Another free sample from the latest book offering from Rev. Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible Or Not?”
Watch the video https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8
The United States likes to portray itself as the “Land of the Free”, yet a 2013 study by the ACLU found that one out of three people in the United States are arrested by the time they are 23! 1 out 3 arrested by the time they are 23?!? You want some more shameful stats? Last year there were more than 1.6 million people arrested on drug charges and over half of those arrests were for marijuana possession alone. With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something much different – and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter. It is time to find an exit strategy from our 40 year old war on drugs that is unquestionably a failure. Here’s a few examples:
There are more African American adults under correctional control today – in prison or jail, on probation or parole – than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.
If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These men are part of a growing under-caste – not class, caste – permanently relegated by law to a second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era.
The drug war has been brutal – complete with SWAT teams, tanks, bazookas, grenade launchers, and sweeps of entire neighborhoods – but those who live in white communities have little clue to the devastation wrought. This war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, even though studies consistently show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. In fact, some studies indicate that white youth are significantly more likely to engage in illegal drug dealing than black youth. Any notion that drug use among African Americans is more severe or dangerous is nullified by the data. White youth, for example, have about three times the number of drug-related visits to the emergency room as their African American counterparts. That is not what you would guess, though, when entering our nation’s prisons and jails, overflowing as they are with black and brown drug offenders. In some states, African Americans comprise 80%-90% of all drug offenders sent to prison. This is the point at which I am typically interrupted and reminded that black men have higher rates of violent crime. That’s why the drug war is waged in poor communities of color and not middle-class suburbs.
But what about all those violent criminals and drug kingpins? Isn’t the drug war waged in ghetto communities because that’s where the violent offenders can be found? The answer is yes – in made-for-TV movies. In real life, the answer is no. The drug war has never been focused on rooting out drug kingpins or violent offenders. Federal funding flows to those agencies that increase dramatically the volume of drug arrests, not the agencies most successful in bringing down the bosses. What gets rewarded in this war is sheer numbers of drug arrests. To make matters worse, federal drug forfeiture laws allow state and local law enforcement agencies to keep for their own use 80% of the cash, cars, and homes seized from drug suspects, thus granting law enforcement a direct monetary interest in the profitability of the drug market. The results have been predictable: people of color rounded up en masse for relatively minor, non-violent drug offenses. In 2005, four out of five drug arrests were for possession, only one out of five for sales. Most people in state prison have no history of violence or even of significant selling activity. In fact, during the 1990s – the period of the most dramatic expansion of the drug war – nearly 80% of the increase in drug arrests was for marijuana possession, a drug generally considered less harmful than alcohol or tobacco and at least as prevalent in middle-class white communities as in the inner city. In this way, a new racial under-caste has been created in an astonishingly short period of time – a new Jim Crow system. Millions of people of color are now saddled with criminal records and legally denied the very rights that their parents and grandparents fought for (and in some cases, died for). Affirmative action, though, has put a happy face on this racial reality. Seeing black people graduate from Harvard and Yale and become CEO’s or corporate lawyers – not to mention the current president of the United States – causes us all to marvel at what a long way we’ve come. Recent data shows, though, that much of black progress is a myth. In many respects, African Americans are doing no better than they were when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and uprisings swept inner cities across America. The black child poverty rate is actually higher now than it was then. Unemployment rates in black communities rival those in Third World countries. And that’s with affirmative action! When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our “colorblind” society creates without affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure: the structure of racial caste. The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate. This is not Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream. This is not the promised land. The cyclical rebirth of caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare.
In a report published by reporter Tom McCarthy in The Guardian on Wednesday March 4th, 2015, police have killed more than twice as many people as reported by US government. According to this report, an average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the US went uncounted in the country’s most authoritative crime statistics every year for almost a decade. The first-ever attempt by US record-keepers to estimate the number of uncounted “law enforcement homicides” exposed previous official tallies as capturing less than half of the real picture. The new estimate – an average of 928 people killed by police annually over eight recent years, compared to 383 in published FBI data for the same time period – amounted to a more glaring admission than ever before of the government’s failure to track how many people police kill.
The revelation called into particular question the FBI practice of publishing annual totals of “justifiable homicides by law enforcement” – tallies that are widely cited in the media and elsewhere as the most accurate official count of police homicides. This bureau of justice statistics (BJS) report, produced in collaboration with RTI International, the research institute, explodes the notion – if its findings are accurate – that the figures the FBI publishes annually are anything other than hugely misleading. The data underlying the FBI tally “is estimated to cover 46% of officer-involved homicides at best” for the years 2003-2009 and 2011, the BJS report concluded. But the published FBI tallies cover even fewer of the total deaths, closer to 41%, in part because the FBI publishes no data from Florida. A separate tally of “arrest-related deaths”, conducted by BJS itself, was slightly more accurate for the years in question, capturing 49% of law enforcement homicides, at best, the report found. The report estimated “an average of 928 law enforcement homicides per year” for the years in question, suggesting that the FBI’s published count of 414 such deaths in 2009, for example, might be 124% off, while its count of 347 such deaths in 2005 might be 167% off. The years under study saw several high-profile homicides by law enforcement of unarmed civilians, such as the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant in a train station in Oakland, California – an episode that would become the subject of the award-winning film “Fruit vale Station” – and the 2006 killing of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 bullets outside a nightclub in Queens, New York. But the majority of victims in law enforcement homicides for those years not only went unnamed – they went uncounted in any one tally. Even the two counting systems combined, as overseen by the FBI and BJS, missed an average of 263 homicides by law enforcement each year, BJS found.
