• Author compares impact of modern drug war to impact of Jim Crow laws
CHICAGO — One author of the book The Cannabis Papers, which examines the necessity of cannabinoids for human life and freedom, is expressing disappointment that another February came and went this year without appropriate reflection of what the drug war has done to disrupt liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the African-American community.
“President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address … in the middle of another Black History Month with lofty statements and idealistic goals, but he sadly said nothing about the ongoing plague in African-American neighborhoods and individual homes that is the war on drugs,” said Steve Young, a co-author of The Cannabis Papers.
Young said the blatantly racist outcomes of the war on drugs have been documented for decades, yet little attention has been paid by politicians who could make an impact, like Obama.
“The president’s well-documented cannabis use earlier in his life has not limited the trajectory of his success in the slightest,” said Young. “The same cannot be said of millions of his fellow African-Americans who became casualties in the drug war during and since Obama’s college days.”
The extent to which strategies and impacts of modern drug prohibition mirror the strategies and impacts of Jim Crow are starkly laid out in the 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (The New Press).
“The book shows again and again how the drug war has been used as a tool to attack individuals, neighborhoods and larger communities, leaving them more broken and isolated than before the drug war was declared,” said Young.
Alexander’s book examines statistics in the Chicago metro region to illustrate the devastating effect of prohibition on African-Americans. She notes that about 90 percent of people sentenced to prison under drug laws in Illinois are black, and that within the Chicago region, the number of black males sent to prison each year for drug violations increased by 2000 percent from 1985-2005.
As cannabis has long been the central target in the drug war, leading to more arrests nationally each year than all other illegal drugs combined, removing cannabis from the drug war offers a partial shortcut to justice, Young said.
“Anti-cannabis laws aren’t the only unjust drug laws, but they impact so many more people than other drug laws,” said Young. “Voters in Colorado and Washington, who voted to legalize cannabis in their own states last year, seemed to realize that. Hopefully, state and national leaders, particularly those who claim to represent African-Americans, will be more responsible in following the people’s lead.”
From the April 3-9, 2013, issue