The Problematic Accountability of Cannabis-Related Criminals

When speaking about the very idea of accountability, we are often hampered by historical biases that refrain us from allowing justice. In modern society, people are hesitant in condemning wrongdoings if the perpetrator of that lawlessness is someone of color, gay, transgender, or of any other “controversial” status. However, facts still remind us of the actuality of crimes around the world. With that, a question arises: should those in prison for cannabis-related offenses be freed if weed becomes legalized?

Well, the answer is that it depends.

Many of the marijuana laws that are imposed today are heavily predicated on racial biases. Back then, this is why the War on Drugs resulted in the mass incarceration of the black populace of the United States. A simple look at a current graph which represents this situation can make us wonder on the cause of this entire disparity.

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Now – for someone to go in-depth within this topic, not only is extensive economic and historical analysis required, as well as substantial information and knowledge on different social factors which play a role in defining the social stratification of drug usage in the United States based on race. However, this is something for another time, since it requires many more resources than just some links and a sophomore behind a computer at 1 AM with no available sleepiness.

With that out of the way, a helpful example of this “racial crisis” amongst the marijuana legality in the U.S. right now is The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. As a consequence, the American narcotics agency’s tax led to an exponential growth in the deportation of Mexicans. This imbalance occurred due to the U.S. politician Harry J. Anslinger’s and large pharmaceutical companies’ campaign which strived to deport a vast amount of Mexicans through their anti-marijuana stance (as well as profiting from that).

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As one can see from this graph, the number of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. was meager amidst the 1930s (which includes the year of the Marijuana Tax – 1937). Although this was also caused by a disdain towards American economics due to the Great Depression, the “Marihuana Tax” – as it was commonly referred to – has undoubtedly served as a means of influencing the low rates of Mexican immigrants at that time. This shift can be justified, for instance, by merely noting the drug’s stereotype (originated from the South) which pointed out that Mexicans were the ones abusing this substance. (Read more here.)

Despite that, some cannabis related crimes also entail the trafficking of the drug in society. If that’s the case, then relative to a mere illegal user, the prisoner should remain accountable for the rest of his or her sentence. That’s because these people were involved in an unlawful system which disintegrates the fibers of community-building in society. Regardless of the drug involved in the issue, their stimulation of a systematic anonymous culture which influences violence should still hold them accountable.

From 1980, which was when the Bureau of Justice Statistics began reporting on the number of people under supervision due to marijuana-related accusations, to 2009, the number of members in this category grew to over seven million people. As mentioned before, this was primarily caused by the enforcement of drug abuse jurisdiction which was narrowed down to two minority groups – the African-Americans and Hispanic men – all in an attempt of gaining money and national integrity from it. (I say “mainly,” by the way, due to the other social factors that were stated earlier; concepts which will nearly always play a role in determining these facts.)

In my opinion, often a beneficial way to end the horrors that are brought by trafficking and discrimination-inducing drug regulations is by simply legalizing the substance. However, I think this might be a topic for another time. Soon, though.

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