The War on Pot Is a War on Young People
NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano delivered this speech at NORML’s 2008 National Conference, “It’s Not Your Parents’ Prohibition” in Berkeley, California.
According to a 2005 study commissioned by the NORML Foundation, 74 percent of all Americans busted for pot are under age 30, and 1 out of 4 are age 18 or younger. That’s nearly a quarter of a million teenagers arrested for marijuana violations each year.
To put this bluntly, we now have an entire generation that has been alienated to believe that the police and their civic leaders are instruments of their oppression rather than their protection.
And the sad fact is: They’re right!
Why is this the case? And why, as a community, don’t we talk about it?
(Text of full remarks after the jump.)
Young people, in many cases those under 18-years-of-age, disproportionately bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement.
Demographically speaking, the above statement is a “no-brainer.” Yet this is hardly a fact that we as a reform community like to admit or emphasize. Instead, you’ll hear reformers argue that the war on pot is a war on patients — and at some level, it is. Or you’ll hear advocates proclaim that marijuana enforcement disproportionately impacts African Americans and Hispanics — and to some degree, it does. Attend enough of these conferences and you’ll inevitably hear that our movement needs better representation from women and minorities, both of whom face unique hardships because of the drug war, and that criticism is appropriate too. But, one thing you’ll most likely never hear is that our movement needs greater involvement from teenagers and young adults.
But we should — because for the young people in the audience, the war on pot smokers is really a war on you.
According to a 2005 study commissioned by the NORML Foundation, 74 percent of all Americans busted for pot are under age 30, and one out of four are age 18 or younger. That’s nearly a quarter of a million teenagers arrested for marijuana violations each year.
To put this bluntly, we now have an entire generation that has been alienated to believe that the police and their civic leaders are instruments of their oppression rather than their protection.
And the sad fact is: they’re right!
Why is this the case? And why, as a community, don’t we talk about it?
There are several reasons why young people are far more likely, statistically, to be busted for weed than those over age 30. Most obviously, young people are more likely than their counterparts to smoke pot, and toke more frequently. They’re also more likely to indulge in places that will inadvertently attract law enforcement’s attention: in parks, dorm rooms, cars, dimly lit parking lots. Let’s face it, most teenagers aren’t going to go home and smoke weed in their room while their parents are home, though if they did, it’s far less likely they’d ever be arrested for it (of course, it’s possible that their parents’ might face legal repercussions, but that’s another story.)
Young people are also more likely to have frequent interactions with sellers of weed, an activity that also increases their likelihood of one-day being arrested. Of course, it’s not that young people enjoy hanging around drug dealers, but it’s that young people typically have less disposable income, which means they have to buy their pot in smaller quantities on more frequent occasions.
Young people are also more likely to take risks — and they’re also more likely to commit traffic violations. Both these actions, though unrelated to marijuana per se, greatly increase the likelihood that young people will have face-to-face contact with law enforcement, and this contact often ends in a pot arrest.
So why then, if more than 650,000 Americans busted for weed annually are under age 30, don’t we spend more time talking about it? Easy, because we’ve let our opponents hi-jack the ‘kids’ issue.
There’s a saying among reformers that drug law reform is the ‘third rail’ of politics. If that’s true, then talking about drugs and kids is the ‘third rail’ of drug law reform. But it’s a ‘rail’ we need to start talking about.
Those who favor the continued prohibition of cannabis base their arguments on the false premise that the continued enforcement of said laws “protects our children.” This statement is nonsense. In fact, just the opposite is true.
The war on weed endangers the health and safety of our children. It enables young people to have unregulated access to marijuana — easier access than they currently have to legal, age-restricted intoxicants like alcohol and tobacco. It enables young people to interact and befriend pushers of other illegal, more dangerous drugs. It compels young people dismiss the educational messages they receive pertaining to the potential health risks posed by the use of ‘hard drugs’ and prescription pharmaceuticals because kids say: “If they lied to me about pot, why wouldn’t they be lying to me about everything else too.”
Most importantly, the criminal laws are far more likely to result in having our children arrested and placed behind bars than they are likely to in any way discourage them to try pot.
These are the facts, and it’s about time we start shouting them from the rooftops.
For three decades now, our opponents have framed this issue from the standpoint that they care more about the health and safety our young people than we do — that we’re just a bunch of self-centered pot-heads that are willing to sacrifice the lives of our young people so that we can catch a buzz. Well, it’s time for us to respond.
Yes, we do favor changing the marijuana laws. We care about protecting the health and safety of our children too. And by changing the laws, we are protecting the health and safety of America’s young people. After all, under prohibition it’s America’s young people that are being lied to; it’s our children that are being approached by drug dealers; it’s our children that are smoking pot in cars and putting their lives and others at risk to try and avoid the detection of their parents or the law; and it’s our children that are being busted in unprecedented numbers.
Finally, let me close with one final reason why we as a community must begin acknowledging this reality and that is this. Even though young people suffer the most under our current marijuana laws, they lack the financial means and political capital to effectively influence politicians to challenge them. Young people also lack the money to adequately fund the drug law reform movement at a level necessary to adequately represent and protect their interests.
In short, if we ever want the marijuana laws to change, that we as a community have to better represent the interests of young people, and we must do a better job speaking on their — and their parent’s — behalf.
We must also do a better job allying with organizations that speak on behalf of youth, particularly urban youth — who are most at risk of suffering from the lifetime hardships associated with a marijuana conviction. We must do a better job reaching out, engaging, and recruiting students to continue to take this issue seriously after they graduate college — and that includes offering them internships and employment once they’ve received their degrees. Finally, reformers must do a better job reaching out to the parents of young people, and urging them to become active members and financial contributors of the cannabis law reform movement.
