Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Monday, October 24, 2016

Since his first year in office, President Obama has drawn scathing critiques from a handful of prominent black critics, mostly for his failure to pursue an explicit “black” agenda aimed at ameliorating the legacy of racism.

Usually, I disagree with those critics, who are unrealistic about the limits of the presidency, unfair in their assessments of Obama’s broader agenda and, most important, bizarrely naive about the tightrope he walks as the first black man to win the office. If he announced a “black” agenda, the rest of his presidency would be swallowed up by the ensuing controversy.

But there is one area where I believe Obama has failed black America: He has done next to nothing to rein in the so-called war on drugs. After decades of hyper-punitive policies that have excommunicated thousands of black men from the economic mainstream, Obama might have begun to substantially wind down his era’s Prohibition.

Now, Attorney General Eric Holder is drawing praise for announcing a new policy intended to curb the fanatical, yet futile, drug war. Speaking to the American Bar Association recently, Holder said he would limit the use of mandatory minimum sentences that have resulted in long prison stretches for low-level offenders.

Tough mandatory sentences became popular years ago, when violent crime was still rising and prosecutors and politicians salved public fear by backing stiffer penalties — even for non-violent crimes. The result has been a staggering increase in the prison population. The United States accounts for about 5 percent of the world’s people but nearly 25 percent of its prison inmates.

Discriminatory enforcement has exacerbated the problem of draconian drug laws, and Holder knows all too well that racial bias remains pervasive in the criminal justice system. In his speech, he pointed to research that found “black male offenders have received sentences nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes.”

But Holder’s new policy, even if it works as well as he hopes, would do precious little to scale back the staggeringly expensive and unbelievably destructive drug war. For one thing, the beneficiaries of his new policy represent a high percentage of the federal prison population but a tiny portion of the prison population overall. Most inmates are in state facilities.

  • Dominick Vila

    The war on drugs has been going on for decades, and has not yet produced the desired results. From violating the sovereignty of Panama when we sent military forces to capture and extradite President Manuel Noriega, to the deployment of “advisors” in Colombia, close cooperation with Mexico’s law enforcement agencies, and campaigns such as “Just Say No”, the only tangible result is that while thousands of distributors or enablers have been killed or imprisoned, the consumption of illegal drugs – and powerful prescription drugs – in the USA has not diminished.
    The solution may require an in-depth study into the root causes for drug dependency and the implementation of solutions designed to change the habits of millions of Americans, rather than criminalizing those who are satisfying our thirst for placebos.
    Putting kids in jail because they were caught with a few ounces of pot in their pockets is not going to solve our problem. In fact, it is likely to turn those kids into hard core criminals who instead of smoking a joint will find ways to sell cocaine, for the big guys to snort between business transactions or political decisions.

  • Bill

    Isn’t it time we explore some of the medicinal qualities of marijuana and legalize it’s use in this domain?

    One will find that many users of marijuana have found that it allows them to control mood swings and calms their life so they can function more normally in society. It is counter productive when these humans must stand at full alert, at all times, to make sure the authorities do not incarcerate them, wreaking more emotional stress in their lives without genuine reason.

  • charleo1

    It was Richard Nixon, a real stickler for the rule of law as we found out later,
    that was the first President to use the phrase, “War on drugs.” But, the Federal
    Government had been enacting anti-drug laws since the first part of the 20th
    century. Primarily in those days, aganist the highly addictive narcotics. Then,
    the Volstead Act, which was a disaster in terms of both enforcement, (it was not
    illegal to possess alcohol, only to make it, or sell it.) And in it’s financing of
    organized crime, it’s contributions to government corruption, while fostering a
    general disrespect of the law itself. It became socially acceptable for the first
    time, to be technically a criminal. We had become, according to documentarian
    Ken Burns, “A Nation of Scofflaws.” Today, the widespread use of Marijuana, (Americans consume several hundred thousand tons each year,) again makes
    a Nation of otherwise law abiding, tax paying responsible people, scofflaws.
    Casually breaking, what is at the Federal level, a very harsh law. With very serious consequences. So, make no mistake on hearing States are decriminalizing the use. You get caught smoking pot in most States today, you will upon conviction of possessing a class one narcotic, get a felony, lose your job, and will probably not,
    with your new criminal record, be able to replace it. So, in the case of pot, the law
    will do far worse things to you, than the drug itself. Our marijuana law are also
    the number one financier of the Mexican drug cartels, that are threatening to bring
    down the government itself, so powerful, and well armed are they. Each year,
    we spend billions of dollars, lose several thousand people, killed on both sides,
    and ruin tens of thousands of American’s lives with mandatory prison sentences,
    leaving us worse off, than if there were no laws aganist pot at all. So as to our
    marijuana laws, it really is a case of when you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.

