Pot, Penalties and Prison

Pot, Penalties and Prison

Pot and hemp are coming out and it’s about time!

 

It’s no secret that I’ve been a supporter of cannabis for many years. This past October I spoke in San Francisco at the social capital markets conference on the topic of using the huge revenue stream to support social causes like providing scholarships for those released from prisons for minor drug offenses.

 

It may not be a well-known fact but felons (and in most states marijuana possession is still a felony) cannot receive federal benefits like food stamps, public housing, Social Security and Federal loans or grants. The latter is one of the reasons our not for profit got so involved in the fight to legalize marijuana.  Most people are aware that finding employment is very difficult for ex-offenders.

 

So here we have a perfect set up for continual incarceration starting with getting busted for pot. John D. gets picked up at the age of 18 for having pot on his person. John D. is a minority. He dropped out of school even though his teachers label him as “brilliant”. John D. is sentenced as a felon. He does his time and while in prison he gets interested in quantum physics. He really is a genius. Tough for John D.  Unless some foundation or private institution provides him with funding, John will not become the PhD to solve a major quantum physics problem.

 

True this is stretching the story line. There probably are not a lot of future physicists locked up but there are many teachers, lawyers, computer technologists, future law abiding husbands, fathers, mothers etc. in this situation.

Point of fact John D. and his cohort can’t legally become teachers or childcare workers. They can’t join the military. They are ineligible for most jobs requiring a license. Basically the doors to having possibilities are closed, slammed. This should be the real crime!

 

Fortunately a few states are righting the wrong.  Alaska for example has restrictions on the amount of cannabis and the intended use. Is it personal use or did the person intend to sell it? Four ounces or more and you’re going to jail with a felony rap for five years.  In California if you sell any amount it’s a felony. Cultivating gets you a felony rap. Even in Colorado intent to sell or distribute over five ounces is still a felony and if you have fifty pounds or more, it’s hasta la vista baby for 32 years. It would be rather hard to justify a personal stash of 50lbs. In our nation’s capital personal use and possession of  6 plants and you’re over 21 is ok. The same applies if you have less than 2 ounces and you are over the age of 21. The laws vary in every state.

The bottom line remains that the Federal government needs to step up and right this wrong. The war on drugs is a failure if the intent was to curtail drug use. If it was meant to feed the prison industrial complex, it works.

 

For a closer look at individual states:

 

http://norml.org/aboutmarijuana/item/states-that-have-decriminalized

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