Law Quarterly

Mass Incarceration to Drug Offences

By Julianne Hynes


Of the countless problems in the United States, the issue of marijuana arrests due to systematic racism has lingered agelessly. The United States has equal prosecution under the law. However, African Americans are incarcerated five times more than people of European descent, with African Americans and Hispanics taking up 56% of prison populations, despite only taking up 32% of the United States population (according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). When people who hold twisted perspectives work in the position of in the position of law enforcement, they can actively decide who should be prosecuted and who may go off with just a warning. 

Even though people of all colors using marijuana about the same rate, African Americans are up to 4% more likely to be arrested for having possession of the drug, not even consuming it. The issue with this is the root of the Black Lives Matter movement- the racism that many police officers hold results in the unequal, and thus, unfair prosecution. This is the first step to systematic racism: a police officer taking the initiative to arrest a man. When a person of color is automatically associated with danger, wrongdoing, and mistrust, they are obviously more likely to be penalized for the same illegality as someone with lighter skin. Black Lives Matter is the fight against this mass ideology in pursuit of saving African American lives and improving them as well. People of all color should be handled to the extent of their crime in the same fashion, rather than there being a sort of “scale” in which the police officer’s opinion is also calculated into the decision of a person’s arrest; and thus the determination of that person’s future in going to court and possibly facing a sentence versus receiving nothing other than a verbal warning. On average, a black person is three times more likely than a white person to be killed by a police officer. These statistics of arrest for African Americans compared to that of white people prove blatant racism. Despite the same crime, and despite the drug not actually being proved dangerous, African Americans are penalized in a situation where a white person would get off with a warning by the officer.

Marijuana is not a dangerous substance. However, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811) classifies marijuana as a schedule one drug, which indicates that it has no medical purposes and has the potential to be addictive. In this category is also heroin. To put things into perspective, in 2015 about 13,000 people overdosed in the United States alone on heroin. Marijuana, on the other hand, has only one reported overdose in 2015. Even then, the overdose is from the carbon monoxide poisoning from the plant…not even the drug itself. For the few states that have legalized marijuana, the results so far are good. In Colorado, for example, marijuana has been legal since 2014 under Amendment 64. No one has yet to die from the herb, and it is taxed in such a way that the first $40 million raised annually go to the funding of public schools. Public schools, in return, help the public and the state as a whole. Washington, where it is legal too, is benefitting from the tax revenue of marijuana despite having somewhat strict laws in the purchasing of the drug. According to the Tribune, more than “60% of marijuana consumer taxes over the next two years is slated to go toward public health programs, including Medicaid, substance abuse prevention efforts and community health centers, according to the state Office of Financial Management.” With a revision of the tax laws, even more funds could go to helping the state. Marijuana is does not kill people, nor does it hurt its local communities.

While on the drug, a person may face euphoria. Some highs are good, but others may not be. For example, a person may sometimes feel anxious, overwhelmed, paranoid, or lethargic. Sometimes a person may feel happy and have a lot of laughter. These are the consequences of marijuana, these are the only acceptable repercussions.They should not face the consequences of systematic racism that is not dependant on a crime, but instead on a person’s ethnicity.



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