When Larger Issues Take Center Stage

C1_8734_r_xThese past few days have truly been a sad time for most Americans, as we witnessed two more unjustified civilian killings by the police, raising obvious issues of racial bias; followed by the tragedy in Dallas in which five police officers were killed by a sniper, apparently in response to the aforementioned civilian killings.

A cycle of unjustified killings by police followed by unjustified killing of police. Regardless of your political persuasion, it is seriously disturbing that these incidents appear to be occurring more frequently, not less.

Anyone watching cable news could be excused for thinking the country is coming apart at the seams; 24-hour coverage of the carnage leaves the impression that none of us are safe, wherever we live or work. But we must not permit those who would resort to violence to define who we are.

Despite our problems, the reality is far less frightening. Yes, these latest incidents surely underscore the unresolved tensions between the police and many in the minority communities; and the unresolved racism that permeates much of society.

But in truth, most of us live good, productive and peaceful lives, largely free from violence; and we do our best to contribute to a society that treats all individuals, regardless of race, in a fair and equal manner. We still have a great distance to travel to achieve these lofty goals, but the great majority of Americans are committed to making that journey.

I acknowledge this column, unlike my usual columns, has little to do with legalizing marijuana. And that is purposeful.

Sometimes, when tragic events occur, we must set aside our personal crusades for a brief respite, while we join our fellow citizens in expressing our common grief and our common commitment to stop this madness. Our daily work routine, regardless of how important we may think it is, pales in comparison to these larger, overriding issues of peace and justice.

This is one of those times.

Yes, it is important that we end marijuana prohibition and stop the senseless arrest of marijuana smokers. And we will continue to move legalization forward.

But for today, let’s (symbolically) join hands with our fellow citizens in Dallas and Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights, MN, and all across this country, and acknowledge our role in the larger society, and our obligation to work for the just society we all want.

As Rodney King famously said, “Can’t we all just get along?”

34 thoughts

      1. What’s your point? Are you saying I’m wrong? Or do you truly fail to grasp the obvious?

        I state in the affirmative that BLACK LIVES MATTER, precisely because your assumption that all lives matter cannot be taken for granted in America. That is why it must be stated explicitly that BLACK LIVES MATTER just as much as any other lives.

        You seem to be missing the point of the statement “BLACK LIVES MATTER”: we live in a society that values black lives less than white lives!

        Before ALL LIVES MATTER can be considered true, first it must become true that BLACK LIVES MATTER! Only when BLACK LIVES MATTER in America will it be possible truthfully say that ALL LIVES MATTER in America.

  1. Well said Keith – these are strange times indeed.

    Would you have the latest on the prospects of a cannabis initiative in CA? I read not long ago that some bundles of signatures were being validated, but has there been a conclusion? Will legal recreational MJ be on the ballot?

    Thanks, Kyle (Colorado)

  2. A “great distance to travel” indeed. Thank you for a refreshing perspective on our collective attention to race, violence and law enforcement within our society, as it relates… or not… to marijuana legalization.
    Often times, my brothers laugh that my views on problems in politics and society are always jaundiced by the impression that the solution always pertains to the legalization of cannabis. Sometimes, with injuries in the NFL or our veterans with PTSD, I am right. Other times, like when a white or asian cop allows his fears to impede his clinical judgement and pulls the trigger on a black man reaching for his wallet, as per the officer’s orders, suggesting marijuana legalization could have prevented that situation requires a bit of a stretch of the imagination… Perhaps a decades-long stretch.
    Nonetheless, there is no denying that after 75 years of suffering the catastrophic consequences of racist marijuana prohibition propaganda including but not limited to disproportionate incarceration and a civil war of state sponsored terror, child custody, family separation and exploitation of minority communities for asset forfeitures, predatory fees, fines and medical bills, corrupt legal kickbacks and laundering campaign donations, private prison quotas, beurocratic parasitic behavior and the list does go on, we can see how marijuana prohibition has contributed to the cyclical socioeconomic inequality and minority distrust of local law enforcement that preys upon those they are sworn to protect. There is also no doubt that the increase in race-based police violence adds another layer of difficulty as activists and advocates for groups like NORML or Law Enforcement Against Prohibition to focus our law makers on how legalization is part of the solution, and prohibition is part of the problem.

