When one considers the massive amount of media coverage that has focused upon the ever-increasing number of locales around the world which now adopt a more enlightened, civilised approach to cannabis regulation, it becomes easy to forget about the inequalities and persecution which still run rampant in this day and age…
America’s Great Cannabis Contradiction
In the USA, the 1950’s-era “Reefer Madness” fuelled attitude toward cannabis might be but a distant memory: But this shift doesn’t mean that everyone in the land of the free can enjoy the benefits of this controversial herb…
Despite the fact that recreational and medicinal use of cannabis is now legal across a growing number of states, weed is still illegal on a federal level: This startling contradiction means that, whilst everyone and their dog can now enjoy the benefits of legal cannabis in places like Denver or Seattle, the denizens of locations like Miami, Dallas or New Orleans could find that crossing paths with Mary Jane lands them in seriously hot water with the law.
Cannabis: A Very Political Plant
Today, a growing number of US citizens are now pushing for cannabis policy reform in their home states, spurred on by recent developments in Washington and Colorado: Even the president himself, Barack Obama, has admitted to smoking (and inhaling) marijuana.
Across the land, it seems, the sense of optimism is palpable…
But for a nation which prides itself on the values of liberty, justice and equality, why are so many people throughout America languishing in incarceration over a substance which many respected figures are now deeming to be no more dangerous to individuals or society than alcohol is?
“That is not a drug. It’s a leaf” — Arnold Schwarzenegger on cannabis
Back in 2005, the DEA seized a Canadian citizen (and respected public figure) Marc Emery, dragging this respected public figure off the USA to serve a five year sentence: His crime? Selling cannabis seeds…
To put this into perspective, cannabis seeds are currently 100% legal to buy, sell and possess in many territories, including the UK: So the fact that Emery faced such a strict sentence for carrying out an activity that would be overlooked elsewhere (or which soon might be legal in the USA) has led many to speculate that the motives behind this particular prosecution were political in nature.
The fact that Emery is a well-known cannabis policy reform advocate and publisher, who funnelled millions of dollars (generated via his profitable business enterprises) into campaigns for cannabis reforms might start to shed some light on why such an example was made of him.
Why do organisations like the DEA place so much emphasis on busting cannabis users?
Worryingly enough, whilst pro-cannabis activists like Emery are still counting down the days to their release from prison, dangerous hard drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine continue to be readily available across the USA at increasingly cheaper prices, despite the best efforts of law enforcement agencies participating in the ongoing ‘war on drugs’;
Organisations such as the DEA now face an uphill struggle to maintain order and stamp out the threat which these illicit substances pose to society…
For a start, it costs a mind-boggling amount of money just to keep things under control…
Despite possessing an annual budget of approximately $3 billion, the art of busting criminals and taking drugs off the street takes a fair chunk out of the DEA’s collective resources: In fact, the average arrest costs around $10,000.
In recent years, much criticism has been directed toward the DEA for spending a disproportionate amount of their resources on busting individuals or groups for marijuana possession (instead of using that time, energy and money to take more dangerous substances off the streets); as well as for taking a huge cut from legal medical marijuana practitioners in the form of mandatory DEA license fees.
When one considers the fact that marijuana is now legal in certain corners of the USA, does it really make sense for so much money to be spent busting people like Marc Emery, whilst organised criminal groups continue to sling highly dangerous drugs on the streets?
The shocking answer is — it does make some sense: Financially.
Cannabis trafficking busts often bring DEA agents a greater chance of seizing large amounts of money compared with operations that focus upon more dangerous substances;
Whilst the fact that cannabis is big business for some criminal groups cannot be ignored, neither can the fact that heroin and other dangerous substances are now on the rise in the USA.
The extreme side of cannabis prohibition
Getting locked up in a US-Federal prison for possessing a naturally-derived resource is bad enough — but things could always be worse…
In fact, the policies of many countries throughout the planet are positively draconian — for instance:
- Indonesia: With a minimum sentence of four years jail-time for the possession of even a tiny doobie, Indonesia is more than a little tough on marijuana; Possession of larger quantities – or being found guilty of trafficking cannabis into the country can lead to the death penalty being issued.
- Malaysia: Five years is a long time to spend in any prison, let alone a Malaysian facility: For cannabis-related offences, an individual can expect to be subjected to brutal physical punishment in the form of lashes, as well as getting their finances assaulted in the form of hefty fines: Worst of all, much like their neighbour, Indonesia, Malaysian lawmakers are fond of dishing out the death penalty to anyone deemed to be in the business of smuggling cannabis into their country.
- UAE: Taking cannabis prohibition to extreme levels, the UAE is notoriously unforgiving when it comes to possession of the herb: In fact, tiny trace elements of illegal substances found in the blood-stream, or miniscule fragments of cannabis found in an article of clothing can result in years of jail time. Even 3/4 of an ounce is enough for this country’s strict laws to justify a death sentence.
Looking forward — can cannabis enjoy a worldwide renaissance?
As public opinion begins to shift in favour of cannabis legalisation in many territories, there is still a long road to be walked before people of every nation can be truly free to partake in this most divisive of natural resources;
Ultimately, time will tell what happens — in the meantime, the world will watch on intently as more liberal nations experiment with reforms to their cannabis laws.
This post is presented for entertainment and information purposes only: We urge all of our readers to remain within strict accordance of their local laws.