There are many sacred texts in the Barrack Obama canon of progressive belief. Among the most sacred is that U.S. prisons are full of black men serving time for simple marijuana possession. This presumed truth has been taken to the mountaintop by Obama acolytes from Rob Reiner to Maxine Waters to Stephen Colbert.
And hammered home by a fanatical THC lobby group that will make you regret you ever lived if you dare question Lord Obama’s wisdom. It was only awaiting the proper moment for a Democratic politician to lay the text upon the altar of Wokeism.
So no surprise that, with a midterm election spanking of Democrats in the offing, Captain Teleprompter Joe Biden announced a couple of weeks back that he was declaring an amnesty for prisoners federally convicted of marijuana possession. (Justin Trudeau is still in holding pattern in Ottawa.)
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You’ll be shocked (cough) by the reasons President Biden acted: His move was to “right” the racial “wrongs” that the criminal justice system has allegedly perpetrated. “While white and black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionately higher rates,” Biden announced.
The only problem with this umpteenth revision to “racism explains everything” is that it’s not true. As Manhattan Institute researcher Heather Mac Donald reports, “possessing a small amount of marijuana lands no one in federal or state prison, absent more significant criminal activity … Marijuana possession convictions are usually the result of plea bargaining down from more serious charges, whether drug trafficking or other felonies.” Fun fact: the average amount of weed in arrests in the U.S. is 48 pounds.
Well, what about racism, Heather? “If all drug prisoners in U.S. state prisons were removed from the rolls, the proportion of black prisoners would not change. Violent crime and property offenses drive the black incarceration rate, not drug enforcement.” Mac Donald further shreds the racism charge that blacks are scapegoated and merely consume weed in equal proportions to white people.
She points out that the best indicator is treatment numbers, not survey results. Surveys exclude prisoners, street vagrants, and other individuals not tied to a stable home; school surveys exclude dropouts. Those excluded populations are precisely the ones with higher rates of drug use. Treatment numbers chart the reality.
“Blacks comprise one-third of all treatment admissions nationally for marijuana abuse, though they represent only about 13 per cent of the nation’s population. Among cannabis users, blacks have a nearly 70 per cent higher rate of cannabis dependence than whites (16.82 per cent v. 10.01 per cent) … from 2017 to 2019, the rate of treatment admissions for substance abuse disorder was nearly 58 per cent higher for blacks than for whites (85.5 per 10,000 population, compared to 54.2 per 100,000).”
Yet, for a large segment of the white, brown and black population in the U.S. and Canada, cannabis is still no big whoop. We’re talking marijuana here. Weed. The stuff is now being marketed in your local strip mall as a cure-all for pain, depression, stress and whatever ails you. The bud of choice at a Grateful Dead concert. Cheech & Chong stoner humour of sloppy guys going, “I’m looking for Dave, man”.
The problem for these bemused Boomers who now make policy but don’t consume anymore? This is not your grandpa’s marijuana. Says Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell: “The kind of marijuana that people of my generation smoked 20 years ago probably had one-fifth of the THC levels that the marijuana that’s being sold now has.
“And in some forms, the THC levels of marijuana are even higher, like in some of the oils and things. And we don’t really know a lot about what it means to crank up the active ingredient that high.”
It might not be pretty. Before challenging the Covid-19 establishment, author Alex Berenson examined marijuana use in his book Tell Your Children (the original name for classic stoner film “Reefer Madness”). And he has driven the weed-as-gentle-balm crowd crazy by linking heavy use with violent behaviour.
“People with schizophrenia commit violent crime at rates far higher than healthy people – their homicide rates are about 20 times as high. Worse, they commit most of that crime while they are under the influence. Since cannabis causes paranoia – not even advocates dispute that fact – and psychosis, it is not surprising that it would drive violent crime. And in fact, there are a number of good studies showing that users have significantly higher violence rates than non-users.”
(Heath Canada admits that “cannabis use increases the risk of developing mental illnesses such as psychosis or schizophrenia, especially those who start using cannabis at a young age/use cannabis frequently or almost every day/ have a personal or family history of psychosis and/or schizophrenia.”)
As for its new status as pain relief prescribed for Boomers, Berenson points out, “Marijuana is not ‘prescribed’ for anything. It can’t be because the FDA has never approved it to treat any disease, and there is little evidence that smoked cannabis or THC extracts help any of the diseases … except pain. Physicians’ authorize’ its use, usually after very short visits by patients who have come to them specifically to receive an authorization card … medical legalization is simply a backdoor way to protect recreational users from arrest.”
As a side note, herbal medical cannabis has not gone through Health Canada’s drug review.
Gladwell is not willing to go as far as linking THC products to violent crime, but he says, “I do think that when you don’t know a lot, you have to know what the parameters of the risks are … (Berenson) points us to a bunch of interesting questions, like, ‘We know there is a link between smoking marijuana for prolonged periods and an increased risk of mental illness.’
“So they’re talking about relatively prolonged use in a very specific and relatively small subset of the using population. Nonetheless, it is a real risk, and the data that we have so far does appear to support that connection.”
Ergo, more information is needed. Unfortunately, as Biden’s pandering demonstrates, data is losing out to Progressive racial politics on the marijuana issue in both Canada and the U.S. Take the anti-racism crowd, add in politicians who want no part of challenging the hip status of the drug, then season with a media too lazy to go past headlines and you have a recipe for unpredictable results. And a large number of convicts back on the street.
You can be sure, however, that the street will not be the one running by the Obama mansion on Martha’s Vineyard.
Bruce Dowbiggin is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book by bookauthority.org. His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best.
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