Arrested for Cannabis – Is America Really the Land of the Free?
Land of the free?
25 percent of the entire world’s prison population rests within the borders of the US. Out of that astronomical percentage, more than four/fifths of drug law violations are for possession. According to the ACLU, 88% of those possession arrests were for possession of cannabis.
Nearly 600,000 people each year are arrested for cannabis possession. That’s one person, every minute, every day of the month, for the totality of the 365 days that make up a year.
Land of the free? Depends on who you ask.
People like Patricia Spottedcrow might not be so quick to cross their hearts and pledge allegiance to this land of the free.
Patricia Spottedcrow is an Oklahoma mother of four that received a severe prison sentence for selling 31 bucks worth of pot. After unknowingly selling the paltry amount to an undercover cop, the Native resident was hauled to the slammer. Being her first offense, Sheryl decided to take her chances with the judge, after all, why wouldn’t she? 31 dollars worth of cannabis? I’m surprised the cop even bothered to take her in. In many of these instances, when the amount the offender possesses is so small, judges will choose to DEFER the charge. Being her first ever offense, she had good reason to suspect that this was exactly what would happen. She dismissed a plea deal and decided to go before the judge.
Unfortunately for Spottedcrow and her children, the judge felt an example needed to be made. Patricia Spottedcrow was given a 12 year sentence.
Bernard Noble. In 2010 the 49 year old father of seven was sentenced to 13 years without the chance for parole. Must have been carrying some serious weight, flying loaded planes on over from Mexico or something?
Mr. Noble was busted with the equivalent of two joints worth of weed. (Slightly less than 3 grams.) “He was probably doing something pretty suspect to be pulled up by the police and given such a harsh sentence though,” some may be thinking at this point. If being a black man riding a bike is a crime, then yes, Bernard Noble was a serious criminal…
These two examples of extreme sentencing against such paltry offense raises a serious question.
Is the cannabis prohibition just another way to oppress people of minority?
Out of all the stats mentioned at the beginning of this article what I failed to mention was that people of color are 4 times more likely to be arrested than whites, despite having similar rates of use. The racial disparity is so severe that one ACLU report states that, “in over 96% of counties with more than 30,000 people in which at least 2% of the residents are Black, Blacks are arrested at higher rates than whites for marijuana possession.” According to the report, in the worst offending counties across the country, Blacks were over 10, 15, even 30 times more likely to be arrested than white residents in the same county.
The 13th amendment was introduced at the end of the civil war. It was penned into our constitution to ensure slavery would be abolished forever under the unchangeable right every citizen of this country should inherently possess. It states, “ Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Except as punishment for a crime?
Some people may think this fair. Criminals should be required to pay their debt to society, and you know what? I agree. They should. The problem is that after the 13th Amendment was introduced to the Constitution a sudden influx of criminals began to fill jail cells.
Some scholars say all the 13th amendement really did was legalize slavery by creating a loophole in which “criminals” had to repay their debt by not only incarceration, but forced labor. “To talk about how we got where we are today, we have to start with slavery and see how the justice system took over as a system of social control,” states Ngoze Ndulue, senior director of criminal justice programs at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in one New York Times article. Following emancipation Blacks would be arrested for loitering, speaking to whites in the wrong way, or even looking at a white woman in the wrong way.
Once slavery had been “abolished,” conveniently, Southern states decided to devise a system known as “convict leasing.” What the convict leasing arrangement meant was that private parties, (plantation owners and other corporations), could be provided with free labor so long as the lessee provided food, clothing and housing for the prisoners. If there was a shortage of workers local authorities would just make more arrests, regardless of whether a crime was being committed or not. Those who had become rich off of whip-driven bodies had figured out a system of perfectly legal mass incarceration that could make them even more money than before. Prior to the “abolition of slavery” slave owners could pay up to 2,500 dollars each. After 1865 prisoners could be purchased for pennies on the dollar.
Things haven’t really changed that much either. These days prisoners are forced to do all kinds of things.
Companies like Starbucks, UPS, Wendy’s, hell, even Bank of America is getting in on the trade of slave labor provided by the prison industrial complex.
Some inmates are even forced to put their lives on the line working as firefighters at the stellar rate of .45 cents an hour, and it’s still African Americans and other races of shaded melanin that make up the majority of our prison systems, many of them finding their way there as did Bernard Noble and Patricia Spottedcrow.
The War on Drugs? It would seem to this writer that the war on drugs is nothing more than a red herring which serves as a vehicle for law enforcement to target communities of color and keep the pockets of Big Business fat and happy from the booming benefit of the legal slave trade.
God Bless America, Land of the Free.