On October 1, 2014, Maryland will loosen the penalties for the possession of marijuana from any amount being cause for arrest to permitting an individual to possess less than 10 grams without being arrested. Individuals would be expected to pay a fine similar to that of a traffic ticket. Community leaders and some lawmakers suggest that this new law is a step in the right direction and will reduce the barriers experienced by offenders after their convictions to things such as access to quality employment opportunities and education. Others are happy with the new law because they argue that African Americans are disproportionately targeted with respect to marijuana convictions in the state and the changes made to existing legislation will go a long way in reducing racial disparities. While this might sound positive to most, what strikes me as strange is the insistence that those individuals who have broken the law are victims of circumstance and it’s not fair to hold them accountable for their actions. What will Maryland look like in the next 10 years when our lawmakers seem very comfortable with accommodating those individuals who have a clear inability to follow the boundaries set by society?
Now to be perfectly honest with you, I am one of those individuals who sees the world in black and white. Growing up, I was told to follow a few simple rules of life to ensure smooth sailing. Those rules include: doing the right thing, owning your mistakes, avoid breaking any laws, avoid illegal substances, be honest and kind, and work hard. Being the silly child that I was…I actually listened!!! Perhaps this is why the new law, essentially legalizing marijuana, has really pissed me off! I agree with the argument that once a person has paid their debt to society for their offense that they should not constantly carry around a stigma of being a criminal (with a few exceptions for folks who are child molesters or habitual thieves). What I do not agree with is changing our laws to somehow make it easier for them to continue their degenerate behavior. Smoking pot is a public safety concern for numerous reasons. We do not want children to get their hands on the substance, I definitely would not appreciate it being sold openly in the streets, and I would hope no one would want people driving under the influence of marijuana since it has been deemed more harmful than the effects of alcohol because of its varying results on individuals. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not a fan of Marijuana – rather the opposite. Yes, I have participated in buying marijuana edibles online, as well as vape juice. There is nothing wrong with people who buy edibles online as long it’s done in a controlled and healthy manner!
Another argument for reducing marijuana penalties I find particularly insulting is the one that says African Americans have been unfairly targeted and prosecuted for possession of marijuana over the past decade. I’m not going to argue against the idea that African Americans may be treated unfairly in the justice system. But this fact can apply to just about any situation in which an African American is being accused of a crime!!! African Americans are more likely to be convicted of murder, be identified by an eye witness despite possibly having nothing to do with the crime scene, and they are most likely to be convicted of a crime with the most circumstantial of evidence. These are all claims that can be verified by a simple Google search! It’s an issue this country has tried to address many times to no avail. So I guess my question to African Americans who are constantly breaking the law is…why would you keep doing something you know is illegal since you have a higher occurrence of being convicted and permanently stigmatized? I’m an African American and I have never been unfairly treated by the justice system because I have never done anything to put myself in such a situation. Accountability is key and we all must own our mistakes and accept the consequences. We cannot become a society that treat those who disregard our rules as victims because they are constantly being caught…that’s stupid.
All being said and done, I’m ultimately a fan of medical marijuana. It has a lot of great uses as found on Calm Effect, and I believe it will be a strong addition to the medical advances of the next few decades – but it isn’t without issues.
If Maryland is going to remain a great state, it is going to have to truly work on doing what’s best for all of its citizens and avoid constantly trying to “right the wrongs of the world” by taking actions that are horribly inappropriate! Changing marijuana laws is only one example of where Maryland has dropped the ball and if this is going to be a place where I raise my kids…it’s going to have to do a little better than it has been addressing domestic issues.