Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pedophiles Not Potheads

While traveling the U.S. with a federally legal marijuana patient, speaking about therapeutic cannabis use and broader drug policies, I've met people from all walks of life who use marijuana: cerebral professors, astute attorneys, responsible administrators, Native American tribal leaders, loving parents, struggling patients, a few legislators, police officers and soldiers, and thousands of ditch-diggers. And I won't lie to you - I've met a few mellow-yellow, hippy-dippy Cheech and Chong "stoners" too (the ones we typically see in the CORPGOV media). And no, I'm not naming any names.

The vast majority of these cannabis users work hard, value their educations, pay their taxes, love their children, and contribute to their communities. Most of them don't use pot all day, everyday. They do not jeapordize public safety through their use (they don’t drive while impaired, they don't force anyone else to use it, and they don’t provide the herb to minors without a doctor’s authorization – similar to our social and legal perimeters for alcohol). They are mostly nonviolent and law-abiding (aside from their cannabis use).

During the past three decades of our nation's drug war, we've spent hundreds of billions of dollars to arrest and incarcerate millions of American marijuana consumers, and yet the resilient cannabis plant shows no sign of being driven to earthly extinction anytime in the near future. To use a metaphor that a child could understand, the herb is kind of like the Incredible Hulk. Hulk not mean. Hulk green. Hulk want be left lone. But Big Brother want kill Hulk. More him fire big gun, bigger get Hulk.

But seriously, here’s something to stuff in your pipe and burn… Right now our nation is home to thousands of child abusers who’ve been found guilty of predatory (not statutory) sex crimes against kids 13 and younger (all the way down to toddlers), who were given probation. That’s right, no jail sentence. Zero time. Nada. Zip.
Breathe deep. Let that sink in a moment...

I suspect some of you are reading this and thinking: That's terrible, Largen. Truly sickening. But what in the world do pedophiles have to do with pot? Couldn't mixing these issues hurt the causes of both marijuana policy reform and child advocacy?

The two issues are already interrelated.

We know that sexual abuse often devastates the lives of survivors, contributing to high rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), along with a host of related psychosocial symptoms including depression, anxiety, insomnia, identity confusion, alientation from self and society, nightmares, cognitive impairments, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, unemployment, self-mutilation, and suicide attempts.

According to analytical research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, PTSD is directly related with much higher rates of substance abuse, as survivors attempt to self-medicate their painful and debilitating symptoms. It’s a cruel irony that a survivor of sexual abuse might receive more jail time (for using illegal drugs to self-medicate) than would the predator who brutalized her. Additionally, the drug charge would make the abuse survivor ineligible for federal financial aid for college, while her abuser would have no problem receiving the same aid, and so our system compounds the injury of rape with the injustice of unequal access to education.

While we're on the subject, we might ask: If our legislators care about children, why do we have federal mandatory minimum sentencing for cannabis offenses, but have no minimums for pedophiles? Since children from broken homes are more frequent targets of predators, why does our government break apart families to incarcerate parents for cannabis offenses? And if our officials are truly concerned about keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors, then why are they pursuing policies that actually make it easier for kids to obtain marijuana than alcohol or tobacco (remember, black marketeers are not regulated by age restrictions)? Have our officials been so focused on eradicating a plant, largely in the name of "protecting the children", that they have neglected to actually protect them?

For the sake of our nation's youth, our priorities must change. While our children are being brutally raped (as in the case of resilient and courageous Shasta Groene) and literally buried alive (beautiful Jessica Lunsford in Florida) like sacrificial lambs, we have no excuse for wasting enforcement and judicial resources on nonviolent, responsible marijuana users. Every law enforcement official who is stuck processing paperwork and making court appearances to prosecute marijuana offenses is one less officer patrolling our streets to make sure a madman isn't abducting, sodomizing, and murdering our children. Every dollar spent to criminalize cannabis could be better spent to strengthen families, build communities, and increase public safety. It’s time our policies were reformed to instruct our police officers, judges and prosecuting attorneys to focus their full attention on their most important missions: keeping the peace, serving our communities, and protecting the children - not controlling private consensual choices and incarcerating Willie Nelson while predators roam our streets.

We must insist our policies evolve so that America is no longer a ...


Blogger bob said...

great article. i could not agree with you more.

3:54 PM  

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