  3. The solution is called whole-plant preventive medicine. And instead of drugging us, imprisoning, dividing and isolating us from eachother just to sell a patented molecule with more side effects than solutions, marijuana challenges us as a society to apply a variety of non toxic cannabinoids to a variety of problems to feed our various deficiencies, rather than play whack-a-mole with our bodies and communities and only cause more harm.
    Marijuana challenges our entire fucked up tunnel-visioned, single-study, patent-for-profit scientific rewards system, turns it on its side and invites us to reward a more peer-based review of our systemic problems in our society.
    Marijuana reminds us that there is more violence in silence, allows us to manage but perceive the origins of our pain, and look shamelessly for collective solutions, where the reward is not a grant, a title, a patent or personal wealth; the reward of taking a puff of cannabis and sharing our thoughts is a collective bargain where the second or third study is vital to the scientific process.
    And who knows? Perhaps there will be a place some day where law enforcement can sit down with the communities they represent, smoke a joint, and start looking for real solutions like directing unemployed young men to work programs or putting a joint instead of a gun in the hands of someone talking about suicide? What kind of world would that be? One where cops, social workers and nurse practioners work with cannabis to engage their local community and prevent violence instead of allowing our private insurance lobbyists, beurocracies and pharmaceutical industries to prey upon and incite violence? Is my green jaundice so great that I cant say cannabis is not always the solution, but a tool in the old medicine box that permits us to treat multiple problems more openly?

  4. Knowing there is less an “either or” solution but “both and more” we can finally see how all our problems are related; that there is no silver bullet to systemic hatred and violence, only love, prevention and treatment through a history of knowledge and a tool box full of herbs and seeds that treat the whole list of problems at once, and never rules anything out by focusing too much on one problem, one solution, or the history of knowledge our ancestors worked so hard to provide us with, less it shall be forgotten.

  5. As Americans we all have common goals. We all want to see our country be great. We want for our people to work together for our common good. The vast majority of us condemn senseless violence. We care about our families and work to provide for them and to take care of them. We work to better ourselves. We all deal with the anxiety that the divisiveness and hate that comes from prejudice.

    The marijuana laws that most of the people in this country must live by have been put in place because of racism and greed. It is one of the many things that create a divide in our country and keeps us from working together for the common good.

    I ask those in power in our Federal Govt: Can we please end the practice of marijuana prohibition? It is truly causing much more harm than good. If you truly care about the people of this country and want to do what is right let’s end it now! Stop persecuting your fellow citizens for making what should be not only an American right but a human right. We should all have the right to choose what to eat, what medication to be treated with, and to be able to make our own choice about a recreational substance.

    The people of this country should not have to beg our leaders to do what is so obviously the right thing to do, but I am so tired of the hate and suffering that has been caused by the anti-marijuana laws that I am begging: Please, please, end the incarceration of your marijuana using citizens, Please stop stealing our stuff via asset allocation. Please end the bullying, name calling (potheads indeed), and lies that users are stupid or useless. If we can end the prejudice against the LGBT community, surely we can end the prejudice against marijuana consumers.

  6. Reforming our nations drug laws is front and center in this debate. The majority of encounters with police are for simple marijuana possession.

    And a tid bit of personal advice, no matter who you are, resisting arrest never ends well. Do your best to communicate to the policy you are not a physical threat to them. If they act in an unprofessional manner, use the judicial system to bring charges. Do not take the law into your own hands. The system is not set up that way. Follow “Hands up, don’t shoot” literally.

    Take charge of your own communities. Get involved. Become hands on. Don;t expect anyone to give you anything.

    Stay safe, and act like a model citizen when out in public.


  7. Thank you for this post, and thank you for this site. May all of these obsolete divisive laws and thought patterns, prejudices, stigmas, and fears soon be undercut by wisdom, loving compassion, understanding, unity, respect, and acceptance. Keep it peaceful, and keep up the good fight, man!

  8. Disappointed in the statment. unjustified civilian shooting by police. Their is an on goin investigation into the shootings so by that statment it is only your opinion. I would hope that you would let the investigation take place before making a comment as such.

