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Mass Incarceration & Cannabis, a Human Rights Violation?

5 Oct 2018 12:57 PM | Mackenzie

In the 2018 TIME’s Special Edition Magazine, “Marijuana Goes Main Street” touched on several key areas on legalizing cannabis. These topics varied from neuroscience to the booming cannabis market, but one topic was of most importance, “Why Pot Is a Civil Rights Issue.” This chapter opened with historical content stating, “The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world,” let that sink in! Reading further into the article another, and even more devastating statistic,”The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.” These statistics are indeed novel, but not merely because of their sums, but rather, because of the civil rights injustice that provoked this mass incarceration. In the 1980’s, President Reagan and the United States Congress waged the War On Drugs boosting the incarceration rate by 790 percent in 2011. Breaking down the numbers further and proportionally adjusting the numbers by race, the numbers are painful. Even though Black and White Americans use cannabis at the same rate, Black Americans were arrested and incarcerated at almost 6.5 times the rate of White Americans during this period. The Washington Post presented data from the FBI and U.S. Crime census from 2000-2010 showing that 15-20 percent of all arrest of a Black American was for the possession of cannabis (White Americans was around 4-5%).

The stark difference in the number of arrest and incarcerations are not some unexplainable phenomena when considering the ugly racial past of the United States. This issue speaks more so to the transformation of old policies into a systematic form of racism- one that has not merely maimed the social character of Black Americans but also has heavily and further stigmatized persons of color and a peaceful medicine.


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