Real Reasons why Weed is Illegal: The Prison Industrial Complex
Real Reasons why Weed is Illegal: The Prison Industrial Complex

By J Gordon Curtis

Watching a House Meeting, one could conclude that our representatives know very little of cannabis. Many seem to still buy into the gateway drug myth. Politicians love grandstanding about opiates and overdoses whenever the topic arises. 

When cannabis does come up, it’s only to say it will make other issues worse. Mentions are nonexistent on how the issue ravaging the country comes courtesy of legal prescriptions.

Whatever an opinion may be of any given senator, we have to agree that they are all (at least mostly) smart. If that’s the case, there is no way that they can honestly believe the ludicrous notion of criminalization. Marijuana has been a Schedule 1 narcotic since 1970. This is a category reserved for substances with no medicinal use and a high potential for abuse. Marijuana has never shown any signs of meeting either criterion. 

Over 1/3 of drug-related arrests in 2018 were for simple marijuana possession. That’s the highest percentage by double digits, by the way. What’s more, roughly 86% of all the drug-related arrests were for possession as opposed to the sale/manufacture of drugs. As for the number of people arrested in general, drugs are ahead in that category as well.

That same year, the number of people arrested for drugs was 1.6m making it the highest reason by far. That means nearly 1.4m people were merely possessing or using a substance when the police arrested them. 

Why is that? Why is the government so fixated on putting people in jail for actions that only affect themselves? It can’t be for the reasons they claim.

We’ve seen repeatedly that increasing the criminalization of a substance isn’t enough to cut the population off from using it. On the contrary, Portugal decriminalized all drugs back in 2001 and has seen a dramatic drop in addiction. Not only that, abuse and diseases from shared needles like HIV and Hepatitis have declined. I assume we’ll be seeing the same in Oregon as well. 

The blueprint is there, those in the government are simply choosing to ignore it.

Following the Money

Somebody has to be benefiting from the War on Drugs, right? Dr. Carl Hart, author of the book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups states in his book:

Given society’s return on the twenty-fold increase in our drug-control budget, we could reasonably conclude that the war on drugs has been a complete failure.

It has not. Otherwise, this country would not have continued to perpetuate this war decade after decade.

Dr. Hart is talking here about the fact that the war on drugs was never really about drugs. 

Were the stated goal (eradicating drug use) the actual intent, this war has been a catastrophic failure. Given the perpetual and exponential increase in government funding throughout the years, this is not the case. Why is the government cramming so much money into this machine? Who benefits from this abject failure?

For starters, cannabis is a fantastic way to feed the machine of the prison industrial complex. The Prison Industrial Complex refers to where the needs of the government and the prison seem to overlap. One of the worst of these intersections is a company by the name of CoreCivic. 

Shockingly, several Republican representatives on the Tennessee House Criminal Justice Committee are taking money from CoreCivic. This seems odd given their committee and Core Civic being one of the largest private prison companies in the nation. Setting aside the obvious moral failings let’s examine this connection further.

Marijuana provides officers with immense opportunity. As a very smelly drug (at least, if it’s good,) it’s often an easy reason for a police officer to search without a warrant. In places where this is not actually acceptable (in Tennessee for example,) it is often used as a way to pressure the user into giving up their rights. In other words, it’s an easy drug to arrest for. 

Or, at least, because of. Officers are usually hoping they find something bigger when they search because of Marijuana. 

Private prisons usually include a clause in their contract that requires the state to maintain them at a certain occupancy (typically 80%.) This makes Marijuana an easy recruitment tool. 

12% of all American adults smoke weed. 22% if we are just counting younger adults, ages 18-29. If arrests were a job opportunity, weed is your foot in the door. If police know that nearly a quarter of all the younger adults are using cannabis, we can rest assured they also know how to use that fact as pressure. 

Bigger Pictures

The “War on Drugs” is a war on Americans, regardless of the drug. regardless of the drug. We must remember, however, that the police officers are just foot soldiers following the orders of a much larger evil. The politicians making these decisions are more culpable than the police officers exploiting them. Higher still–according to the donors–sits CoreCivic and the prison industrial complex.

Unlike politicians, these companies can exist outside of the public eye, doing their work in the shadows. While we all know that the prison system is a disaster, we don’t often think about those who would wish to keep it that way.

The Prison Industrial Complex has a foundation built on the prohibition of substances. The most notable of these is the substance of Marijuana. Without the criminalization of cannabis, there would have been a full ⅓ fewer arrests in 2018.

That’s 588,800 fewer prisoners paying fines, buying from the commissary at the prison, and working for pennies on the dollar for outsourced labor to some of America’s most successful corporations.

Call or email your senator today and let them know that you don’t appreciate CoreCivic calling the shots on Cannabis legalization. Nobody can take the plant back but us.

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