Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dear Mr. President: End the War on Pot. Start a War on Rape.

Dear Mr. President:

Welcome back for a second term as the President of the United States of America! I, along with millions of other people, are really glad you won this election. Your opponent's campaign was a poorly run mess and large parts of the Republican platform revealed a party that is out of touch with reality and terrible at prioritizing. You, on the other hand, represent the promise of a forward-thinking, progressive America. A country ready to tackle inequality and to reevaluate policies that are antiquated, inadequate and harmful to the citizens of this country.

Now, I know that you've got some serious obstacles in your way. Mainly, Congress. A body politic so reviled by the American people that a recent Public Policy Poll revealed that voters think more highly of head lice and Nickelback than the outgoing 112th Congress. Yes, you read that correctly – Nickelback is more popular than these clowns. Yikes. We both know that, despite some change ups, the 113th Congress is gonna kick just as much sand in your face and make your life as difficult as possible every chance they get. So good luck with that.

But sometimes your administration makes bad decisions that can't be blamed on the insanity of Congress. Decisions that make you look as out of touch with reality and terrible at prioritizing as your political opponents. The case of Aaron Sandusky is a perfect example of this. Sandusky faces 10 years behind bars for selling pot through his dispensaries in the state of California. Where medical marijuana is legal. But, since federal law trumps state law, the federal government decided to go after him anyway. The U.S. Attorney's office recently announced his conviction and sentence without any hint of shame or embarrassment. Which is in and of itself a shame and an embarrassment.

People all over this country have watched helplessly as money for police, firefighters, schools and public services has disappeared from their communities. It's no surprise that voters in two states legalized marijuana this past election. Because it doesn't take a degree in law or political science to recognize that our country has far greater problems than the neighbors smoking weed – whether for their glaucoma or because they had a stressful day at work. Who gives a shit when, because your city has had to cut their police force to the bone, you're not even sure the cops will come if you have an actual emergency. 

It has puzzled me for some time as to why so much of our law enforcement hours and dollars are wasted on marijuana. There is so much evidence pointing to the drug's potential benefits, as well as refuting the ridiculous claims about it being harmful. Alcohol is physically addictive and, if ingested to excess, can kill you. It also, if judging by the actions of my across-the-street neighbor, can cause you to violently kick and punch your front door while screaming horrible, threatening obscenities at your girlfriend for over an hour on CHRISTMAS DAY. Marijuana, on the other hand, does none of these things. And yet it is illegal and alcohol isn't. I can't tell you how much I wished the asshole across the street was stoned out of his mind on the Lord's birthday rather than being lit up on hooch. It would have made our annual holiday viewing of Home Alone a lot more peaceful and less scary.

So why the continued assault on stoners? I think I have a good hunch. It boils down to the United States Prison Industrial Complex. You need to fill the cells. We now boast 7 to 10 times more inmates than most other developed nations. This is staggering. And insane. But what's most insane is how many people we have locked up on drug charges. I'll go ahead and quote Fareed Zakaria's Time article from this past April called "Incarceration Nation" here, because he says it better than I could:

Drug convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996, an almost tenfold increase. More than half of America's federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions. In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges. And 4 of 5 of those arrests were simply for possession.

The part that sticks out the most to me here is "more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges." As I'm sure you're aware, there have been some staggeringly horrific stories in the news recently about sexual assault and rape. From Steubenville, Ohio to India, the problem of violence against women is getting a lot of attention right now. It's a pandemic of the worst kind. One that has a profound effect on the world, particularly as it relates to the safety and well being of half of the human population. This is by far a bigger, scarier and more important scourge than marijuana. Yet I can't help but notice it is not being treated as such. And that needs to change. Now. Lets trade those pot heads for rapists in our prison population.

Here's my idea: You know all that money we're spending on this failed "war on pot?" It's time to allocate some of it to a war we should be fighting: The war on rape. The best way to start this? Take the law enforcement dollars we're wasting on weed and use it to test rape kits. There's an estimated 400,000 rape kits currently backlogged in this country. 11,000 in the city of Detroit alone. These numbers make me physically ill. We can find the resources to lock up thousands of people on possession charges, but not to test evidence that would put away violent criminals? That, Mr. President, is unconscionable. So is the fact that House Republicans just killed a bill addressing this very issue. But if one of the GOP hang ups about the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act was how to pay for it, this reallocation of law enforcement funds seems like just as great an answer as you're likely to find. Let's be an example to the rest of the world and show that our priorities are in the right place. Americans deserve better than this. We demand better than this. Do the right thing, Mr. President. The citizens of this country are watching you, and the world is watching our country. 

So end the war on pot. Start a war on rape. 


Laura in MI, though I suspect I'm far from alone

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