Op-Ed: Maryland’s marijuana laws harm the most needy

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We all know that there are many organizations trying to end the cycle of poverty, address the ills of racism, and negate the consequences of broken homes.  But just for a moment, imagine if there were an organization – an evil organization – trying do to just the opposite.  What might their strategy entail?

  • Step One would be to tempt poverty-stricken youth into behaving badly.
  • Step Two would be to encourage one race to bait the other race to get in trouble.
  • Step Three would be to break up families and remove fathers from the home.
  • Step Four would be to put parents on a black list so they were unemployable.
  • Step Five would be to punish those blacklisted parents for being unemployed.  But those five steps might not prove enough.
  • So just to be sure, the critical Step Six would be to divert money from those organizations hoping to help, and simply throw it away.

Luckily, no such evil organization exists.  Unfortunately, in its place, we have the State of Maryland.

The State executes on Step One – tempting poverty-stricken youth into behaving badly.  It does so by offering inner-city teens and young adults essentially two options:  (1) they can obtain a minimum wage job – if they can obtain reliable and affordable transportation, and if the position offers the flexible hours they may require to care for loved ones; or (2) they can obtain a higher wage job selling marijuana, which offers flexible hours and is near their home.  Many of our inner-city youth choose the second option.

downloadThen the State executes Step Two – encouraging one race to bait the other race to get in trouble.  This occurs when affluent whites from the suburbs come to the black inner city to buy marijuana.  You see the State has decriminalized possession – so those affluent whites having nothing to fear.  On the other hand, the State imprisons the economically disadvantaged black and brown people who provide that marijuana.

The State then executes Step Three – breaking up families.  Because, you see, most of the young men sent to prison for selling pot have children and families that depend on them.  They are not that much different from the rest of us.

Then Step Four – ensuring that these “ex-cons” are unemployable.  After all, a prison record doesn’t look quite as attractive to employers as a vocational degree.

Marijuana-JointThen Step Five – punishing those who are unemployed.  The State does so by demanding blocking those convicted of selling marijuana from public housing.  And it also does so by demanding that absent parents, usually fathers, pay child support regardless of their ability to earn money.  It’s not surprising under these circumstances many return to drug dealing for a living.

Finally, the State executes Step Six – it diverts money that could go to improving inner city schools, providing vocational training, feeding the hungry, and building a transportation infrastructure.  Instead,it spends $100 million on a criminal justice system to enforce marijuana laws.  And it forgoes the millions of dollars that would be collected if marijuana were taxed like alcohol and cigarettes.

marijuana_map.0.0Delegate Curt Anderson and Senator Jamie Raskin have introduced the “Marijuana Control and Revenue Act of 2015” (HB911 and SB531) to rectify this absurdity.  This bill would take marijuana out of the black market and into the open market where it could be controlled and regulated.

The Prohibition of alcohol didn’t work in the 1920s – the societal cost greatly outweighed the anticipated benefit.  It’s time that the State of Maryland admits that the prohibition of marijuana is not working in the 2010s – the societal cost greatly outweighs the perceived benefit.  Let’s encourage our Annapolis representatives to follow Colorado and Washington State’s lead, and stop harming the most vulnerable in our society.