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  • In a recently published article, President Obama poses that it's time to "move forward" on the legalization of marijuana. He didn't invite everybody into the Rose Garden to set around a four foot bong and take giant rips of some mind bending strain of Kush, but in a very calculated way, he came out for removing the criminalization of a drug that is "no more dangerous than alcohol and leads to a disproportionate number of poor people, especially African-Americans and Latinos, to doing jail time" and winding up in the system, fucked forever. As we come up on the hundredth year anniversary of the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, the legal shrine upon which an entire new class of criminal would be created and one of the major stepping stones to the rise of the largest prison system in the world today, I can't help but feel somewhat on edge at the thought of hundreds of thousands of jail cells suddenly becoming vacant.

    As the tide is seeming to turn on the whole issue of marijuana being legalized for recreational use, my greatest fear is that with half of the prison population being non-violent drug offenders, and about half of them being in on marijuana charges, a full quarter of the vast industrial-prison system will be emptied out in due course of time. Many of these prisons are privatized publicly traded corporations that are paid up through campaign contributions to all of the "right" people. Hence, any flowery notions of the great American gulag crashing down to an explosion of rainbows and prancing unicorns in the peaceful meadows once occupied by these modern houses of horror should be quelled immediately. These jail cells will have to be filled while you still have the cigar smoking, martini soaked country club set's profits on the line, along with the salaries of scotch drinking judges/prosecuting attorneys, and steroid shooting/ephedrine popping stormtroopers who still want to kick in doors and shoot the family dog in front of children pissing themselves. They can switch over to more enforcement on the other still illegal drugs like meth, coke and heroin, but it won't make up for the sheer numbers lost to pot.

    Some people would ask, "Why don't they just keep all of the murderers, rapists, thieves, child-fuckers, and violent idiots in for their full sentences?" What fun would that be? That's guaranteed return business. Most of them, especially the long term institutionalized, don't stay out for very long. That's your base coat or minimum nut for the business; to even further mix my metaphors, where's the gravy or the frosting for the cake that putting potheads away has been? The likely undertow in the wake of this sudden vacancy will necessitate the need to find other classes of criminals to fill the void. DUIs may get automatic jail time much earlier. FTA on a few long past tickets that would have ended in joining the ranks of the orange vest brigade picking up trash may end with full sentences carried out to term with no more quick release due to overcrowding. Dead beat dads who won't or can't pay their child support can be politicized again and ramped up even further. Tax evasion for even small amounts can be added to the list. There are so many people that now owe money on their school debts (myself included) that I can see one or more of these Congressional suit puppets at the behest of their corporate masters hitting the stump to rail for "locking up these dead beats stealing money from a system that allowed them to get an education." And, then we're just a short hop away from full debtor's prisons again.

    There are of course the more Orwellian notions of those jail cells being open for those people who are deemed "terrorists" by the nation-state, but I'd hate to take away the FEMA concentration camp fantasies of Alex Jones and others of the tin-foil hat crowd. I wouldn't opt out on the thought of some of those cells being filled with protestors whose First Amendment rights keep getting pared down and whittled away little by little, but putting vast numbers of politicized prisoners away for huge sentences is always a terrible recipe for the folks in charge and usually doesn't end well. They have to make it so the people being charged are being charged with something that can be demonized as being criminal, and we are still enough of a free society that chucking tens of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens in with the rest of the shank wielding scum of the earth for carrying a sign with a slogan on it is bad for business. Not everyone who marches and bangs the drum of a social cause is some unwashed, trustafarian anarchist killing down time between Ren Faire season and Burning Man. There are nice little old ladies out there, and you can’t mace, brutalize and imprison too many of them before people start coming in droves to see how stable that house of cards really is, and “disappearing” people Pinochet style is kind of hard in the days of the internet. So, the stock holders of the prison system need to make sure that “the other” is an “other” that the majority can gang up on.

    In the end, will pot be ever be completely decriminalized in this country? I’d say it’s a fair bet that it will be at some point in the future. The dominoes are already beginning to fall state by state, two of which are now hilariously and ironically in the Super BOWL. More than likely, it’s going to be a long protracted legal battle and end up being one of those further dividing lines between blue states and red states. And, with the red states, no matter how many dope smoking cowboys, hillbillies and trailer park boys and girls there are, decades and decades several generations deep of Reefer Madness and Just Say No propaganda is a thick wall to bust through. Plus, the red states, and even some areas of the blue states, are not too fast to give up on a system of control on the “darkies and poor white trash.” So, as more states come into the light of cannabis decriminalization, that sucking sound you hear may not just be coming from a bong, pipe, or a doobie; it may be coming from an empty prison cell that is desperately trying to find a way to get your ass inside it for maybe that first DUI, that stack of unpaid parking tickets, not paying your child support, school debt, or maybe even that credit card you fucked off a few years ago. Welcome to the new world order, which is just a coat of paint over the old one.
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