I am one of the 41% of Americans who’ve smoked marijuana at some point in their lives. Mostly in college. I’ve never been big into it. For me, it’s like going to a mediocre genre flick: enjoyable, something I’ll do if it’s what my friends want to do but not something I seek out.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile, but put it off largely due to being in Asia, much of which makes the US look like the Netherlands with respect to drug policy. What finally made me feel like I had to write this post was this story via Ed Brayton:
A top Bronx cop was caught on tape telling an NYPD whistleblower to specifically target “male blacks 14 to 21” for stop-and-frisk because they commit crimes.
Stop “the right people, the right time, the right location,” Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack is heard saying on the recording.
“He meant blacks and Hispanics,” Officer Pedro Serrano, who made the secret recording, testified Thursday in Manhattan federal court.
“So what am I supposed to do: Stop every black and Hispanic?” Serrano was heard saying on the tape, which was recorded last month at the 40th Precinct in the Bronx.
McCormack said to focus on the Mott Haven section, where the problem “was robberies and grand larcenies.”
“I have no problem telling you this,” the inspector said on the tape. “Male blacks. And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem [to] tell you this, male blacks 14 to 21.”
The racism of the US war on drugs is by no means confined to a few bad cops. One of the things that has made Ed absolutely invaluable as a blogger is his coverage of how the racism of the drug war shows up in all the statistics. I strongly recommend Racism and the War on Drugs and his post series America’s Racist Criminal Justice System (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4).
The short version, though, is this: even though there’s some evidence that young black people are less likely to use drugs than whites, things are more likely to go badly for them in every step of the criminal justice system.
Against this backdrop, I feel a moral obligation to stand up and say, “yeah, I’ve smoked weed” if I can do it with little consequences to myself, which I can now that working for the Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education is six months in the past. As many people as possible, especially white and middle class people as possible, need to say it, so that white and middle class voters realize that if the laws were applied fairly, it would be their kids having their lives messed up over non-violent offenses.
I write this knowing that there’s a significant probability I’m going to get a freaked out phone call from my parents about it. So Mom & Dad, if you’re reading this, I have something to say to you: don’t. Don’t even start with me on this one. I mean it.
Yeah, I recognize there’s a chance that a future potential employer could see this post and not hire me, or maybe lead to more harassment at the border next time I travel abroad, or something. But those are minor consequences compared to what happens to people who aren’t white and comfortably upper-middle class for their drug offenses. A small price to pay for doing what I can to make a difference on this issue.
So if you want something to freak out about, Mom and Dad, don’t freak out about the fact that I’ve written this blog post. Go freak out about our racist criminal justice system and drug war.