    1. As Trevor Noah points out, we have the videos! And they unambiguously document the unjustified civilian killings by police.

      When there’s a video of a criminal stealing from a cash register, we don’t pretend like we can’t believe our eyes. Why would we do it for cops? Cops are criminals too, you know! And this isn’t embezzlement, this is manslaughter! Yeah, it’s a big freakin deal!

      Does the evidence violate your faith in cops? That’s understandable, if you happen to be white.

      1. Cops called for a man threatening a man with a gun then he want to resist arrest sry im shooting as well if I feel threated. As for the other shooting I cant comment haven’t seen it.But like I said til the investigation is completed no one needs to say it was unjustified.

      2. You’re still having trouble with this??
        Still not seeing the problem here?

        Wow, you’re definitely the kind of person that shouldn’t own a gun.

    2. Just for the record, based on what I’ve seen and heard, the police are guilty of murder in both of the two recent killings of black men. I am a white man by the way.

      I admit it is possible that some missing information could justify the police actions but I really doubt it. I believe that many of the men in blue are just criminals in disguise. I also believe there are many good men in blue and if they are really doing their duty they need to be purging the bad ones and calling them out instead of protecting them as part of the police brotherhood.

  9. However difficult it may be, we must remain peaceful in our efforts to effect thoughtful, positive change.

    That the police are put into the untenable position of enforcing local marijuana laws which are derived from the dubious federal definition of marijuana, is a circumstance that we are trying to end. This simple reform of that definition will decrease the extent of their untenable position, and should lead to more support for the rescheduling of marijuana:

    Sec.802.(16). The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company.

    The Constitutional principles that will be re-enforced by this reform were posted in reply to Julian’s great idea of a citizen lobby, with further explanation in reply to Mexweed, in the June 23, 2016 blog by Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director, which is titled, “Congressional Leadership Resists Bipartisan-Backed Marijuana Reforms”. It posits how lobbying by citizens could cause this reform to be taken up by Congress.
    Just paste the title into the NORML search box at the top of the page.

    A coded restatement of this reform, which those of us “in the know” will understand, could encourage more people to help correct the situation, for themselves, their children, the police, the military veterans, and the medically suffering. It could be put onto T-shirts as a conversation starter. Wear one, and save it as a valuable memento of your efforts:

    99% * 710 => 420

    This year is a good time to engage in the conversation.

    P.S. There is some “breaking news” political support here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/07/09/democrats-call-for-pathway-to-marijuana-legalization/

    1. Oops, left out a factor. The T-shirt formula should be:

      99% * 0.3 * 710 => 420

      It speaks to a wider audience.

      1. Oops, I did it again. I forgot the percent sign.

        30% = 0.3
        3% = 0.03
        0.3% = 0.003

        The correct T-shirt formula is:

        99% * 0.3% * 710 => 420

        “Damn. I probably put a decimal in the wrong place. I always DO that!” – Michael Bolton, Office Space.

  10. Burn them All! As long as I cannot get weed at wal-mart I am highly annoyed. 40 years of bs over a plant is way worse than 5 police officers.

  11. I think the drug war spawned all this violence.

    When it was crack in the inner city, we needed swat teams, mandatory minimums, and prisons for profit.

    Now despite of a trillion dollar drug war, a heroin epidemic sweeps the country everywhere, both urban and rural. Suddenly it’s an epidemic. Addiction is a disease. Users need treatment, not jail.

    Meanwhile, sanctimonious Rep. Andy Harris MD (R) unilaterally thwarts the will of a super-majority of inner city voters in DC. He says he did it ‘for the children’. One third of all black men younger than 25 have gone to jail. A criminal record means you get to decide whether to grunt for the minimum wage for the rest of your life or make $2000 a day dealing on the street. The system creates criminals.

    1. Thanks for that succinct correct sentence about criminal record = minimum wage. One half of the new $lavery, the other being Nicotine $lavery.

      Harris “did it for the children”– those arrests of black men made millions of kids fatherless, didn’t it. You could write Harris asking what he did to PREVENT 900,000 American kids getting hooked on nicotine $igarettes each year*, one of the disasters cannabis legalization will PREVENT as Julian noted above.

