Corruption and Lawlessness Are Epidemic

It seems as though corruption and lawlessness are epidemic. One cannot read or watch news on any given day without being confronted with the latest scandal from our governing officials or some supposedly innocent victim of violence either by the hand of our police or some crazed madman. Is it a lack of laws governing such errant behavior or do we as a society just choose not to obey the laws we have. An article at titled (America, The Law-crazed) by John Stossel, claims our prison population has tripled in the last few decades and that America has one of the highest per capita prison populations of any country in the world. Even regimes that Americans associate with being repressive have a lower per capita incarceration rate than America. For example China locks up 121 out of every 100,000 people and Russia 511 out of 100,000 people, while here in America that number is 730 people out of every 100,000 people.
Also in the article, according to the Congressional Research Service we have in excess of 160,000 pages of federal laws and are unable to count the laws currently on the federal books with hundreds of pages added weekly and countless more laws at the state and city levels. Any time a sensational crime is in the news our elected officials jump on it in an attempt to capitalize on the publicity and to appear active in fighting crime by demanding harsher penalties and mandatory minimum sentencing and even creating new laws where the existing laws seemed inadequate for the severity of the crime. We have gotten to the point where anyone could be charged with a crime at any given time. We are all criminals at one time or another whether it is from breaking a leash law or rolling through a stop sign. Yet I still believe most of us have respect for the law and wish to be good citizens and honestly care about truth and justice. But how can a nation that claims to be free continue to lock up such a large portion of its people.
In a fair and just society laws are designed to give guidance and set boundaries for people who have no respect for the rights of others or compassion for their fellow-man and to keep us from endangering or harming others. In essence laws should preserve the rights of the weak and poor from being violated by the rich and powerful. When people fail to consider the rights of others, society must act, not only to protect our rights as individuals, but also the order of society. We just can’t tolerate that the strongest person or the person with the most wealth or power should always get their way. Fairness and justice would be lost in such a society where the elite and powerful rule and laws are written to quell dissent and repress freedom or just to give the elite an advantage over the rest of us or when laws are written to control a certain group of people. Unless the law applies to everyone equally, justice is lost.
Early marijuana laws were passed by states to control a certain group of people. It started in the southern states where the Mexican population was migrating north looking for work and brought marijuana with them. As usual in any society, the new people are not readily accepted, sometimes because their customs seem strange to the native population or because they are of a different race. William Randolph Hurst promoted this racial propaganda campaign against marijuana and Mexicans extensively in his vast network of newspapers, not only using sensationalist stories about the horrors of marijuana to promote his racial hatred of the Mexicans, but also to sell more papers and protect his timber/paper empire from competition with hemp. In 1937 the Dupont Company patented a process to make plastics from oil and gas and a new sulfite/sulfate process for making paper from wood pulp. Also Dupont held a new patent for nylon which could be used as a substitute for cellulose fiber in the making of explosives. Hemp and hempseed oil were set to be major competitors to those processes. In fact Popular Mechanics ran an article in February of 1938 claiming hemp to be the new billion dollar crop but the article was written in the spring of 1937 before marijuana was officially banned by the Marijuana Tax Act. Harry J. Anslinger was instrumental in promoting early federal legislation against marijuana often addressing Congress with sensationalist horror stories from Hursts’ newspapers about crimes committed under the influence of marijuana. The misinformation and racial prejudice that William Randolph Hurst and Harry J. Anslinger promoted to further their agenda endure today in many of the same ways. People of color are still arrested and convicted at a much larger proportion than white people in the war against marijuana while people with money are more likely to be released or receive lighter punishments. Since 1960s and on to today young people have embraced marijuana use and have been met with the same kinds of sensational and often untrue allegations of the dangers of marijuana to justify and continue the war against marijuana. In opposition to current evidence on marijuana use, the Reefer Madness school of thought promoted by Hurst and Anslinger is still prevalent among a large portion of society.
A large percentage of our prison populations are there due to the war against marijuana. Even our President who claimed to be a frequent user of marijuana in his youth, at a 2004 appearance at Northwestern University stated “I think the war on drugs has been a failure, and I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws”. In 2008 Obama told the Medford Tribune in Oregon “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws on this issue.” “I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate.” It seems Obama’s previous words were just hollow rhetoric as in 2010 more than 850,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana with 88% being for possession alone. Roughly twice as many people are arrested for marijuana today than in the early 80’s although marijuana use is about the same and medical marijuana distributers are frequent targets of raids and property confiscation. I see no change in Federal policy concerning marijuana or medical marijuana. Regardless of empty rhetoric and broken promises, the war against Americans who use marijuana continues and our prison population keeps growing. Even though President Obama acknowledged that legalization is an entirely legitimate topic for debate, our government refuses to acknowledge current scientific evidence about the legitimacy of medical marijuana or evidence showing that marijuana is safer than alcohol when used recreationally. I just wonder who is pulling the strings in this puppet show.
Call or write your Congressmen and Senators and President Obama and tell them to stop this assault on our freedom. The corruption and lawlessness needs to stop at the top first.
Randy Johnson