By Noah Tomlinson
TFW Contributing Writer
One of the most important aspects of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act is that it will begin saving taxpayers millions of dollars, which are being wasted incarcerating nonviolent people. In reality, drug war issues are less about drugs and more about social justice and domestic peace. It is an astonishing hypocrisy and a profound injustice that thousands upon thousands of nonviolent people, many of whom are very poor, are being arrested for using a medicinal substance that is far less dangerous than the legal drugs alcohol and tobacco.
Poor people are disproportionately harmed not only because they lack money to pay for “good lawyers” (lawyers with good connections), but they also lack money to pay large court fees and fines. Additionally, after a poor person is arrested and imprisoned for drug crimes, it dramatically increases the probability that they and their children will be further entrenched in poverty. If a parent is imprisoned for years or decades, children are left without a parent to make money to provide economic security, causing a dramatically increased inability to escape poverty. Moreover, even after a parent is released from prison, the parent and children face continued impoverishment because a parent can be denied financial aid for college and social services. In more extreme cases involving a felony charge, it can be far more difficult to obtain a good job.
Legalizing medical marijuana will address this incredible injustice of incarcerating and impoverishing people for using plant medicine. This law would also create more domestic peace. Many citizens are concerned about oil wars in the Middle East, but we also have a domestic war at home called the Drug War. This is not a war on drugs, but a war primarily on poor people who use substances other than alcohol.
There is a YouTube video of a small-time marijuana arrest in Missouri that makes this point crystal clear. In the middle of the night, SWAT police with machine guns smash a young man’s door in and immediately murder his caged dogs. As the dying dogs scream in agony, the police drag the young man and his wife out of bed at gunpoint. The police also wake up and drag their young son out of bed, who witnesses the entire ordeal as police officers scream and hold a gun to his father’s head and his dying dogs yelp in pain.
The Medical Marijuana Act will also give many sick people powerful medicine, which peer-reviewed scientific articles find invaluable. The law would legalize this medicine for numerous scientifically validated conditions which include: “Cancer, Glaucoma … (HIV/AIDS), Hepatitis C, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Tourette’s Disease, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis …(PTSD), Fibromyalgia … Alzheimer’s Disease … Wasting Syndrome; peripheral neuropathy; intractable pain … severe nausea; seizures, including those characteristic of Epilepsy; or … Multiple Sclerosis.”
It is a brief matter of time before the inhumane drug war breathes its last breath. The movement to seriously reform drug laws is gaining momentum every day. Currently, 16 states have legalized medical marijuana, and Arkansas is poised to become the 17th and first in the South, which will rattle rusty political perceptions when it passes.
Another sign the drug war will perish soon is the 2011 report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy (globalcommissionondrugs.org). In the opening statement, the report explicitly finds: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world … (and) fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”
Even more astonishing than the findings of this major international report is the list of world leaders who worked on it. They include former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo, among many more major world leaders.
Those interested in supporting Arkansans for Compassionate Care and the organization’s initiative to legalize medical marijuana can visit arcompassion.org, Interested citizens can help promote peace and justice by gathering signatures or donating resources.