Reefer Madness

I’ve just finished reading Reefer Madness by Eric Schlosser, author of the excellent Fast Food Nation. As with his previous work Reefer Madness covers rather more subjects than the title give you to suppose.

Rather than adding to the large body of work on subjects such as the social effects of cannabis use, Schlosser instead examines the economic impact it has on American society. He covers the legal system and the consequences the schizophrenic drug laws in differing states and Federal law have. The most obvious being that the American penal population has swollen dramatically in the last twenty years. There are literally thousands of people banged up for many years for possession of small amounts of cannabis – even family members can be implicated and jailed if another family member is busted. Federal plea bargains encourage a system which is wide open to abuse by justice officials and criminals alike. Some states will jail someone for a cannabis offence and impose a sentence greater than the sentence for manslaughter or rape.

Minimum sentencing – something David Blunkett wants to impose more of in the UK – means that control is taken from the judiciary by politicians, which subverts the entire notion of an independent judiciary free of political pressure in a democratic society. As you may expect the sons and daughters of rich and influential members of society who are caught with dope tend to get a somewhat more lenient sentencing. One senator who campaigns vociferously for heavy sentences for cannabis use had his eldest son busted for not only smoking dope but selling it too. In the same state a man was jailed for a decade for this offence – the senator’s son got a suspended sentence, a fine (which daddy probably paid) and a trip to the substance abuse clinic. A garden supplies merchant and his wife were not so lucky. They did not smoke, grow or sell dope. Their crime? They sold farming equipment to a man who later used it to set up an indoor hydroponics farm for growing dope. They were charged with aiding and abetting. The same laws which allow this stop the families of victims of gun crime from suing the gun shop who illegally sold weapons. The hypocrisy is unbelievable. Meanwhile drug use amongst Americans continues to grow.

Immigration

Pornography and illegal migrant workers in the farming industry are also covered in Reefer Madness. While right wing scumbags like Pat Buchanan rave on about illegal migration destroying American culture (excuse me, Pat, but wasn’t migration what created America?) the truth is that a massive part of the US workforce is made up of illegal immigrants. People who are prepared to work for low, low wages in appalling conditions, wide open to all sorts of abuses. Without them much of the US economy would grind to a halt. It is in effect a system very similar to the indentured servants system which was used to bring many poor folk to America in the 1700s and 1800s (amazing how many people don’t know their own history). This also has the knock-on effect of driving down the wages for many industries, meaning US citizens also lose out.