      *with ca. 44.44% chance of early death, and costing US econ. $289-bil/yr. according to 2014 Surgeon Gen. Report

    2. We need to make a separation: Guys like Andy Harris are crackers. He talks about helping the very people he seeks to target with unjustified arrests. He is the New Jim Crow. He is a doctor and cannot claim, “But I had no idea marijuana is no big deal! I thought I was right!” He is well informed, he knows the history of previous failed prohibitions and he knows he is promoting crime. Black Lives Don’t Matter as long as we keep letting Crackers have authority. This bullshit is untenable.

  12. Donald Trump has declard himself the law-and-order candidate. In order for him to achieve his goal of making crime-ridden poor (read that as black and latino) neighborhoods he can simply put in more law enforcement and excalate the war on drugs. Or, he can also legalize cannabis so that a positive piss test for THC is NO LONGER a barrier to getting a job. And training and apprenticeships for jobs that pay well so folks don’t have to work two or three part-time minimum wage jobs either. If you want to improve public education in poverty- stricken areas then building up the tax base–wage and real estate–is something that has to be taken into account.

    Give people a job, something else to do to get money instead of engaging in illegal activities in order to get by. A green job in the legal cannabis sector starts off at what something linke $17 an hour.

    In Pennsylvania the fix is in for rich folk to control legal medical marijuana, you know, based on the cost of the applications, permits, and amount of cash reserves required by law. I’d shit a brick (of Nepalese Temple Ball hash) if any of the cannabis jobs actually are located in walking distance of poor areas where folks don’t have cars and cant’ get to cannabis jobs if they are not on a decent bus route.


    1. A cannabis job any Pennsylvanian could get to even without a bus line would be created by using a room in any house in the neighborhood that has electricity to manufacture non-wasteful FLEXDRAWTUBE ONEHEATERS (see Methods 1 and 2 in free wiki article, “12 Easy Ways to Make 25-mg-Serving-Size Single-Toke Utensils from #40 Screen and $1.29 Worth of Ordinary Junk Left Lying in Your Garage by the Previous God).

      Workers in your neighborhood could also learn how to make food pantry shelving (so food doesn’t get hidden under other food) from left-over lumber discards, deadbranch walksticks for oldfolks, imaginative education toys for infants and toddlers, and many other Creative Reuse products which– guess what– Cannabis confers on its users a seemingly divine energy and perception to invent and build.

  13. Of course, it is because of drug war policies and attitudes which are so prevalent and so institutionalized, that they now generate these tragically predictable encounters. Those of us resisting drug prohibition understand that we are fighting a policy rooted in racism and meant from its inception to serve as a means of suppression and control against demographic groups disliked, feared, or distrusted by the power structure. Professor Michelle Alexander has accurately labelled the system of mass incarceration, which is driven by drug prohibition (chiefly marijuana prohibition) as “the New Jim Crow.” Declaring “war on drugs” was a masquerade. It’s a war on people–primarily (although not exclusively) on black and brown people. Yet the propaganda and brainwashing aspect of that assault has been so effective that even now, many leaders of the protests against these drug-war-inspired police practices–the tactical militarization, the objectification of victims, the racial profiling, the “I-smell-marijuana” pretext for police stop/search encounters, the spying and surveillance and snitching–even now, protesters often are unwilling to demand ending the racist drug war as the single most critical reform which will lead to restoring human respect, community peace, and civilian liberties. In Minnesota, site of the recent outrage, this has been our message. Back in 1986, in the first campaign flyer issued by the Grassroots Party, we specifically denounced the racist roots of the drug prohibition laws and we condemned Nancy Reagan’s demand for “intolerance” against “drugs” as an invocation of the historical spirit of racial discrimination and cultural witch hunting. We predicted that attempts to enforce drug prohibition would give rise to the high-tech police state we now are experiencing. The role of advocates for common sense on cannabis should become a key piece of the solution to the domestic crisis in our nation.