    • Fern Woodfork

      And It Was Reagan Who Started The War On Drugs!!! The GOP/Tea Party Is Not Going To Let President Obama Do Nothing Their Are Making Money On !! If You Want Things To Change Get Rid Of The GOP/Tea Party American Taliban In Offices Everywhere!!!

  • itsfun

    Not going to happen. Lawyers and governments make to much money by going to trial, making deals, fining individuals. Many elected officials are lawyers and they are not going to take money out of the pockets of their friends.

  • judeso3

    Prohibition created violence and gave rise to organize crime…

    War on drugs has done the same

  • idamag

    Decimalizing pot could serve two purposes: it will put the cartels out of business and it will bring revenue to the state. My little brother was dying with cancer in a hospital in Seattle. The only thing that would stop his pain was marijuana. His friends were sneaking it into him. To withhold this as a medicine is criminal. And for any state, like Idaho did, to arrest someone from another state who has a medical prescription is more than criminal.

    • old_blu

      It would open up prison cells for real criminals as well.

      • kmkirb

        They don’t want that. Most prisons today are privatized, & all they want is constant ‘patrons’ so they can be paid. They want to keep their cages full & overflowing. Didn’t you know, privatization = profitization, all brought to you by ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council], funded by the Koch Bros., right wing think tanks & now the GOTP. Go check out (the very scary) Corrections Corporation of America –

  • JDavidS

    “It’s Time To Decriminalize Possession Of Pot”… Wrong! It’s long past time…

  • JohnnyZ77

    Yeah, right, Gary Graves, and I’m sure that kids all became alcoholics after the legalization of alcohol. So sick of hearing that same old tired and idiotic phrase. According to you, alcohol should also be illegal, just because some kids might get their hands on it. Well, for your 411, as long as Marijuana is illegal, it is easier for kids to get their hands on it. Drug dealers don’t card people who want to buy it.

    • plc97477

      I heard of a study that showed that it was easier for kids to get hold of illegal drugs than it was to get hold of alcohol. It is easier to regulate things when you don’t try to hide it.

  • m8lsem

    It is time to decriminalize all drugs, while treating use like alcohol offenses when being under the influence of one that disables perceptions or judgment while driving or operating machinery … that can be defined by physicians drug by drug for the benefit of law drafters.

    A similar civil provision needs to be made for abuse of a drug leading to impairment of participation in society with the sanction being mandatory counseling with jail only for refusal to cooperate with counseling (and while we’re at it, likewise for the counselor who sexually or otherwise abuses that leverage.

  • What!?! And have all those maryjewwanna addicts running around shooting maryjewwanna pills into their eye balls so they can hallucinate?
    This is madness I tells Ya mad-d-d-ness! Reefer Madnes!!!
    Just because it is considered by many to be the new aspirin of this century..Opps…did I say that? Nevermind. It has no curative properties. It has no positive affect on society. THESE are not the droids you’re looking for.

    • kmkirb

      I truly hope you’re just being snarky, otherwise you’d be all wrong.

      • DurdyDawg

        No, not snarky at all.. That’s a genuine brain dead zombie, you know, the fools who still believe the 1936 movie “Reefer Madness” was an official documentary.. Yeah, those brain dead zombies. and what makes it even worse, he/she seems to have a fool blown zombie groupie that agrees.

        • kmkirb

          Truer words were never spoken DurdyDawg. Spot on, & love you’re pun on words! It describes them to a T. That person & their “‘fool’ blown zombie groupie” need a true education, instead of just bleating the baaaahhhhh spewing talking points from others that belong in that dimwitted crowd. They’re not only obviously BEYOND ignorant, but completely obtuse, have absolutely no critical thinking skills, & are the fools fool.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Drugs are a such a big US business at present. There are banks who knowingly launder drug money every day. But, our US banks are corporations. And as we all know, they can’t be jailed even when the Supreme Court ruled they are “people.”

