If you’ve looked to the west recently and noticed the blurred, pollution-soaked atmosphere is a little more hazy than usual, you’re not alone. California, as of January 1, 2018, legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
Reading the headlines, you’d think California was the leader in this ‘legal weed’ revolution, but they’re actually pretty far behind the likes of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, which have been enjoying a legal toke for a number years. Even a few states on the East Coast (including Washington D.C.) have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Which is great, right? Now people can smoke (or eat) in peace, get high on their own time, and not have to worry about somebody coming in and breaking up the party.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
One thing people don’t seem to understand about marijuana is that, depending on the color of your skin, a possession charge could still get you anywhere from one to 99 years in prison. In the 1960s and ’70s, you could be put in jail for life for just having a joint. This was extreme, sure, but a lot of people are still serving time for possession charges from that time.
But it’s just one big joke to people. Even then people joked about it. Cheech and Chong made a career out of pot jokes – then Tommy Chong got arrested and was sentenced to nine months in jail for selling pipes in 2003. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke. It’s bullshit.
Fuck you, Zach Braff. When did you get arrested for possession? When did you serve time for smoking a plant? Because there are still hundreds of people trapped in the criminal justice system that are dealing with that bullshit. There are still hundreds of thousands of people who are dealing with a stained record because of it.
No matter how one state looks at it, the federal government still looks at it the same way they did in the ’60s and ’70s – if you’ve got it, you’re in trouble. Weed is still a Schedule I drug in the eyes of the feds, which means that possession of pot is just as bad as heroin, and even worse than methamphetamine and penobarbital, both of which are Schedule II drugs. (Penobarbital, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is the drug that some states are trying to use as a new death row execution drug.)
Why don’t we work on getting that shit taken care of instead of just state by state? Why don’t we work on getting people’s records expunged that have had a possession charge ruin job opportunities for them? Why don’t we take a look at the way that drug laws are systematically disenfranchising minority communities?
It might be a joke, it might be funny, until it happens to you.
It’s great that some people get to get high free of persecution from the state, it really is. But there are still people getting arrested for it every day…and their lives are being ruined because of it.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, people. A lot of work to be done. Remember that the next time you read an article about ‘Pot Yoga’ in Washington state, or a ‘Pot Bakery’ in California. Because people in Texas are still going to jail over it. No matter how ‘lenient’ they say they’re getting, peoples’ lives are still being ruined.
And that’s no joke.