  14. Decisive drug laws must, in part, be responsible for the adversarial atmosphere between law enforcement and some communities and ethnicities. There is a lot of healing to be done and your work over the past 40 years is extremely positive in helping the situation

  15. I’m currently in Switzerland collecting the ashes of my father from a tragic suicide that I believe would have been %90 preventable if he tried cannabis like I kept telling him to. I kept in close conversation with him over the phone for seven years since the last time I saw him. Arriving here, Ive been putting a puzzle together investigating the mystery of his death and made some astonishing comparisons between Swiss and American society that are worth noting.
    First, there are virtually no police here. The only down side of that is they don’t answer the door right away in small towns when you need to investigate a murder. My new friends here say they get pummeled about during protests. Other than that, the social network of Swiss life, the mandatory medical care, the government assistance of $7,000 franks for a family to pull out of cyclical poverty, the non for profits and above all, the lack of a police-state drug war ridden with disproportionate incarceration and asset forfeitures is astoundingly successful. Everyone follows the rules because life is too good to throw it all away by creating a rare, tragic encounter with authorities. I’m certain that had my fathers wife not involved the polizei in their seperation, he having few options and coming from the U.S. where such involvements have devastating consequences… He may have not taken his own life even without some weed.
    I will note one detriment we should look at; the people who openly consume marijuana here are mostly vagabond Swiss hippies, still stigmatized in a society that is slowly becoming educated to legalization.

    1. I am sorry for your pain.

      I have experienced something similar. Ordinarily I wouldn’t discuss it here; but your candor about your father compels me to mention it. And that is the following: I lost a very dear friend to suicide, a very dear friend who got tangled up in legal pharmaceuticals in an attempt to deal with his psychological issues, but who would not use marijuana because of it’s illegal status, and it’s cultural demonization.

      Although it was a suicide, I blame the pharmaceutials, and marijuana prohibition, for his death, because they put him in that mental corner he couldn’t get out of. And I’m more angry about that than words can express.

      And there are still other people in my life, who I care deeply about, who are also caught in that cultural belief system regarding pharmaceuticals, and who are still very much at risk. But they don’t know it, or don’t believe it. Yes, I take this very personally.

      The war on drugs has ruined more lives in more ways than can even be calculated. the Glorification of legal pharmaceuticals in our society, along with the simultaneous demonization of cannbis, is just another symptom of our society’s fucked-up attitudes toward drugs.

      Marijuana prohibition is a deeply tragic combination of stupidity, malice, deception, and violence.

      1. Thank you for your kind words. Suicide as it pertains to marijuana legalization is a hot topic that must remain at the forefront of debates and legislation.
        My brother was on meds talking about suicide and even attempted once while he was on that shit in his twenties. Most anti-depressants are full of opiates and dumb down are ability to identify the origin of our pain, leaving us constantly broken and able to heal and addicted, just like Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline want us. Then there are the sideeffects like sexual disfunction (so great, I can’t feel my pain, but now I’m only horny at the most inappropriate times like during church mass or at meet the teacher night… How fucked up is that?)
        When I heard my brother was depressed and tried to kill himself he had just moved up to Austin so I drove up there one day and smoked a joint with him and told him how weed helped me brrak out of depression when I was 18. Turns out a girl broke his heart, which I didn’t know, but what I did know was our crazy old neighbor that my brother had looked up to as a role model and mentor had committed suicide recently, which devastated my brother emotionally. The old man was a Jehovah’s Witness and helped convert my brother to religion, but after his mentor blew his own head off in the driveway with a 45 and after smoking a little weed he quit that shit in a hurry. Fortunately the weed got my brother out of his opiate stupor and retreat and had him facing his problems with his usual sarcastic demeanor within a few weeks.

  16. There are three things we need to look at to be a healthy, balanced society; quality of life, cost of living and one more thing that causes so many isolated people in Switzerland to commit suicide… The pressure from a high standard of living.
    Marijuana creates homeostasis in our bodies… Balance. The more we consume as a society the more balanced our society; The more suicides we prevent as we confront our fears and view eachother more objectively; the more socioeconomically equal we will become. Legalization is about a fair standard of living in our society, where we dont force opiates on our veterans; we offer them a joint and an opportunity to work with their communities… Which reduces the need for enforcement for us all by focusing on balance and prevention. Not too high… Not too low… Just fair standards for us all. Is that too much to ask?

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