November Oh!-10 mid-term elections finally over? It’s about time. Now maybe California can finally get back to the business of busting pot heads—which according to crime statistics has become this state’s primary law enforcement activity.
If you were to consider California marijuana arrests a brand peddled by law enforcement, police and sheriff departments around the state are selling arrests like never before. Pot arrests continue to fly off the shelves. Despite passage of compassionate-use medical marijuana legislation in the gay mid-nineties, felony and misdemeanor pot possession arrests have counted for the single largest increase in California police-force arrest activity over the past two decades.
Weren’t all people in need of “the medicine” able to access it since the 1996 passage of proposition 215? Wasn’t that the idea? With 20/20 hindsight we can see that despite providing safe access to medical marijuana under Proposition 215, California arrest rates for the recreational user have been skyrocketing ever since.
A report presented to the California legislature in October of last year titled Marijuana Arrests and California’s Drug War stated “…arresting more people for marijuana neither detracts from nor enhances the ability of police agencies to solve more serious offenses. Marijuana arrest rates seem [un]connected to a county’s overall crime rate… Counties with very similar marijuana possession arrest rates (i.e., Santa Cruz and Merced, or San Bernardino and Marin) have very different rates of violent, property, and other offenses. Nor do the political leanings of a county reliably predict marijuana arrest rates, as the high rates for liberal Santa Cruz and conservative Orange counties, and the low rates for conservative Fresno and liberal San Francisco counties indicate.”(1)
It would seem then that the arrests of hundreds of thousands of its own citizens for non-medical marijuana use and possession has been nothing but busy work. Locking stray dogs in kennels to await adoption is a sad enough job. Locking non-violent stoners, growers and dealers up in cells like research primates may ensure long-term job security for D.A.s, cops and corrections officers but is just thinly veiled Dark Ages cruelty.
If you think the largest increase in marijuana arrests over the past 20 years were of young, dread-headed street kids who ask only one thing of your local citizenry (Nugs? Nugs? Nugs?), you’d be either stoned or stupid.
This single largest increase in Californians arrested for possession of marijuana since 1990 are folks 50-59 years old! Was that Grandma and Grampa Ganja I saw being frisked, cuffed and taken to the station? It most likely was. Arrest rates of these graying panthers entering their sixth decade of life increased by—you guessed it—420 percent.
I sometimes wondered why my Grandparent’s birthday checks (I mean cards) arrived late some years. I just had no idea that I should have been sending them money for their books. Remember getting sweet, perfectly penned notes on blue paper from Granny reminding you of her change of address… that she had moved closer downtown… that the rent was a steal? Oh the secrets that we keep.
As reported last month by Associated Press (AP) writer Desmond Butler, “Russia claims that [opium poppy] production in Afghanistan has increased exponentially since the U.S.-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.” (That’s viral growth dudes. Straight up.) “It says smugglers freely transport Afghan heroin and opium north into Central Asia and Russia and onward to Western Europe. Victor Ivanov, the head of Russia’s federal drug control agency, says he provided U.S. officials in Kabul months ago the coordinates of 175 laboratories where heroin is processed.”
As we continue to watch the cash-strapped, economically hobbled U.S. government bust the grows and haul off the mighty stash (and cash) of our lovers, friends and family (Hey Pigs: Hands off My Gramps!), AP reports that Commander in Chief Obama, through General Betray-us and others: “U.S. Officials have argued that destruction of poppy fields would drive Afghan farmers into the arms of the Taliban.”
What kind of domestic American insurgency will emerge when “U.S. Officials” continue to terrorize American stoners while looking the other way at massive-scale black-market opium farming and heroin production elsewhere in the world?
How many growers, dealers, users (medical or not) would love just one month of fear-free living? Might that be called something like, oh, say Peace on Earth?
Instead, the U.S.-led war on drugs remains largely a war on the recreational pot user and small-time neighborhood dealer and always has been. Local cops and sheriffs are the foot-soldiers. Adult pot smokers continue to be California Enemy No. 1.
Now that California voters have decided on Proposition 19 the only thing that’s certain is that greedy, bullying, ineffective law-enforcement agencies will beg your elected officials for more budget dollars to lock up thousands more marijuana growers, buyers and Grandparents in tiny, dirty cages in the name of “law and order.”
But until then, I need to take a moment to thank all of those courageous and thick-skinned people—rich and poor—who sacrificed their priceless privacy to run for public office. You folks are all winners in my book. I’ve been known to take a few swipes in print (non-partisan, natch) at some of you winners. Thank goodness you couldn’t see my thought clouds. Love you. Mean it. Repeat.
Jackie Wellbaum, a resident of Arcata, is a pharmaceutical industry professional currently exploring cannabis branding, compliance and public relations. Contact via e-mail at [email protected] Gmail. com.
1. October 2009: Marijuana Arrests and California’s Drug War: A Report to the California Legislature, Criminal Justice Statistics Center (2009) and Demographic Research Unit (2009)