, and invite our former oppressors to sit at the same table and break bread together.
That being said, there are some police leaders who would like to start cutting the number of non-violent offenders that are occupying jail cells. Many of those who oversee law enforcement agencies are beginning to realize that what many need is treatment, therapy, and counseling to help with their problems, rather than jail time, to keep them from abusing alcohol and drugs and causing problems in our communities. It just makes sense to reserve jail and prison cells for those with violent tendencies, and for real criminals who seriously injure others and are a true menace to society. Even President Obama has been making efforts to call for criminal justice reform, recognizing that the current approach in our country has fallen quite short of being fair and just. From all angles of the debate, it is becoming increasingly clear that something is wrong with our current approach to both drug policy and criminal justice in our country.
Aside from these more notable developments toward a more sane approach to drugs, policing, and court sentencing, we also have a large group of celebrities calling for criminal justice reforms as well. As noted in a recent article published by the Huffington Post, “With less than 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its incarcerated population, the United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world — in large part due to misguided drug laws and draconian sentencing requirements that have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for communities of color.”
Other notable happenings that point to a more sensible approach to drug policies in our country are the federal ruling protecting medical marijuana dispensaries in California, and the leaked paper from the United Nations that calls for the decriminalization of drug use and possession. The ruling in California is especially good for those concerned about the DEA and the federal approach to enforcing drug laws that has been usurped by state medical marijuana provisions. And the UN paper that has been outed by Virgin Media mogul Richard Branson may just be what the international community needs to find a more sensible approach to drug policy, stop detaining and incarcerating people for minor, nonviolent offenses, and work toward better options for treating those who truly struggle with addiction.
We seem to be at a turning point in our nation’s history, in relation to how we enforce drug laws, how we approach criminal justice, and even with what we consider to be permissible when it comes to using substances that have long been considered “drugs.” It is unfortunate that it’s taken so long to get to where we are, and how many lives have been destroyed by the unjust and insane war on drugs in the process. Hopefully we will soon see the full legalization of marijuana all around the world, and a more fair, just, and responsible approach to criminal justice, so we can move forward and face the larger issues that plague humanity.