    Drug dealing and selling is as much as problem in the midwest as it is in many northeastern, western and southern cities. When you look at how many generations of young people have been hooked into drugs and the drug industry, you realize there never was a war on drugs. This war originated as a war on poverty. Drugs were sold en mass to the poorest first. Only the wealthiest at the top could afford their designer drugs.

    People who have nothing have no reason to hope for a rosy future. Too liberal to mentally process? Try living in one of the poorest areas of the country. Add to this national disgrace the proliferation of guns and you now have a society on the brink of extinction.

    No society can continue to advance when more than half of it is drugged, desperately poor and living with no hope of a future.

    Let’s not forget that there are also many all too wealthy men and women who love their cocaine. They have all the money they need to continue their drug habits. How do we propose to stop them from wasting their wealth and their lives on their coke habits? As if they’d care enough to listen to anyone.

  • Mark Forsyth

    How interesting it would be to learn that huge sums of money are funelled into the coffers of politicians by drug cartels in an effort to keep the war on drugs going so that they can continue to reap the profits on illegal pot. If pot were legalized it would remove that particular profit margin from the cartels and move it to the Federal Government when they tax it like booze.The benefit would be twofold.The prison population would decrease,thereby saving money and revenue would be created by the pot tax.
    To be sure,the war on drugs continues because somewhere somebody is making a bundle on it.Meanwhile, otherwise law abiding folks who smoke pot are persecuted with ineffective laws that do nothing to curtail drug use and do everything to remove a percentage of the population from society.Just goes to show that the weapon of racism can be used in a wide variety of ways.

    • Allan Richardson

      Before the 13th Amendment, the primary revenue source for the federal government was alcohol tax. Notice the 18th (Prohibition) and 19th (women’s vote) followed less than a decade after the 13th. Freeing the federal treasury from dependence on alcohol, and the prospect of women voting in the next election (the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was a big lobby for Prohibition at the time) have been cited by many historians as a significant factor in passing the Prohibition Amendment. And incidentally, when Prohibition was repealed, it left in place support for state and local prohibition, but more importantly, the power to regulate who sells, when and where they can sell, and to whom they can sell, alcohol; regulations that had not existed during the “saloon era” which led to the excesses fought by the WCTU in the first place.

      We have learned from the mistake of Prohibition, and from correcting that mistake. All of the marijuana legalization proposals call for regulation like alcohol to keep children from smoking it, and putting dangerous activities like driving (and, I hope, lawmaking?) under the DUI laws. It would also help if businesses were encouraged to relax drug testing by restricting it to the jobs which have a REAL safety risk, as opposed to puritanical opposition by the company executives. And in the case of marijuana, which dissolves in body fat, set a higher threshold for tolerance, since minute DETECTABLE (but not intoxicating) quantities remain in the blood weeks after the “high” and any possible impairment are gone.

    • plc97477

      Someone once told me that putting marijuana on the illegal drug list was done by the cotton lobby that wanted to get hemp out of the rope building busness.

  • ridemybroom

    I just had the greatest pleasure the last week of July 2013 finding out that
    Verizon phone company stole a little over 500.00 out of my wireless account.. I
    have had 2 accounts with these people for the last 10 yrs. and for them to do
    this is below scum to me… I have tried and tried to get in touch with the
    proper people at Verizon and at their corporate and support services but these
    people apparently don’t care about the problems their providers are having…
    their customer service is a joke.. I have seen over thousands and thousands of
    complaints just like mine over and over on different forums where Verizon is
    taking money from all kinds of people and never intending to give it back…who
    do they think they are?!…well I want my 500 back and im not stopping til I get
    it back… it is time folks for us people to rise up and say no more to these
    fools…these big corporations who think they cant fail… look what we did to
    AOL and God knows these folks did the same as Verizon is doing now…its called
    skimming to make themselves larger so they can do this to us…I am calling on
    all us people to stand together, band together, and take Verizon
    calling for a National Boycott beginning Sept.1st 2013…please don’t buy
    anything else from this company…if you have a phone from this comp and that
    includes wal mart as well since they partnered with Verizon.. take it back get a
    refund if you can and go elsewhere…we don’t need a rip-off company like
    Verizon greeding and bleeding us out of our hard earned money… so please for
    the love of God… im begging you to join this spirit movement.. tell your
    friends…your family everyone you know…don’t buy Verizon ….thanks…

    • Allan Richardson — uses Sprint’s physical network — donates to progressive rather than conservative causes — contract buyout offered — not a company ad, just testimonial from happy customer

      • kmkirb

        Spot on Allan!! Glad I kept reading because I was getting ready to post the same exact thing to ridemybroom. Hoorah.