They say it’s the so-called “parents movement” that derailed the “pot-progress” of the 1970s. Well then I say that it’s high time we recruited our own “NORML Parents” movement to finish the job once and for all.
NORML 2008 Conference: "The War on Pot Is a War on Young People"
The War on Pot Is a War on Young People
I completely agree with everything here. I, as an 18 year old, hate cops. Its true. We see cops as people who are out here to bust us for smoking, speeding, whatever. My friends and I always make jokes when we see the “To serve and protect” slogan on the cars by where we live. More like “To bust and cuff”
“If they lied to me about pot, why wouldn’t they be lying to me about everything else too.”
I feel like this probably rings especially true with teens nationwide; how are 15 and 16 year old kids supposed to differentiate the facts from the “facts”?
Thank you Paul! I’ve been writing about the ridiculousness of the “what about the children?” argument for a while on this blog http://theechochamberblog.wordpress.com/author/drandall24/ . It’s so nice to see someone with your credibility making similar arguments.
As a senior in high school, i can tell you straight up that cops are seen as pure breed assholes in my age group and community. I personally could never understand how someone would want to be out gettting people in trouble. Its like the snitch in pre-school on a larger scale. So me and many others agree FTP
I completely agree, as well. I have experienced the consequences of this civil war that our government calls the “drug war”. Law enforcement (which is meant to protect us from danger, right?) is ruining the lives of high-school and college aged kids by busting, and thereby, creating a criminal record for youths who indulge in this plant. Later on, some of these people who have records for possession will be turned down on job applications simply for possessing a plant. We, the youth and future of America, need to become involved and actively show that we will NOT stand for this injustice. Soon enough, our generation will be in positions of political power and influence, and we must restore justice to our country. Let’s restore our country to a condition that the founding fathers first instituted: a country where men and women are free to conduct their lives and actions without the fear of legal repercussions for matters that do not infringe on others’ rights.
As a 19 year old, I have to agree with this article and the comment above me. I honestly can’t stand the concept of modern policing. I have been robbed, but nothing was done to find that criminal. However, day in and day out cops are out arresting kids for getting high in their dorms and playing video games.
Can someone PLEASE get a national debate going about this! We need to urge every single news outlet day in and day out that they need to be reporting on HR 5842 and HR 5843 and let it be known that we will not stand for being arrested for doing no harm!
Fuck the pigs. Wake up people, the police and their priorities no longer remotely reflect the will of the people, and we’re the subjects of a largely ineffective military occupation, but an occupation nonetheless. And tell me it isn’t militaristic when they bust down doors unannounced like you’re a fugitive for non-violent crimes with packs of hounds and automatics.
If you smoke, grow the herb, so long as you can do so practically. The anti-drug creed draws strength from marijuana’s clear association with organized crime, and we must eradicate this excuse for injustice.
im 16 years old and have got caught smoking my parents twice, my dad who is a cop is soo close minded about the whole situation to where as my mom who is more understanding is more loose about the whole situation. its REDICIOULS to listen to my dad rant about how weed is addictive and ruins your life and a bunch of bullshit about how medical marijuana has no purpose… i have to take random drug test for getting caught, i was first smoking in my room at night not harming anyone and almost got my ass kicked for smoking some reefer… im tired and feed up off all this bullshit… any suggestions? i totally agree with this article though, so many good points. sorry this was my little rant.
Agreed.. I hate cops and have never even been busted.. they but when pulled over at a young age I was treated like a criminal and I had not done anything wrong.. he wanted to search my bags for no reason..
I have been a victim of theft and they don’t seem to care really..
hi my name is will im 15 years old and live in Ma, i strongly agree with this. i have been smoking for about 2 years now and i always somewhat disliked police never for a real reason up until recently when i was charged with possesion after a cop or as i call them now pig caught me and a group of freinds smoking in a path where we smoked everyday. since then i completely hate the police and every thing about them. i was lucky enough to get off with a continueing with out a finding, witch means i wont have a criminal record but i am now restricted from enjoying life so much more, i feel like an idiot pissing in a cup and seeing THC light up and more seeing it next to things like heroin, cocaine, and meth. i correct health teachers every single day when they try and teach us about marijuana, i dont blame them though i blame the government funded books they are provided with. this war on myself and my peers needs to end. ever since i got cought i have done all i can to educate myself about marijuana and to educate others.
I’m a 53 year old father. My son was just busted for a misdomenor under the influence. There was a robbery and he just happened to be in the nieghborhood parked in my car when the police questioned him. He had nothing to do with the robbery but he happened to be stoned. So they took him and his friends in. I have always hated the drug laws. Pot needs to be regulated and taxed just like tobacco and alcohol. Now we have to go through a trial just for smoking a joint. Hopefully we can get this off his record so he can get on with his life. I know young people don’t like cops, but remember they don’t make the laws. Politicions make the laws. So get involved and get on their asses.
Protect Our Children. End Cannabis Prohibition!
There! That’s a slogan worthy of a new movement. All we need a is a number of well placed black and white ads in local newspapers, with catchy graphics, and some easy to understand, hard statistics in the copy, outlining the damages caused by the drug war. UnReefer Madness at its best. Or perhaps: Reefer Sanity.
Remember, it’s not only arrests, records, humiliation, rehab, it’s also the fact that no-regulation means children have easy access to cannabis with no supervision.
Lets have a design contest to create the ads, and then local fund-raising to place them.
Everybody needs to urge everyone they know who is a fellow toker to stand up and try to do something about reforming our current laws. I know a ton of people who smoke pot regularly, however they are not actively trying to reform and change our current situation. So if everyone encourages people to participate actively in this so called war, we can win.
