We who have fought for an end of cannabis prohibition take pride in accomplishing huge changes in four U.S. states – crucial ballot initiatives legalizing recreational cannabis thwarted state governments from incarcerating many individuals who would have otherwise been arrested. These are excellent steps in the right direction, but we should not feel complacent and victorious. The drug war apparatus, though weakened in its legitimacy, continues to be operational and the people administering it show no inclination to surrender, as recently released FBI data shows that arrests actually increased in 2014.
Reports also indicate that every 45 seconds, an American is rounded up for a marijuana-related 'crime' - as you are reading this blog post, somewhere in this country cops are now putting handcuffs on one of our compatriots because of this senseless failed drug war.
Living in 2015, the political atmosphere and public opinion surrounding drug policy is shifting our way. Even people and organizations ranging from Kofi Annan, a former U.S. Secretary of State, several former presidents in Latin America who themselves had presided over brutal prohibition violence while in office, and a group of 600 churches have called for alternatives to prohibition. This is an indication that we are winning the people’s hearts and minds.
In addition, among candidates to the U.S. presidency, only a tiny, largely irrelevant minority openly advocates continuing federal raids on states that have legalized cannabis. However, winning hearts and minds is not enough - it must translate to making a difference on the ground. We have a lot more work ahead of us and it takes a strong and concerted effort to push on.
The bad news of rising arrest numbers - almost 701,000 people were arrested in 2014 due to marijuana - tells us that a large portion of law enforcement has not only ignored people’s hearts and minds but actively resisted the will of most Americans. Of course, there are more reasonable folks like Albany County DA David Soares who want to see less arrests, the good guys have not gone far enough to reverse the zeal of their colleagues.
Some police chiefs and officers may support continuing prohibition, despite knowing the needless harms it creates, due to financial gain from civil forfeitures or increased funding otherwise. Some may simply harbor a warped moral view that entitles them to lock people up for the vice of using certain substances. Some would say they are “just doing their jobs.” No matter what the reasoning may be, they are out there going after even more people, doubling down. This is unacceptable.
We need to remember that drug prohibition never sleeps. Thousands and thousands of mortal Davids must continue to work together to bring down a tireless Goliath who will not stop swooping its arms until its final end. The prohibitionists are down, but not out. We should not become arrogant in our progress. We must hunker down until this scourge is put down, once and for all!
The Marijuana Policy Project released a statement upon the announcement of FBI numbers stating, “As long as we have these silly laws on the books, law enforcement resources will be wasted on enforcing them. It’s time for state officials to step up and end the outdated policy of marijuana prohibition.” Those state officials will have no choice but to end prohibition when people’s will brings what have happened to Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska to the rest of the 50 states. And Peace on Our Streets is working towards making this happen. So join us, help us keep the momentum going in our favor, and we can save the freedom of millions in the process!