Is Hell Freezing Over?

cannabis_2423701bIn 2012 Border Crossings ran a series of posts (“The War on Drugs”) reviewing the history of our drug laws, the long term consequences of those laws, and recommendations to decriminalize and legalize recreational use of marijuana and other drugs.  In November of that year, Colorado and Washington state voters approved referendums legalizing the recreational use of marijuana; and this January, the two states began to implement regulation and taxation of marijuana sales despite grumblings from the Justice Department and DEA.  Sale of pot in Colorado netted tax revenue of $2 million in just this first month.  While only a drop in the bucket of the state’s $20 billion plus annual budget, other states have taken notice and additional referendums to legalize marijuana are being advanced for consideration of the voters during the next election cycle.  Recent polls show that a majority of Americans (51% plus) now believe that marijuana should be legalized.  Even the President has weighed in, recently downplaying the hazard posed by marijuana, declaring the drug no more dangerous than alcohol, pointing to the graver risk presented by other recreational drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.  Have we turned a corner on the War on Drugs? Continue reading

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Made in the USA – The Prison Industry and Its Profits

4796934The prison population has grown nearly-exponentially in the last few decades, and the US now holds 25% of the world’s prison population, yet has only 5% of the world’s population. The incarceration rate per capita is far higher than any other industrialized nation.  According to the World Prison Population list, the United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, 743 per 100,000 of the national population. The next closest is Rwanda at 595. Why is this?  Is there something about US society that produces such massive numbers of criminals, or is something else going on?  Former Senator Jim Webb of Virginia tried to ask this question, by establishing a commission to recommend changes to the criminal justice system, only to see his efforts blocked in the Senate, despite widespread support from law enforcement groups as well as civil liberties organizations such as the ACLU. Continue reading

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