I am also 19. I completely agree. I’ve been hustled by cops many a time and im sick and tired of nobody representing my interests. The cops admit and acknowledge that pot is not a big deal. But they’ll still give you a ticket. They harass and manipulate us.. tear down our rights and alienate us from our parents. Why god, why, is all this on account of a plant that produces intoxication not even on par with alcohol? My friends got harassed at a park for all the gallons of alcohol they had,but my friend(and fellow MJ patient) was given a Mis-demeanor ticket for the pot he had with him but the alcohol was just poured out. So not only is it easier to get pot than alcohol.. BUT ITS MORE PUNISHABLE TOO! YOU TRAINED A GENERATION OF COPS TO HATE THE GANJA! AND THEN SET THEM LOOSE ON YOUR EXPERIMENTAL AND GROWING CHILDREN! WAY TO BE THE EPITOME OF RESPONSIBILITY! Move forward! Thank you,Paul.
hello my name is Jordan, i am from Pa and i was busted with under a gram of Marijuana a little bit after i turned 18 years of age. i was able to drop the charges down to a disorderly conduct due to the police illegally searching and seizing my Marijuana. even tho i got it lowered i was still hit with a 100 dollar fine plus court cost which brought it to a total of 250 bucks. my employer McDonald’s got word of the incident and fired me next day ill be 19 on the 31st of October and Ive been filling out job applications like crazy and when i get interview after interview which all turn out great it comes down to the background check. I get screwed cause of a simple disorderly conduct / marijuana misdemeanor marijuana didnt ruin my life my government did. i am a prime example of whats going on with todays youth.
so the end result is this – Fired,Fine i cant afford,Cannot get hired to get money,Bad name,and anything that requires a background check count me out.ill be living with my parents until they decide to toss my ass out ill then be homeless so thanks again us government another youth screwed of having a normal happy life!
As a senior in high school I can absolutely agree (and just the mention of using parks and dark parking lots brings back some very fresh memories). At our school, we’ve been subjected to school-wide backback searches as well as dog searches, which have become commonplace in the past few years. I can also personally attest to the large amount of dislike/distrust of police among young people, because it seems to be a view shared by most all of my peers, even those who don’t do anything that would warrant their arrest or harassment by police. Well written as usual, and I’ll continue to tell whoever will listen that this ridiculous assault on young people must end.
a little while ago, i wrote out what i would said to someone who insisted that we must “save the children.”
i was really fed up with thinking about the topic all the time so i took it out of my head and put it on paper.
after a long period of revising, i ended up with an article that i would have loved to hear read out loud in a densly populated area.
i guess my wish came true a few days ago because this article here couldn’t have put it better.
Thank You NORML!
now lets just hope the gov’t pulls its head out of its ass so the message will reach its ears.
Well Young folks when I was 18 I hated the cops too, but now at 33 I can honestly say I hate the entire government. The truth is we are all slaves in the American corprotocracy. The drug civil war is one of many political side shows designed to divide us or maybe I should say isolate us from one another.
Every time they bust a new pot head the government gets a new second class citizen stripped of second amendment and voting rights. They target young people because they are politically and more importantly economically weak they can not afford attorneys to defend their rights.
All of you are completely justified in your contempt for law enforcement. There is no justification for them what so ever. Many would say they are just doing their jobs of course this is bull shit. They weren’t drafted they chose to take a job abusing their fellow citizens. No one forced them to take up arms in the drug civil war no one is forcing them to abuse you. they do it because destroying your lives makes them feel better about their own.
the cops in my town dont say to protect and serve anymore,a freind of mine asked a cop why and he said they have changed the focus to enforcement.
I disagree with Garrett and Will. I’ve been a passive part of the marijuana protest for since 1972. What did all the peace rallies of the 60s and 70s do? Nothing. I’ve heard the same protest from young people then and guess what. They get older and a majority of their peers keeps this stupid policy going. Nothing will change. Greed rules.
Why arrest so many minors when we could prevent them accessing marijuana with the laws we use for alcohol? The only place minors get alcohol is parents, older siblings and friends, and while it’s unfortunate they get it at all it’s a LOT less accessible than if bootleggers still operated!
The legal sale of alcohol to adults protects us from bootleggers, and the legal sale of marijuana to adults is the only thing that can protect us from drug dealers.
We all want safe communities for our children, safe schools and parks for them to learn and play. So why are our neighbors not supporting the only policy that can rid us of drug dealers?
We need to contact parents groups and open their eyes to the dangers the prohibition puts *their* children in! They could protect their children from arrest, drug dealers, and marijuana itself by demanding the prohibition be replaced with the same laws we use for alcohol.
Wanna see police oppression, check out this video, It takes places by the Mississippi River 1/2 a mile away from the Republican National Convention. Tons of cops in riot gear march through a park and start zip tying people just because they were there. very surreal to see that happening in America. very depressing. I mean LOOK how many there are!
Of course they prey on the young, and you can call it a ‘war on (some) drugs,’ I call it a ‘war on minorities’ because that’s why those laws were written.
Asians and their opium, mexicans and their ‘marihuana,’ cocaine was blamed on blacks (even though President Ulysses S. Grant was addicted to cocaine because of the throat cancer he got from constantly smoking cigars) but if you want to know the whole truth behind the war on drugs, it goes back to after the civil war.
I hope most of you studied ‘grandfather clauses’ in grade school like i did; politicians wrote these so-called clauses to prevent minorities, blacks, newly freed slaves, from actually voting, by writing these laws that required things like ‘if your grandfather could vote, then you can, but if your grandfather couldn’t vote, then you can’t either.’