  • ridemybroom


  • Allan Richardson

    Every time you go to the dentist, thank God that research in cocaine, which led to the invention of novocaine and codeine, was completed BEFORE the law saw fit to ban cocaine and research involving it. We have little research into medical uses of pot, because the Feds control both the SUPPLY of it for research (they grow it on specially guarded farms, and probably from 1960’s lineage, so different strains cannot be compared) and the FUNDING of most medical research (not only would a grant proposal to study cannabis have a hard time getting approved, it may blacklist the researcher from getting OTHER grants). So if something wonderful like novocaine is lurking in the pot plant, we will never find it unless the policy is changed.

    Marijuana is often called a “gateway” to more dangerous drugs, but it became a gateway because one has to deal with criminals, who also sell harder stuff, to get it. These criminals would RATHER sell cocaine or heroin, since they have more value in a small, easier to smuggle, space (like dealing in diamonds, say, rather than steel), so street marijuana is sometimes laced with the hard stuff to get pot customers hooked on that. If marijuana were sold legally, it would be no more of a “gateway to heroin” than alcohol and tobacco are.

    In the universe of the Star Trek series, there is an alcohol derivative called “synthohol” which can safely be used in drinks by Starfleet (and alien military) personnel, because its intoxicating effects are completely erased by the adrenaline (or Klingon equivalent) of a call to battle or to emergency stations. Perhaps, with research legalized, the chemical industry can come up with a marijuana derivative having such an “escape clause” from intoxication. For that matter, maybe synthohol could be invented in real life (there would be less demand for it, however, since alcohol only takes a day to wear off).

    • jrj1701

      Hey Allen, do you know how many Feringi it takes to change a light bulb? Have been unable to acquire an answer because whenever a Feringi is asked their immediate reply is,”What’s in it for me!”
      There would be alot of alcoholics interested in synthohol, cause it would not have the addictive qualities. Also another aspect of marijuana being a gateway drug myth is when kids tried pot and found that it was not that bad and thus discovered that all the propaganda was just lies, they tried the heavier drugs and discovered the hard way that the propaganda about heroin and other heavy drugs were right, much to their sorrow.

      • Allan Richardson

        Good joke! If it were Klingons the answer would be: at least twelve to fight for the honor of changing it, then the winner (i.e. survivor), then a chorus of twelve more to sing about how bravely the old bulb died.

        Bajorans: we must wait for the Emissary of the Prophets to change it.

        Vulcans: one, of course, It would be illogical to suggest otherwise. Why are all you humans laughing?

        Betazoids: one, as long as she sensed that the light bulb was willing to change.

        Romulans and Cardassians:conquer the lightbulb factory, then order the manufacturer to change it.

        But as for the second “gateway” myth, most kids who try marijuana do not go on to cocaine or heroin, at least not wittingly and voluntarily. Which suggests that if they could try their first joint from a legal drugstore or tobacco shop, they would never even be exposed to the scum that would “spike” their pot until they had withdrawal symptoms and then offer them the hard drugs to get them hooked.

        • jrj1701

          Agreed, when talking about legalization I have constantly heard that if it were legal then more people would do it, my reply has always been smoking cigarettes is legal (for now) and more people are quitting or at least trying to. The biggest reason for it remaining illegal is that organized crime learned its lesson from the repeal of prohibition.
          I always heard that Klingons wouldn’t change light bulbs because A True WARRIOR is not afraid to die in the dark.

          • Allan Richardson

            Good Klingon joke!

            I have heard that some tobacco companies ALSO make quit smoking products (well, the nicotine is just lying around anyway). That way they get you COMING AND GOING!

      • plc97477

        It’s like the story of the boy who cried wolf. They said all the drugs were bad for you and seems pot not so much. How was anyone going to know that they didn’t lie about the others too with out trying it out?