When a society faces a majorly disruptive and challenging event like the current Covid-19 pandemic, a lot gets revealed. It’s a lifting of the curtain that shows us who our true leaders are, what systems are working or failing, and what business or services truly deem essential. With so much being exposed, the hypocrisy of cannabis law is more apparent now than ever before.
Marijuana is still considered to be a Schedule 1 controlled substance on the Federal level. That puts it in the same category as heroin. Hemp was insanely lumped into that category as well until the December 2018 Farm Bill legally separated it from marijuana. Over the past few years we've been seeing the meteoric rise of legal cannabis businesses all over the country. Whether recreational or medical, most states have some laws in place with a form of legal marijuana. Most of those states now officially consider Marijuana to be an ‘essential business’.
People are still locked up for marijuana ‘crimes’ while other states consider it a 'essential business.’
We’re all sitting at home right now practicing social distancing, only allowed to make trips to businesses are considered ‘essential’. In some parts of the U.S. you could get arrested for selling or buying pot. However, people living in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state or D.C. all have access to legal marijuana because it’s been deemed to be an essential business.
Legal marijuana is essential business.
The crazy part is not that marijuana is being considered an essential business. It definitely is. It provides millions of people with a healthy, natural form of relief from many diseases. It’s also a far safer and healthier social activity to engage in than consuming alcohol. What is crazy is that people are still spending their life behind bars for being involved with marijuana while people today are being told by the government that it is essential for them to stay home and order weed to their door!
A prime example of this criminal injustice is the case of John Knock. He’s 72 years old and has already served 24 years behind bars… only a dent in his sentence of two life sentences plus twenty years for his first offense of non-violent involvement selling marijuana. The fact that he’s been locked up for so long is completely unjust, especially now that the sale of marijuana is considered essential business amidst a public health crisis.
The reality is that you don’t need to end up in jail for a marijuana charge to negatively impact your life. Many people are charged for marijuana ‘crimes’ and are propelled into a chain of other legal and financial trouble, like not being able to get a job or losing access to important government programs.
The government loves receiving $100s of millions in legal marijuana taxes but doesn’t support the industry in time of need.
The Federal Government makes marijuana businesses pay income tax but has disqualified them from the CARES act that is helping businesses all over the country stay afloat during this pandemic and economic downturn. You’d think that with over $13 billion of legal marijuana sales in 2019 that some federal relief funds would be available for these businesses. Unfortunately that’s not the case.
They won’t provide any support in a time of need when these very businesses are considered essential but are happy to tax marijuana businesses extra and arrest people for marijuana-related crimes. Collectively, states spend over $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year. With average annual costs of incarceration being around $28,000 per inmate, it's massively expensive to keep this up.
It’s not really about the money. It’s about social justice and human decency.
A disproportionate amount of the enforcement and arrests is concentrated on communities of color. The data shows that despite equal usage rates, black people are nearly four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession. In some states that statistic doubles to 8 times more likely.
Arresting nonviolent marijuana offenders has been a huge player in the mass incarceration that’s taking place here in the US. Although we only have 5% of the global population, we have nearly 25% of the global prison population!
You’d be hard pressed to think of a more hypocritical handling of this situation.
The right thing to do is so abundantly clear. The cannabis plant has been by our side and considered ‘essential’ for thousands of years. The right thing to do is to legalize it, create sensible regulations, treat it like a normal industry, and drop the charges on anyone that has been convicted of a non-violent marijuana-related crime. It can’t be both ‘essential’ and ‘criminal’ any longer.
One action you can take right now is to support legalization bills in your city or state if marijuana is not already legalized. It’s critical to ensure that the issue of 'cannabis criminals’ locked up or charged for using this plant gets addressed. New laws are being proposed all the time, so pay attention to what’s happening on a local and federal level. You can check out the Last Prisoner Project for more information and to get involved.
Another action you can take is to support your local cannabis businesses. If you don’t live in a state with legal marijuana laws, or even if you do, you can purchase hemp-derived CBD products online from trusted brands like UnCanny Wellness and get cannabis delivered to your door like that. Remember, hemp and marijuana are both cannabis, and CBD provides you with all the health but none of the high associated with THC-rich marijuana.
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