The war on drugs is all about restricting minorities from voting, as well as recovering slave labor by replacing it with prison labor.
read tinyurl.com/1mn tinyurl.com/potconviction and tinyurl.com/racistlooter
That 3rd one is a blog of mine on myspace, so you’ll need an account there to read it, but who doesn’t have one, right? and it was my response because some jackhole got my aim handle from my facebook page and sent me an aim message which i received on my phone. he wrote:
Obama wants to let
crack dealing niggers
out of prison! Vote
McCain! nig nog nog
Which is when it dawned on me, yeah I already knew they were using the war on (some) drugs to stuff their prisons with nonviolent people simply arrested (or planted with) illegal drugs, but then it dawned on me that most states have drug laws that, when convicted, you lose your right to vote. And it’s all about keeping them down, preventing them from changing these racist laws.
(this one is the alternet story on how under the Shaffer commission that Nixon assigned to study the effects of cannabis ‘once and for all’ came back with proof exactly opposite of what he wanted, so he scrapped it.
this is a pic of an LTE i wrote to the Philly Metro that they published, because for the last few years we’ve had more murders than days of the year (aka over 365 murders/year in Philly in ’06, ’07.)
this is a story about how mccain stole someone else’s POW story and used it as his own, even though earlier he’d mentioned that he’d read this other guy’s story and ‘deeply admired him,’ and its’ a call out to religitards because supposedly the POW was exhausted and couldn’t do slave labor any more, and the guard drew a cross in the dirt with his foot, and the POW was ‘inspired by god’ to have more energy, to pick up his shovel and go back to work. Total bs, man i hate religitards.
Speaking of religitards:
Right now a good friend of mine sits down at the county jail. She’s a mother of three, a hard worker who kept long hours at two jobs. I say “kept”, because that was in the past. All she does now is wait.
She has a pretty bad cigarette habit. She also likes to smoke marijuana, as do I and millions of other citizens. We are definitely addicted, much the same as many are on marijuana and other substances, both legal and illegal. Marijuana is pleasurable addiction, not completely harmless to the body but much less so than the vast majority of other “drugs”. Quitting is hard, but not desperate, yet in the bottom line we prefer to have than to have not. We don’t drink alcohol much, nor do we take powders or pills. We like pot.
It hasn’t been particularly detrimental. I’ve smoked quite regularly for more than 35 years, and I’ve done more in my life than I ever expected to, and I’ve pretty much done everything I’ve ever wanted to. I don’t imagine I’m any different from millions of others with the same habit. Weed has a way of being the “every drug”, good for what ails the mind and soul at any particular moment, except perhaps for those moments that provoke paranoia. The life of a pothead is not terrible, until they encounter law enforcement authority.
My ex-wife is a horrible drunkard. Right now she’s at home out west, suffering from severe burns caused by an attempt at drunken cooking. We’re talking skin grafts. Her addiction is a horrible nightmare, one I shared the experience of for ten years, yet there is nothing keeping her from continuing on her trail to death by pickling. The law, in fact, says it’s fine to advertise and sell the product, and to drink it until you are completely addled. One is not supposed to drive while drinking, but honestly, there’s not much stopping a drunk if they really want to. The law only intervenes after the fact, which is sometimes terribly tragic for innocent people. The consequences of legal alcohol are well documented, yet it remains an acceptable legality. I’m still tempted to go back to the bottle, but pot keeps me cool. To be honest, if I had kept drinking, there’s s good chance that I might have ended up like her, or worse.
I met my gal through my good ole brother Micheal. Man, do I miss that guy. He was one of the big reasons I gave up on California, or one of my big excuses. He died the slow death of HIV/AIDS. He lived quite a while with it, taking every sort of concoction the doctors could conjure. In the end, though, it was the marijuana that made his life tolerable. It gave him an appetite and kept him from throwing up his medicine. It soothed his mind and gave him a good night’s sleep. The law would not allow this man this product, so he broke it. We all did, and have many times, but that the law would say no to a beneficial product for a terminal patient is amazingly telling.
Hemp is a naturally occurring substance. It’s flower is what marijuana is. Hemp is known as a source of fibrous material that can be used for various endeavors, such as clothing, or fuels and oils. There are obvious medical benefits, not to mention the recreational benefits of the flower. It is illegal for hemp to exist freely in the United States. In his infinite wisdom, American Man has decided that God got this one wrong, a conclusion based primarily on the notion that smoking the buds makes one “stupid”. ..and indeed, that is how American authority portrays the pot smoker, as lazy-minded or demented. I can assure you that this is the typical American exaggeration, and millions know it. If my gal is stupid and lazy, how does she hold down the jobs? If I am a dolt, how do I write this essay?
As it is with many issues in this country, marijuana law is not what it seems. Most people would like to see it decriminalized or legalized. That’s because they know it is not even as evil as tobacco or alcohol. This is easily seen in our media culture, where depictions of dope smoking are common in movies, on television, and in popular music. The connotation is usually that smoking pot is not particularly harmful, and is even cool. Indeed, the biggest danger in having or smoking marijuana is that law enforcement might find you out.
So, why is marijuana illegal? When we look at the benefits of hemp, why in the world would our government prohibit it? One simple answer is that our representatives no longer respond to the desires of the people, but all one has to do to really answer this question is examine which industries would be affected by legal hemp: textile industries, energy concerns, pharmaceutical giants, distilled spirit makers, and even law enforcement itself. There‘s as much money to be made in illegal hemp as there is to be lost in legal hemp…money for the dealer, money for the cop, money for the judge, money for the prison guard, and of course, money for the lawyers.
The moral case for hemp prohibition falls flat in the face of our pleasure-seeking society. If getting high is so bad, then we need to close the alcohol outlets immediately. If damaging your own health is so wrong, we need to start jailing the tobacco dealers and addicts. Hypocrisy in law breeds disrespect for law. Selective morality is hypocrisy at its finest. Imagine telling a dying man he can’t have a bowlful, while telling a young woman it’s fine if she wants to terminate her pregnancy. Selective law enforcement is also an immoral pursuit. Millions of undocumented immigrants live in our country, and the they and the folks that hire them are allowed to continue on despite the very plain law against it, all in the name of some phony economic cause. There is also a morality issue when we speak of the money spent on marijuana enforcement. The infrastructure of our great nation is falling before our eyes, yet the war on drugs continues sucking our coffers dry. We hold more people in prisons than any other country, a situation that could only be considered acceptable in a totalitarian state.
