By Dalton Rosario
The United States has nearly 25% of the world’s incarcerate population despite comprising less than 5% of the world’s total population. From 2001-2010 Police made 8.2 million cannabis related arrests, costing the U.S. $3 Billion every year to enforce. And in 2017 alone there were a total of 659,700 cannabis related arrests, from which 599,282 of those arrests were possession related. This equates to one cannabis arrest every 48 seconds according to a recent FBI reporting.
What is most alarming about these infringements are the level of systemic discrimination inflicted upon minority groups across our country. Last year in Washington D.C., 90.85% of all cannabis related arrests involved African Americans, compared to 4% for Caucasians and Hispanics. In New York City from 2014-2017, 48.3% of all cannabis related crimes involved African Americans, 38% involved Hispanics and only 9% involved Caucasians.
It is a fact that cannabis arrest rates have been dropping since statewide legislation supporting cannabis programs protecting adult consumption have combated federal prohibition. As written by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in a report encompassing statistics from 2016-2018, "Drug crime defendants, who accounted for 28 percent of total filings, grew two percent, although defendants accused of crimes associated with marijuana decreased 19 percent.” Despite these facts, the wrongs of our immediate past must be overturned by the enforcement of our democratic right to choose to allow cannabis in our communities as a healthy means of profitable industry. Public opinion favors pro-cannabis legalization by a majority 62%, and non-violent drug offenders require expungements and restitutions for the violations of their civil liberties during this era of prohibition. We can mitigate this by allowing the proper infrastructure for state sponsored medical and recreational cannabis programs, facilitated by certification and retraining opportunities for those most affected by the war on drugs to earn a livelihood in this industry of commerce.