I think if most of us can agree on one thing it is that the War on Drugs has failed us horribly. In fact, it has only shown that harsh drug laws and penalties can be destructive to families and communities across the United States. This is especially true for marijuana, a plant that was once vilified, but has since emerged into the light as a valuable form of medication. However, many states and the federal government still classify this plant as an illegal and dangerous substance despite much evidence to the contrary. In reality, this benign plant has caused massive damage to communities and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in hopeless and ineffective suppression methods. It is no wonder that most people are waking up to marijuana reform and it is getting the status it truly deserves. As medication pot has some amazing benefits without many of the side effects of prescription medications. Additionally, weed is much safer than alcohol and is being recognized as such by many lawmakers and citizens alike. This has led to many changes in pot policies across the nation, but let’s discuss how draconian weed laws have affected offenders in the past and how it will affect them into the future as the laws change.

Marijuana VS. Harder Drugs

Every year the US government spends an estimated absurd $47 billion on the war against drugs. This leads to 1.6 million arrests on average with about 600,000 needless arrests for the possession of marijuana. It is a complete waste of money and the numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the truth is that not all of these arrests make it to prison these days. Pot actually makes up a relatively low amount of federal prisoners. According to Marijuana Incarceration Statistics – NCDAS most of the people rotting away for drug convictions are due to harder drugs with meth in the lead at 42.2% of the drug population. The others are as follows: 17.9% for cocaine, 12.5% for heroin, 10.9% for others, 8.6% for marijuana, and 7.8% for crack cocaine. While marijuana makes up a small percentage of inmates incarcerated for drug offenses they should not be present at all. When compared to these other categories it does not seem fair considering it is a plant and no plant in its raw form should be illegal.

Laws are Changing

Anyone who knows anything about weed knows that in comparisons to other harmful drugs like meth or heroin,  weed is mostly harmless. Furthermore, funding the police to search for, confiscate, and prosecute people based on marijuana, whether they make it to prison or get a fine is a waste of taxpayer money. These funds could be put elsewhere and to good use to beautify, educate, and empower our poorer neighborhoods and people. Many citizens and local governments are beginning to see this and laws are changing around the country fairly rapidly. In fact, 33 states have legalized marijuana for medical use with 11 making adult recreational use legal. What happens in these states where prisoners are locked up on old marijuana charges? Prisoners that are in a cell due to federal charges have no luck and this does not benefit them at all. The federal government still classifies pot as illegal. However, some people in state prisons are able to appeal and get a sentence reduction or sent home entirely. Some states are even making it easier to get past criminal convictions expunged from their records. This is great news for some marijuana prisoners as it gives them some hope for a brighter future outside of bars. It also makes marijuana reform on a national level that much more important. We need to get everyone out of prison who is there for BS marijuana charges.

Coronavirus and Prisoners

COVID has also allowed us to shed some light on the fallacies of the prison system, especially when it comes to weed. Most people in prison for pot are there on non-violent offenses and are considered low risk. This has caused many to believe that they should be fast-tracked to release or just released altogether. This is even more so true in the face of a pandemic. The close proximity of the prisoners and the cramped nature of prisons are showing that a disease can easily be spread throughout the population. This is a great argument for releasing marijuana offenders specifically when compared to the fact that laws are changing rapidly throughout the country. Letting prisoners out of prison for past marijuana convictions is a great idea notably during these times. If there ever was a reason to reduce the population in the prison system, then a pandemic would probably be the number one. Furthermore, non-violent offenders could be placed on house arrest or supervised probation to assure that they are on their best behavior. This not only frees up millions in taxpayer dollars, but also helps to fix the problem with our overcrowded prisons. Additionally, it helps to fight the spread of infectious diseases during a global health crisis. I call that a win-win. More so than ever now is the time to cut costs and rid the world of the discrimination associated with a plant that was given to us by nature.