So, how did my gal wind up in the pokey? Well, I don’t know the whole story because they won’t let me see her except for fifteen minutes a week through a small Kafkaesque window. Apparently she made a “friend” at work and got him some pot. She “got him some pot”. She wasn’t driving her car around selling bags to strangers for a profit, she was one addict thinking she was helping another and maybe making a new connection. That’s how it works in the pothead world, but in this case the “friend” turned out to be an undercover agent for the local drug task force. They threw her in the county jail, charged her with two felonies and two misdemeanors, and slapped a $75,000 cash bail on her. That’s cash only, no bond. From what I gather, the amount “sold” was a quarter ounce, a forty dollar value.
This has been completely devastating for more than just her. The impact of having a loved one detained has been similar to the grief of death for all of us who love her. Her reputation among the local puritans has been destroyed, and the rumors run rampant due to the high bail. There are two employers that lost a good employee, her credit rating is heading for a hit due to her inability to make money and pay bills, and my own bankruptcy has been almost assured by this event. I’m selling items to keep the mortgage up.
Is it really worth all this? If law enforcement cannot keep the drugs off of the streets in the first place, what business do they have busting small time addicts? If they really wanted “Mr. Big”, they could have followed my gal around until they found him, but I suspect this is not what they want. The war on drugs is a war on people. They want the drugs to be available so that they can have a steady flow of customers for the law enforcement industry, to soak them dry though fines and fees, to keep up the business for the lawyers and drug testers, and to secure their own fat jobs. They desire to always have something to pin on someone, either through actual involvement or through the all-to-common plant.
No one can blame me for being angry about this. Pot prohibition should have ended years ago, but because our country has turned into a corporate oligarchy, legalization doesn’t even get mentioned much anymore. Sure, any fool can say she shouldn’t have broken the law, but in the end, do we not have a duty to challenge an unjust and immoral code? It is plainly apparent that our representatives no longer represent the common people, but rather the uncommon people…the few instead of the many. Does anyone believe that many of those elite don’t smoke dope themselves?
It’s “high” time that we ended the hypocrisy.
Tragically, the feelings of the current generation of young people are nothing new. I am 35, and millions of
people my age and older can attest to the fact that this shameful situation was no different when we were
young and has persisted our entire adult lives.
We have NEVER seen the police and the government as anything other than instruments of oppression. Like
the rest of our generation, those of us that enjoy cannabis have grown up and integrated into mainstream society
in all ways — but one. We have finished college, gotten jobs and worked hard to earn the progress that we’ve
made in our chosen careers. We have married, bought houses and known the joy of having children of our own.
Yet through it all we have been relentlessly hunted by our own police, who are funded by our own tax dollars
and backed up by a government that mocks the sacred principles of personal liberty in their starry-eyed
attempts to use legal force to create a utopian paradise so ‘the children’ will be ‘safe.’
The alienation process described in the article is something that begins when a generation is young and
only intensifies with age. We have already proven our value to society but are perpetually deprived of the right
to do as we please with our bodies, to pursue happiness as we see fit and to be secure in our homes and our
persons, birthrights the Constitution guarantees to us as American citizens.
We are anything but secure. Everything we have worked to build in life is under constant threat; having been
earned under a cloud of fear despite organized efforts to stop us. We are legally and systematically
discriminated against in employment, in housing and in other areas of public life.
The message has always been clear: this society doesn’t want us, doesn’t want our contributions, our money
or our expertise. We are allowed to exist as free citizens only if we can successfully dodge and weave through
a maze of societal booby-traps that seek to throw us in jail, take away our jobs, our possessions and our children.
We cannot allow this cruel, petty, reckless crusade to DEFINE another American generation’s relationship with
its government. This policy cordons off a significant portion of the mainstream adult population, artificially
transforms them into political and legal lepers, arrests them as criminals and intimidates them into silence.
NORML, you guys are my heroes. Our country owes you a tremendous debt of gratitude for having the courage to
speak out and take action. One day, when younger generations have taken power and cleansed our legal system
of laws that have no place in a free society, you and others like you will write the history on this subject.
We will have the privilege of teaching future generations the lesson that our society should have
learned from alcohol prohibition and from the failures of Communism: When man tries to use force to
create utopia and to criminalize parts of his own nature, the result is an unnatural, unhealthy and
inherently unstable state of affairs that can only be preserved through the application of brutality
I find it particularly insulting that McDonalds and the rest of the fast food industry are drug screening their employees and have a no tolerance policy. As if having a minimum wage job isn’t bad enough already, you have to submit your employees to the utmost humiliation (piss testing) on top of it and in some cases boast about it to your customers
On a recent trip through Arizona I ate at a Jack in the Box near Tucson that had a sign right next to the menu proudly proclaiming that all employees are drug tested.
It is a slap in the face that degrades the quality of life for everyone involved, customer and employee, and it doesn’t make the product any healthier. I think smoking a doobie every day would be infinitely healthier than eating a ‘Jumbo Jack’ every day.
So there you go, Jack needs to get back and the Hamburgler ought to plant drugs on Ronald McDonald and Mayor McCheese so they can get busted and know what it feels like to be ‘unemployable.’
I dare suggest that the whole thing could be taken a step further, and would encourage young people that can’t get a job working fast food to apply for work at the local medical marijuana dispensary, only test them for cholesterol, so that we don’t have any unhealthy greasy cheeseburger addicts dispensing our medicine. It would send a bad message!!!
