Tue Jan-27-09 10:11 AM
Barack Obama Arrested for Possession of Joint, Imprisoned.
Imagine what a great injustice could have been. But for a bit of luck and prudence, the scenario of my shameless headline could have happened to the young scholar in the 1980s, when he was attending Columbia University in the New York of the Rockefeller drug laws, in the neighborhood still known as Harlem.
American political candidates for election (and reelection) are not allowed to question drug war as it has been waged since 1914, despite the unending human disasters the policy has brought forth. The last major progress on this front was achieved with the end of alcohol prohibition after FDR's inauguration, in 1934.
Imagine that: this country had a Constitutional amendment banning beer in force for 14 years.
At best, the US politicians of today may show tolerance for state-level medical marijuana initiatives. But they D.A.R.E not support statutory decriminalization, not even of hemp; let alone any of the other recreational drugs currently designated as illegal to possess or trade. A whole seven House members signed up to co-sponsor Barney Frank's marijuana decriminalization bill last year; one soon dropped out. For most office-holders, the perception of being "soft on drugs" is still tantamount to a political death sentence.
In that light, consider the reaction of the nation's most beloved politician, Barack Obama, to the overwhelming victory of marijuana legalization as the most popular idea in a straw poll of policy proposals held on his campaign website, change.gov. In a word, the statement issued on the president-elect's behalf said: No. In four words: Ain't happening. Forget it.
Recall that among his many presidential firsts, Obama is the first to admit he inhaled reefer smoke. Repeatedly. For the express purpose of getting high! In the company of other stoners, passing the Dutchie.
And just imagine: had the promising undergraduate Barack Obama lived exactly the same exemplary life, had he made all of the same sound decisions -- including, ultimately, to stop smoking the weed -- but had he been stopped by the police at random just once and searched... and had this search found a single joint or even just a roach, he would have been arrested and his subsequent political career would have been rendered impossible.
In fact, that one moment might have ruined any chance at a professional career, for he could have ended up serving a prison term, given the draconian Rockefeller laws of New York State and the reality of how black men fare in the justice system. Prison time, for a joint, along with thousands of others who were not as lucky as he. Obama knows it. And this insanity and tragedy springs, not from some age-old existential problem, but directly from the statutes of the government he now heads.
What does it take to put an end to the drug war?
- Nicholas Levis (c) 2008
Author permits full quotation with link.