There have been millions of people arrested, imprisoned, and awarded probation each of the last few years for drug related offenses (or alleged offenses). The thought of all of the families ruptured by these occurrences and the vast number of lives shattered by this phenomena is overwhelming. One can’t help but feel at least some inkling of empathy for the millions and millions of people trapped in that quicksand. After all, I’d be willing to wager that there are, in fact, less than six degrees of separation between every American and another American who is spending time in a correctional facility for a drug-related offense.
Yet, while we reflect on those heart-wrenching truths, let’s acknowledge the fact that marijuana is being traded on the stock market alongside an innumerable amount of pharmaceuticals. That’s the definition of irony, minus the amusing portion. The stock exchange can provide wealth to business entities advertising the marijuana trade as “the next gold rush” while citizens sit idly in jail for being in possession of the same substance. When we go to the polls over the decades to come, will our legalization of marijuana pardon the people spending their waking moments surrounded by concrete, metal, feces, and pessimism? I doubt it. Those persons will simply be casualties of a war against drugs in the wrong hands.
I fight hard against my own cynicism. I want to believe that I live in a country that is fair and just. We’ve got “In God We Trust” on our money and our nation’s founding paperwork is riddled with biblical allusions and footnotes. The pledge that we recite to our nation’s flag invokes the ideas of honor and justice. Yet somehow, I feel more and more like a victim of our democracy than a beneficiary. I want to believe that I can trust the people who are entrusted with my well-being, but we all knew this day was coming. We all knew and told one another that marijuana would become legal once our government figured out a way to profit from its sales. In the same way that we knew police brutality against people of color would not dissipate, we were fully aware that a day would come when the legalization of marijuana would become a ballot option. I grew accustomed to being pulled over for resembling America’s idea of a criminal and now I’ve almost grown numb to the fact that our country really does whoop us daily.
We can legalize marijuana. We can create and change other laws too if we would like. This is not just about being able to smoke weed legally. That is one of the smallest of my concerns. This is about peeling back the layers of corruption, injustice, smoke, and mirrors that have come to define what America truly is today. The same, if not similar, circumstances occurred with prohibition. We need to pinch ourselves out of our slumber. Wake up blue collar America! History is about to repeat itself unless we get on the right side of it.