I agree with garrett but the smokers of today can be bought tommorrow by big business. I said the same thing as you in 1970.
I was arrested at 17 for possesion of a roach. Now I had to go to court after being bailed out of the holding cell. Cost me 1,800 ive been saving working full time after school. Drug court classes 2x a week and community service. Now everytime i try and get a job there is that question have u been arrested.. Now i live in Louisiana so at 17 i was an adult so it will haunt me. The scary part is if i get arrested again for the possesion of mjh its a felony no matter the amount, then all the doors close. We need to take a stand for our future generation.
Thank you so much for writting this article. Now it just needs to be posted and displayed EVERYWHERE so that every college student and parent can read it.
As a new 18 year old college student myself, I can completely agree with every point made in this article. The description of young people smoking in dorms, cars, parking lots and parks is also completely 100% dead on even if most right wing parents don’t want to admit their perfect children maybe doing this. I personally can relate to smoking in 3/4 of these places within the last 30 days.
Cops are out to get us, or at least that is the mindset of most American teenager developed from a very early age. Very few kids, even straight edge ones who do not smoke and have nothing to fear from cops, view police as corupt government officials who cannot be trusted.
Parents really do need to take a stand for their children regardless of their marijuana beliefs. So what if a parent thinks smoking marijuana is 100% wrong? Parents should realize more than anyone that children will make miskates and because of our current drug laws a single inccident involving marijuana could ruin your child’s future FOREVER! Parents cannot preach unconditional love and forgiviness if they still continue to support laws that go against both of those values!
The people who are working to reform the current marijuana laws SHOULD be working with the youth because it really does have the biggest impact on us! Notice there are no commericals targeting adult smokers. EVERY anti drug commerical that comes to mind focus on a teenager or young person. And every person I can think of that has been arrested or charged for marijuana crimes (not counting the simply stupid and irresponisble adults who DO NOT smoke marijuana according to NORML guidelines) has been a young high school and college age person. Older adults have different circumstances in which they can smoke: more money and a steady income, as well as houses or other low risk places. Young people have NOTHING but what we do NEED is parents and adults willing to fight on our behave!
I was just recently busted on two counts of use (Marijuana of course) and put on probation, I have to go to court on November 7th where I have no Idea what will happen. I too, as well as my whole group of friends see the cops as just a bunch of hard asses on a power trip, out to bust whomever they can. This needs to be addressed and I’m glad you guys here at NORML are working and working hard to get this stuff straightened out.
Well im a 20 year old whos been smoking marijuana since i was about 13 before that i had eating disorders and insomnia in little time i over came the eating disorder and its not like i had the ”munchies” i just started being able to have a regular diet and i started being able to sleep more now that im screwed on probation as not being able to fund all the fines they throw at you court costs lawyer costs then probation costs then they tell you you need rehab classes which could be thousands its like lets put these kids in debt and give them alot of stress and maybe theyll wanna quit wrong in fact it makes me sick it makes me want to scream at the top of roof tops and feel the need to smoke even more to releive the stress and it doesnt cause depression it helps and improves the quality of life of all the people if not why would so many ppl be doing it so many people die and end up crawling on the ground from drinking to much the most youll see is some one falling asleep on marijuana its rediculous the goverment is money hungry thinking that this is the way they can make more money instead of regulating it why else would they not legalize theyve seen the facts they legalize every drug that kills people rx over the counter xanax opiates oxycotton legal heroine? but not legal pot across the nation again this makes me sick! and alot of whats said here is true especially about the hanging around drug dealers and being in places that attracts law enforcement seeing we are the youth generation but im a very responsible driver and i think it doesnt affect my driving what so ever but its not like im smoking while im driving but i have smoked then went out and drove home which if any thing it decreased my speed made and made me more aware and to another point its really sad when im scared to live every day not knowing that if im going to prison or not just cause i smoked marijuana to imporve the quality of my life they send fear threw out me but it only makes it more stressful and i end up smoking more so i guess the goverments doing a great job killing thousands of people every year and arresting all of the innocent bravo corrupt goverment.
I totally agree that if they legalize it, access to marijuana would be regulated just like tobacco and alcohol. Crime would drop dramatically, the government would make hella cash, and money could go to a lot more serious things than busting a kid smoking a blunt and bothering nobody.
Thank you! This is what I like to see. Turn the tables on the Drug Warriors.
I agree with this article entirely and definitely support its message. As an 18 year old however, raised in the 90s by fairly liberal parents, I can’t recall anyone ever expressly telling me any specific dangers of smoking pot. As such, I know about weed and its effects and also know that harder drugs are considerably more dangerous. I certainly have no plans to begin snorting coke or shooting heroine or tweaking or anything like that simply because I have smoked pot. The statement that young people think that, because the government lied to them about pot, that they will then think that harder drugs will be the same, is untrue in my experience. I have yet to meet anyone who was actually unaware of the dangers of hard drugs and just assumed they were safe when they did them. Usually their choice was at least partially informed.
It’s really a shame that there’s not enough of an active voice for young people. And the laws regarding marijuana punish people unfairly. A non-violent marijuana offense can disqualify you from state funded educational loans and grants, where as a violent, repeat-offender can obtain state funded educational loans in the same system.
i got my first dui at 18 because i smoked a blunt and drove home with my friends. i got pulled over at about 11 pm by a state trooper who was pulled off the road with no lights on. the actual police in my hometown are super corrupt and probably smoke more than i do, but they gladly bust pot heads daily. the point is if i could have stayed home and smoked i would have but my mom has been influenced that pot is the devil and will only lead me to harder drugs and death.. laaame. maybe if drug education was better we’d make some headway in the legalization process.
One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned for this demographic is the fact that younger pot smokers are unfortunately not as experienced in the ways of NOT getting busted.
