Wednesday, May 8, 2019 OPINION
Up in Smoke: Pot is Popular, But Still Illegal As weed becomes trendy, what will we do with those in prison for possession or selling it? By Afroditi Kontos Staff Writer What’s the difference between a cannabis dispensary and a weed dealer? One has to pay tax money and the other, bail money. America is participating in organized crime by violating its very own rules. The federal government still places marijuana in the same category as heroin and cocaine, but you wouldn’t know that unless you were living in a lowincome neighborhood, getting arrested for it. The War on Drugs has resulted in the arrest of millions of people, majority of which are people of color. American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU), a non-profit organization geared towards “defending and preserving the individual rights and liberties of every person,” reports that marijuana use is roughly as equal among African Americans and Caucasians, yet African Americans are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. Possessing the slightest amount of marijuana has had dire consequences and has affected people of color for decades including eligibility for student financial aid, employment opportunities, child custody litigation, and immigration status. It appears that these disparities reflect a policy that at least goes as far back as the Nixon Administration. According to Dan Baum in his article titled “Legalize It All: How to Win the War on Drugs” published in Harper’s Magazine, John Ehrlichman told Baum in an interview the following: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana
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and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” Bernard Noble, an African American, who was sentenced to 13 years of hard labor for possessing two marijuana joints, was granted parole in February of 2018, after serving more than 8 years in a Louisiana prison. His sentence was unconstitutionally excessive, overlooking the fact that he was a middle-aged man who supported seven children, was gainfully employed for over twenty years and had no history of violence. Meanwhile, Noble was working penal labor, also known as ‘slave’ labor, which is explicitly allowed under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Across the country, people living in states like Colorado and Washington were sparking up joints
while simultaneously applying cannabis licensing for Oakland for LLCs. residents who have been most Marijuana Business Daily victimized by the war on drugs. conducted a survey and found Unfortunately, the high costs of that 81 percent of cannabis ex- setting up legal cannabis operaecutives were white, mostly men, tions are holding people of color while 5.7 percent were Latinx and back while allowing big interest 4.3 African American. Those that groups to control the industry. have been most victimized by the The government collected an War on Drugs, are being shut out estimated $4.7 billion in taxes of the booming green industry. from legal cannabis companies Cory Booker, a New Jersey Dem- last year on nearly $13 billion in ocrat and presidenrevenue. Howev“Despite its recent- er, under federal tial candidate told VICE News, “At this glamorization, indi- law, marijuana is point it’s too obvious viduals, in not-so- illegal. Cannabis and urgent and unfair trendy states, are still businesses in the that we’re moving serving time behind United States still something on maribars for the same pay federal taxes juana on the federal and are not althing.” level and it doesn’t lowed any deducdo something on retions or credits storative justice. I want a bill to for business expenses. Proceeds have some acknowledgement from marijuana transactions are of the savage injustices that the considered money laundering and marijuana prohibition has done to banks refuse to hold such money communities.” because of the risks involved. The City of Oakland intro- These cannabis businesses pay duced a groundbreaking Equity their taxes in cash which in turn Permit Program, on May 23, is creating havoc for employees 2017, that minimizes barriers to working for the IRS.
In spite of all this, under the Controlled Substances Act, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still considers marijuana a Schedule 1 drug. If one is arrested and charged, they are sent to prison. The Federal government is simultaneously collecting billions of taxpayers’ dollars to incarcerate individuals who have been convicted of marijuana charges. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office of California, it costs an average of about $81,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate in prison in California. The criminal justice system also imposes hefty fines on the inmate. Many states are en route to the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. As of January 2019, fourteen U.S. states have decriminalized marijuana, but have yet to make the drug legal for recreational use. Decriminalization laws vary from state to state. However, these laws do not ensure that possession of the drug will not be faced with legal penalties. It appears that the federal government has no interest in legalizing marijuana. It circumvents its own laws, turning a blind eye to make a profit off of activities it deems illegal. The cannabis industry is booming, with an estimated trajectory of up to $50 billion in global sales by 2026. However, despite its recent glamorization, individuals, in not-sotrendy states, are still serving time behind bars for the same thing. All the while, Uncle Sam is funneling in monies, whether it’s from a ‘criminal’ or entrepreneur. This is the way organized crime has operated for years.
Afroditi Kontos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boy Scouts of America Lands Itself in Hot Water The organization is now defending itself against multiple sexual abuse allegations
By Elone Safaryan Staff Writer Former Boy Scout Christopher Malcolm was only 11-yearsold when his troop leader Stephen Corcoran began sexually abusing him. The abuse occurred over a hundred times in the span of five years, until Malcolm was 16. A lawsuit was filed against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) by Malcolm and two former Boy Scouts who also came forward saying Corcoran had abused them. In June of 2017, Corcoran was sentenced to seven years in prison for possession of child pornography. It was a month later that Malcolm accused Corcoran of abusing him for years. Following Malcolm’s allegations, Corco-
ran admitted to molesting three children under his supervision in his Morris Plains home. Finally, in January of this year, Corcoran was given a 10 year sentence that will run concurrently with the seven year sentence. In another lawsuit, 17 former boy scouts alleged that a former scoutmaster Donald Dennis, now deceased, had sexually assaulted them between 1963 and 1975. One of the plaintiffs even said that the abuse happened over 1,000 times. As of now, it is the largest single lawsuit targeting one scoutmaster. The lawsuit also accuses the organization of negligence. In the documents, the defense argues that the Boy Scouts of America allowed leaders to take advantage and hid away
from taking any action to protect children. Corcoran and Dennis were two of many Boy Scout leaders accused of sexual abuse. The sexual abuse has allegedly been taking place over seven decades. Since the early 1920s, the organization has preserved files of “ineligible volunteers,” also known as the “perversion files,” which was intended to keep sexual abusers out of the organization. In 2012, the BSA was ordered by a judge to release these “perversion files” to the public. Over 20,000 pages of documentation confirmed at least 1,200 cases where leaders and or volunteers were accused of sexual abuse from 1965 to 1985. Another investigation shows that from 1970 to 1991, hundreds
of cases of sexual abuse went unreported to the police, in order to protect the reputation of the BSA. These cases were found upon reviewing 1600 files in another 1992 court case. Evidently, admitted perpetrators were encouraged to secretly resign. It is believed that more than 7,800 former leaders were accused of some sort of sexual abuse over the course of the last 72 years. Some 12,000 victims have been identified in a testimony publicized by Jeff Anderson, an attorney who represents the survivors. The BSA released a statement saying they believe their victims and support them, as well as apologize to them for the acts committed. That apology, however, doesn’t go far enough.
As a result of the lawsuits, the Wall Street Journal reports that the BSA is considering bankruptcy. Their subpar handling of the sex abuse allegations has led to rising legal costs affiliated to the lawsuits. As of 2018, BSA membership has gone from four million to 2.3 million. That is not a coincidence. Charges of sexual abuse in the BSA have been covered up by the organization for decades. Finally, they’re paying the price for it. Any organization that tries to protect perpetrators of rape deserves to go bankrupt. The shutdown of the beloved Boy Scouts of America cannot come soon enough. Elone Safaryan can be reached at email@example.com.