By Isaiah Reese

Elm Staff Writer

New York is finally taking significant steps to relax their marijuana laws. The most significant example of this is the fact that 3,000 possession and usage cases were recently dismissed by New York’s district attorney.

“Outstanding warrants for these low-level cases drive law enforcement and our communities apart…New Yorkers with warrants face unnecessary loss of employment, housing and immigration consequences, and because many of them fear they will be arrested for an open warrant, they don’t collaborate with the (New York Police Department) and district attorneys to keep our communities safe,” said District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

It seems New York officials are taking the first step on a long expedition to reverse the effects of the War on Drugs — popularized by President Nixon after a press conference in 1971. It was in this conference that Nixon declared drugs to be “public enemy number one.”

It is unclear what the sudden cause is for laxing years of aggression towards marijuana use in New York. For years we have seen many American citizens get maliciously arrested for a non-violent crimes such as just smoking cannabis. Certainly, this shift in attitude elicits a degree of skepticism from some. However, others are more than content to see an apparent beating heart in the chests of their government officials.

I, for one, am astounded to see so many innocent faces walk free due to this rearrangement in New York. My gratitude far exceeds my skepticism. However, I am critical of all American political decisions, which can often feel like little more than moves in a chess game, with the pieces being the public.

We must take into account any racially driven motives on a systematic level that are clearly set before us. Not to say that there aren’t any good deeds done with this new stance on marijuana and the laws that surround it. It is evident that there are many honest people set in place to do good in the name of justice within the American political system.

New York has always been notorious for police profiling and mishandling marijuana-related cases. Many people have received tremendous jail time for the possession of marijuana or other low-level drugs. The ACLU shared an unsettling statistic which stated, “marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.”

The way the state’s police department targets minority neighborhoods has always been problematic. The way New York is deciding to punish citizens for illegally smoking marijuana is to issue summons.   

But of course New York is making these new adjustments for the sake of cleaning up their communities. How can one accentuate that New York is sweeping  away clearly problematic drug laws, which lead many people to be targeted unfairly, for any reason other than the sake of its community and its citizens?

It must also be understood that these types of conundrums are elusive. In no fashion should we fall for the immediate perception.

Shall we remind ourselves of  the plight of  Abraham Lincoln and the abolishment of slavery? Indeed, one might say the use of this example is outlandish or far-fetched, but it is necessary to clarify the point — the point being that there is a misconception about Mr. Lincoln and his willingness to free African people, just like there is a misconception about the willingness to free them now. In short, this could be nothing more than a case of appeasement.

The Elm

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