The majority of people I heard about who got busted when I was younger happened because they were doing something stupid. I.E. smoking in public places, driving under the influence, doing things to draw attention to themselves, etc.
Just be smart about it people!
yeah i def. agree with this cause i’m 17 and i got busted for the big MJ last year when i was 16 which means that in ct i was trialed as an adult and almost went to jail cause one of my friends was 15 so he was a minor… actually when all of this happened the stupid cops totally only found all of are pieces and seemed to overlook and ounce of bud and a whole box full of plastic bongs and scales so not only do i hate cops but they are also extremely stupid
Great article/speach watever it is I comletely agree espicially since i fall into the under 30 demographic and have had issues with the law over ganja in the past…these laws are ridiculous and they are affecting a large portion of my generation. how are kids spossed to move up in life when they cant land a job becuase of a pot conviction, or lose their license due to an arrest. It affects us in many ways and i feel it could b damaging to the futures of a lot of good young people and this hypocracy needs to end NOW!
as someone who has been arrested for possession and paraphernalia I am now applying to college, but now I cant go to the coast guard academy, because I have an arrest. In no way was smoking weed dangerous to me, I had to take a drug test twice a week for two months, and passed all of them. These laws are crap, and the cops in my town look for me and my friends. we hate them. They dont care if they fuck up our lives, as long as they fuck us.
Just smoke that shit and don’t be stupid about it. I’m 25, have been smoking for 9 years and have never had a run-in with the law. One day it will be legal, but until then just be smart and find a safe place to get high. Don’t drive when you smoke…you are 10x more likely to get arrested if you make a mistake while driving and your car smells like dope.
Sure our nation’s pot laws don’t make sense and some police are corrupt assholes, but if you have any degree of common sense then you can easily avoid arrest and prosecution. Be responsible… don’t smoke in your parent’s home and don’t drive while smoking. Pot is not bad, bullshit laws that corrupt our society are bad. Be safe. Peace
I’m 44 years old. . . I have been smokin pot since I was 13. . . I think it’s funny (not ‘ha-ha’ but strange) that all of my life I have been told that smoking pot makes one stupid, yet I still have an IQ of 135-143 (depending on which test I take).
I think it’s funny (not ‘ha-ha’ but strange) that most of the anti-drug commercials on TV are about pot. . . not heroin, cocaine, meth, or other dangerous addictive drugs. . . just benevolent ol’ ganja, the one substance that, in 5,000 years of recorded history, has never killed anyone.
I think it’s funny (not ‘ha-ha’ but strange) that the Federales continue to violate the Bill of Rights by refusing to acknowledge those States which have enacted laws regarding the medical uses of Cannabis (specifically the 5th, 8th, and 10th Amendments).
I think it’s past time that We, the People, the True Rulers of this country, take a more active approach to end this War on (Non-Corporate) Drugs. . .
Let us start to levy the traditional punishment for Treason to all of those Traitors who are involved in this illegal war against the Citizens of the United States.
Okay…I am an Art Student…and, I just returned home from working on Art project. I stopped by a local watering hole to have a couple of beers…And, I had a great conversation with a local police officer about Legalizing Marjuana. Here is my spill. Marjuana should be legal, just like alcohol…but you must be at least 21, and if Marjuana becomes legal…is should be sold in a cafe’ so no joints are laced with illegal substances. i.e. “Cocaine’ or any other substances. Marjuana is healthier than Smoking or Drinking excessive alcohol. Yes, I do smoke and drink…but in moderation. Also, I do smoke Marjuana occasionally…and I strongly feel that if there is no victime, then where is there a crime. I even emailed our senators of Georgia to let them know that Marjuana should be legalized. Also, taxing it just like tobacco should help the state of georgia. I was born and raised in California…but now I am in Georgia, and we really need to ensure Marjuana becomes legal…because anyone who smokes it is primarlly peaceful and loving. I am not goting to get philosophical about it…but lets get this prohibition out of place…
Speaking with the Police Officer this evening was a great conversation. He feels that it should be legalized if we tax it and as along as is it legal for people who are 21 or older.
Well, I have a lot more to say about this issue…but for now this should suffice.
Pt laws in America serve two primary purposes for law enforcement:
1. They allow the police in an increasingly police state to assemble a “jacket” on citizens,(the younger and sooner the better) upon arrest that includes name, address, fingerprints and now even DNA and,
2. They provide police with huge latitude in conducting searches that otherwise would not be permissable
To win this fight we have to understand how non-smoking parents think.
They don’t care about marijuana, so appealing to them on the grounds that marijuana’s safer than alcohol is useless.
But they do care about their image, and about their security, and about their kids attending “good” schools and leading “good” lives. Legalization can help them reach these goals, that is why *they* need to fight for it.
Legalize the sale of marijuana to adults and they’ll eliminate its sale to their children. That’ll protect *their* kids from drug dealers, needless arrests, and from the effects of marijuana itself.
Legalize the sale of marijuana in licensed establishments and they’ll have the choice of living away from these places, just as they can choose to live away from bars today.
A better future is waiting for the non-smokers of America when they learn the benefits legalization holds for them. To win this fight *we* need MASSIVE support. We need non-smokers to realize that their future quality of life *depends* on legalization.