Academics and specialists have long been aware of flaws in the FBI numbers, which are based on voluntary submissions by local law enforcement agencies of paperwork known as supplementary homicide reports. No law requires local agencies to fill out the reports, and some agencies do not, especially not for officer-involved homicides, according to experts who have studied the issue. But no accredited source had publicly ventured to claim that the numbers published by the FBI were more than 100% wrong. That’s notwithstanding an unusually public airing of doubts about the numbers by the FBI director, James Comey, in a 2015 speech at Georgetown University. “It’s ridiculous that I can’t tell you how many people were shot by the police in this country – last week, last year, the last decade – it’s ridiculous,” Comey said. While the FBI and other government tallies have long been criticized for under-reporting, an admission of the problem at the top levels of US government is swiftly emerging. Joining Comey and Obama this year has been the outgoing attorney general, Eric Holder, who in January 2016 called the government’s accounting for use of force “unacceptable”. In a highly anticipated investigation of its own, Holder’s Justice Department released a report the following Wednesday that African Americans were subject to a full 88% of use-of-force cases actually documented by the police in Ferguson, Mo., according to a law enforcement official familiar with the department’s findings.
I have presented everything in this book the way I have to reveal the government’s not-so-surprising rationale for America’s extremist drug laws – race. The first anti-drug law in our country was a local law in San Francisco passed in 1875. It outlawed the smoking of opium and was directed at the Chinese because opium smoking was a peculiarly Chinese habit. It was believed that Chinese men were luring white women to have sex in opium dens. In 1909 Congress made opium smoking a federal offense by enacting the Anti-Opium Act. It reinforced Chinese racism by carving out an exception for drinking and injecting tinctures of opiates that were popular among whites. Cocaine regulations also were triggered by racial prejudice. Cocaine use was associated with African-Americans just as opium use was associated with the Chinese. Newspaper articles bore racially charged headlines linking cocaine with violent, anti-social behavior by blacks. A 1914 New York Times article proclaimed: “Negro Cocaine ‘Fiends’ Are a New Southern Menace: Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower Class Blacks Because They Have Taken to ‘Sniffing.'” A Literary Digest article from the same year claimed that “most of the attacks upon women in the South are the direct result of the cocaine-crazed Negro brain.” It comes as no surprise that 1914 was also the year Congress passed the Harrison Tax Act, effectively outlawing opium and cocaine.
Marijuana prohibition also had racist underpinnings. This time it was the Mexicans. Just as cocaine was associated with black violence and irrational behavior, in the southwest border towns marijuana was viewed — beginning in the early 1920s — as a cause of Mexican lawlessness. A Texas police captain from that time period suggested that marijuana gave Mexicans superhuman strength to commit acts of violence: “Under marijuana Mexicans [become] very violent, especially when they become angry and will attack an officer even if a gun is drawn on him. They seem to have no fear. I have also noted that under the influence of this weed they have enormous strength and it will take several men to handle one man while, under ordinary circumstances, one man could handle him with ease.” The American Coalition – an anti-immigrant group – claimed as recently as 1980: “Marijuana, perhaps now the most insidious of narcotics, is a direct byproduct of unrestricted Mexican immigration.”
Since then Congress has enacted a spate of comprehensive anti-drug laws with strict penalties. For example, today one can be sentenced to life for distributing one kilogram of heroin; 40 years for distributing 100 grams, and 20 years for distributing any quantity at all. Nevertheless, this has not stemmed the country’s appetite for illicit drugs in spite of every administration’s continued “war on drugs” since President Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1972, which has grown through the years to a staff of almost 10,000 employees and a budget of $2 billion annually. According to data from the 2010 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 120 million Americans 12 or older – roughly 47 percent of that population – reported illicit drug use at least once in their lifetime; 15.3 percent admitted to using an illegal drug in the prior year; and 8.9 percent – roughly 23 million people – did it within the prior month. The New York Times recently reported that one out of every 15 high school students smokes marijuana on a nearly daily basis. When it comes to sentencing, the main culprit is drugs. About half of the roughly 220,000 criminals in the federal prisons have either brought them into our country, have distributed them here, or have otherwise associated themselves with this illicit activity. This means that probably half of the $6.8 billion of the Bureau of Prisons budget is eaten up by incarcerating the criminal druggies. Half of the prison population is there because of drugs, costing us billions of dollars a year to keep them in jail.
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