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Getting High Has Gone Legit — Funny How That All Worked Out…

The 2018 Farm Bill okayed the production of hemp, removed it from the DEA's list of Controlled Substances and changed the marijuana landscape — that doesn’t erase criminalization’s disastrous impact on the working class.

Imagine watching an affluent white lady so giddy about the shipment of legal cannabis she just ordered online that she immediately empties every bottle of red wine in the house down the Kitchen sink, and the next second is on the phone inviting the rest of the gals over because — woohoo — they’re gonna be getting high without the hangover!

A friendly doughnut-eating cop then suddenly pokes his head in Laugh-In-style, bites into his pretty pink-glazed pastry, and with a wink and a smile assures everyone that what they’re about to do is all perfectly legal.

Now, imagine you’re watching all this unfold on your television screen after another shitty day at work and you remember how a couple of stupid pot busts back in the day saddled you with a police record, tangled you up in the criminal justice system, and all but derailed any chance you had of actually climbing out of the generational poverty you were born into.

Sadly, that’s the sad scenario far too many working class people caught up in the carceral state over the last 25 years or more knows all too well.

In 2015, the New York Civil Liberties Union put out a report called “Reefer Madness: The Unfair Consequences of Marijuana Arrests in New York” in which a then 37-year-old college instructor identified as R.C. is featured. Before being busted for pot, the married father of two was a hard-working emigre from the Caribbean with high hopes of making tenure, but subsequently had to abandon those plans and reconcile himself instead to a life of uncertainty and just scraping by.

“The marijuana arrests hurt my career,” R.C. says. “It’s not easy living in a studio [apartment] with my wife and two sons. But at least I am alive. Lots of people who were sent back to Jamaica are dead in six months.”

Let’s say you somehow managed the herculean task of getting out from under the worst the criminal justice system has to throw at you — because working class people are remarkable and sometimes do that, too.

Think of how you must still feel watching the squealing rich idiots in that cannabis commercial romping around and actually being encouraged and exhorted to do the same goddamned thing that, just a few years ago, got you beaten down and locked up. 

“I felt violated, physically and emotionally,” a then 29-year-old Washington State resident named David Walker says in the same “Reefer Madness” report. Walker, who is white, was hanging out at a local park with a friend who is Black, when police officers allegedly suspecting the pair of drug use, “knocked David on the ground and pulled him through the woods and out of the park, scraping his face and legs.” Both Walker and his companion were arrested and charged with minor marijuana possession.

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“I felt attacked,” Walker continues. “I was scared for my life.”

Emotional scars like that do not fade easy. And Joe Biden’s relatively recent presidential proclamations pardoning certain marijuana offenses do not erase them — or the pain “Union Joe’s” 1994 Crime Bill helped create when he sponsored the legislation 30 years ago.

And for all its celebrated "progressiveness,” the State of New York didn’t get around to legalizing Marijuana until March 2021. Meanwhile, half the states in the country, in some way or another, still criminalize it. Pot remains totally illegal in Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas and South Carolina.

In 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union released another report looking at marijuana arrests across the nation between 2010 and 2018, and found that in every state in the country people of color were still more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people — including those states like New York which moved to legalize pot.

According to the ACLU, Black and white people may use marijuana at similar rates, but on average, a Black person was 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person.

The 2018 Farm Bill okayed the production of hemp — and removed it, along with the seeds it produces, from the DEA's list of Controlled Substances.

That was a game-changer — for the capitalist class.

There are now a number of online cannabis companies out there threading the legal morass still surrounding marijuana by hawking consumables derived from THCa Hemp — a cannabis product that one of those online companies promises “looks, smells, and feels like marijuana.” Indeed, the only difference between THCa Hemp and marijuana, they say, is it’s “100%  federally lawful.”

Sure, some of the other products these kinds of online cannabis companies are offering may look like they come straight outta Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s rolling laboratory — but it’s all completely legit and suitable for polite company because…why? It’s coming from a nice clean corporation operating within the law and selling to a largely Caucasian clientele? 

This is not about any one online cannabis company, and as already mentioned, there are a number of them out there capitalizing on “evolving” marijuana laws in the U.S. We’re talking about a really obnoxious commercial — one that inadvertently highlights the double-standard that’s always been baked into this country’s decades long war on marijuana and the systemic demonization of poor working class people of color in particular. 

Last year, The United States Sentencing Commission put out a report concluding that the “number of federal offenders sentenced for simple possession of marijuana is relatively small — declining steadily from 2,172 in fiscal year 2014 to only 145 in fiscal year 2021.”

That same report, however, also finds that over the last five fiscal years, the average prison sentence imposed on more than two-thirds of the federal offenders still being sent to jail for marijuana possession was five months.

The overwhelming majority of those incarcerated were non-citizens, male and Hispanic. Definitely, not the demographic freely enjoying the wacky weed in commercials.

But, hey — sounds like the online cannabis companies have got an excellent product there. Things keep going the way they are, and I might even be compelled to place a big order. Just hate seeing that asinine commercial and would much rather see a totally new campaign — one that recognizes it was always okay to smoke pot — and that considering the way this country operates, still might sometimes be the healthiest way to respond to all of the terrible things that go on.

At least initially — then it’s back to the fight.

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