I believe an opportunity available to us to help stimulate this is to create parent-oriented groups and websites as resource centers to provide for the needs of people raising kids. These groups/sites would draw people to them with their invaluable information and professional image, and they would just happen to include clear details of why legalization is essential to the security and goals of non-smoking parents. [note: to be effective, these groups should *not* be associated in any way with any reformist organizations]
..just my 2 cents lol
You make a great point here. The war on drugs truly is a war against young people, and they wonder why there is so much negativity towards the police in youth culture?? The sad thing is that the war on drugs actually has harmed the police force in the worst way. They have to spend hours and hours (some entire careers) tracking down and arresting those who chose to use marijuana or other drugs. They are arresting people for making a personal choice where there is no victim whatsoever. Yet we have incarcerated 20 plus million! It really is a social injustice, and I will be an advocate against the war on drugs till the day it ends or the day I die. We cannot allow politicians to put the war on drugs on the backburner and make up excuses as to why its not high on their priority list. I recently wrote a blog about how we can drastically cut government spending. Needless to say, the war on drugs needs to end.
You have no idea how much this article has actually touched me. I’m a 21 year old hair stylist; made it through beauty school addicted to heroin. And I must say, the current drug laws have RUINED my life.
The civil injustice of what these laws do to people my age is completely redundant. They say, ‘it’s for the kids!’, but I WAS a kid, and I made some mistakes. But I’m literally, STILL paying for those choices I made.
I was arrested @ 16 years old for possession, on school property. I was young, and stupid, and had a little black one hitter in my purse. A freshman, accused me of stealing EIGHT dollars from her- so in turn, the next day after she accused me, my vice principal pulled me into her office, and started searching through my things. Now, mind you, they were looking for EIGHT dollars. I HAD eight dollars on me @ the time. I did NOT take the girls money, for the record. When she searched through my things, she found the pipe, the schools SRO tested it, and of course I was arrested, expelled, AND my parents were called.
Now, that’s NOT the kicker. It get’s so much better.
Because I was kicked out of school, for drug possession, KANSAS state law says I was not allowed to return to school for the remainder of the year I wasn’t going to finish (obviously), was not allowed to go back to school for an entire school year, was not going to recieve ANY of my credits for that year.
Exactly a year and a week later, I was arrested AGAIN, @ 17 for possession. It was a week before my 18th birthday, and my friends mother was hosting a little shin-dig, for me. So, trying to respectful, me and 2 of my friends went out to smoke a couple bong loads in my car, which was parked on the curb infront of their house. It was the ONLY place to park, because they lived on a busy street in a small town, and their driveway was only big enough to fit their moms Intrepid. BEFORE we could even smoke our first bowl, blue lights flashed behind me. The cop said that because my car was on the curb, we were on public property and my car was, of course, searched, and we were arrested. In Kansas, a second drug offense is considered a felony. But luckily, I hadn’t yet turned 18, so they filed it as another misdemeanor.
EXACTLY a week and a half later, while heading to drop off the ONLY bit off pot I had in the car, to my best friend, THE SAME COP, pulls me over for having a tail light out. My tail light WAS NOT OUT, it was DIM, because my alternater was allmost shot. Because of being on probation for my first offense, they forced me to sign a waiver that approved any state official the right to search me, my person, my things, my vehicle AND any person that was with me.
SO, of course, Officer Dickhead, who allready has arrested me a week prior, searches my car, finds the joint I had rolled for my friend, field tests it, and takes me to jail, for a 3rd time.
It still gets better..
Because of the third drug charge, and now the small fact that I was on probation, AND that I had just turned 18, they filed it as a felony. My probation officer catches wind of this, and of course is given this case as well to handle, PV’s me and tells me ‘some jail time is in order’.
Jail time, ok. 30 days, I can do without even breaking a sweat.
1-3 years in Prison, 2-3 years of LEVEL 3 Community Corrections!
Well, my dad was not going to allow this. (In the interum, my mother had passed away unexpectadly, during my junior year of HS.) So my dad, and I have this really intense conversation. The result: Fuck going to prison, over some weed. MOVE OUT OF STATE.
My dad came to me the NEXT day with 2 tickets to San Diego (where my mom was from..) and sent me there not even a week later, (before my trial for jail time occured.) Currently, I have a bench warrant for a failure to appear because of said move.
It’s now 5 years later from the first time I was ever busted. My mom died. My brother went in and out of rehab, learned to play the guitar, and is doing VERY well!
I however, during my stay in Cali, got addicted to heroin because @ the time, my current deadbeat boyfriend, beat my ass so hard I’d had 2 misscarriages, and numerous trips to the ER.
I went through beauty school in Cali, addicted. The second I got my liscence I told my dad to come get me, I stayed @ his house for 2 weeks, withdrawling, and sobered up.
A week later, (because of the POT charges, I STILLLLL had warrants), my then, current boyfriend (who was from Boston), drove down from MA, and drove back with me.
We lived together for 8 months, before things got so emotionally, and physically unstable, I kicked HIM out. And now, this was 7 months ago, and all be it, I learned alot of valuable life lessons; I had to grow up, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to fast.
Teenagers shouldn’t be worrying about jail time, addiction, pregnancy, physical/sexual abuse all because of a chain reaction resulting from a stupid law.
I haven’t seen my father more than 2 times since he sent me to San Diego, and that was 4 years ago.
We, as in myself and my family, have decided once I finish up a few schooling things here in Mass, come home, get an attorney, and fight these bullshit juvenile charges, and maybe, JUST maybe, I’ll get to have my family just like everyone else has; and so very often is taken for granted.
My point being– all because of pot, and the current drug laws, it LITERALLY ripped my family apart. And now, more than ever, I want to be with my father, (especially because he’s my sole parent) I’d love to be with him– but can’t because of all the active warrants, from charges I got as a juvenile..
Thank you, for writing this. Maybe if we can make a change, we can prevent this kind of heartache for other families and teens out there, so maybe they won’t suffer like my family and I have.
a rope: wow, great post. everyone here has them. what needs to be done is a grass roots (no pun intended) subversive kind of thing that cuts the beast of marijuana prohibition off at the knees. to do that, people need to talk….getting organized is good, too, but some people are not joiners. talk with your cannabuddies about it. have them do the same. and so on, and so on.