When Larger Issues Take Center Stage

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel July 8, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xThese past few days have truly been a sad time for most Americans, as we witnessed two more unjustified civilian killings by the police, raising obvious issues of racial bias; followed by the tragedy in Dallas in which five police officers were killed by a sniper, apparently in response to the aforementioned civilian killings.

    A cycle of unjustified killings by police followed by unjustified killing of police. Regardless of your political persuasion, it is seriously disturbing that these incidents appear to be occurring more frequently, not less.

    Anyone watching cable news could be excused for thinking the country is coming apart at the seams; 24-hour coverage of the carnage leaves the impression that none of us are safe, wherever we live or work. But we must not permit those who would resort to violence to define who we are.

    Despite our problems, the reality is far less frightening. Yes, these latest incidents surely underscore the unresolved tensions between the police and many in the minority communities; and the unresolved racism that permeates much of society.

    But in truth, most of us live good, productive and peaceful lives, largely free from violence; and we do our best to contribute to a society that treats all individuals, regardless of race, in a fair and equal manner. We still have a great distance to travel to achieve these lofty goals, but the great majority of Americans are committed to making that journey.

    I acknowledge this column, unlike my usual columns, has little to do with legalizing marijuana. And that is purposeful.

    Sometimes, when tragic events occur, we must set aside our personal crusades for a brief respite, while we join our fellow citizens in expressing our common grief and our common commitment to stop this madness. Our daily work routine, regardless of how important we may think it is, pales in comparison to these larger, overriding issues of peace and justice.

    This is one of those times.

    Yes, it is important that we end marijuana prohibition and stop the senseless arrest of marijuana smokers. And we will continue to move legalization forward.

    But for today, let’s (symbolically) join hands with our fellow citizens in Dallas and Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights, MN, and all across this country, and acknowledge our role in the larger society, and our obligation to work for the just society we all want.

    As Rodney King famously said, “Can’t we all just get along?”

    34 responses to “When Larger Issues Take Center Stage”

    1. Mark Mitcham says:


      • Jason Camp says:

        #ALLLIVESMATTER. EVERYONE matters my life your lefe and their lives all matter

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          What’s your point? Are you saying I’m wrong? Or do you truly fail to grasp the obvious?

          I state in the affirmative that BLACK LIVES MATTER, precisely because your assumption that all lives matter cannot be taken for granted in America. That is why it must be stated explicitly that BLACK LIVES MATTER just as much as any other lives.

          You seem to be missing the point of the statement “BLACK LIVES MATTER”: we live in a society that values black lives less than white lives!

          Before ALL LIVES MATTER can be considered true, first it must become true that BLACK LIVES MATTER! Only when BLACK LIVES MATTER in America will it be possible truthfully say that ALL LIVES MATTER in America.

    2. Jeff Kohler says:

      Keith Stroup for president !

    3. Kyle says:

      Well said Keith – these are strange times indeed.

      Would you have the latest on the prospects of a cannabis initiative in CA? I read not long ago that some bundles of signatures were being validated, but has there been a conclusion? Will legal recreational MJ be on the ballot?

      Thanks, Kyle (Colorado)

    4. Cat Cassie says:

      Thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the fallen officers. God speed.

    5. Joe says:

      Most applauded Keith !

    6. Julian says:

      A “great distance to travel” indeed. Thank you for a refreshing perspective on our collective attention to race, violence and law enforcement within our society, as it relates… or not… to marijuana legalization.
      Often times, my brothers laugh that my views on problems in politics and society are always jaundiced by the impression that the solution always pertains to the legalization of cannabis. Sometimes, with injuries in the NFL or our veterans with PTSD, I am right. Other times, like when a white or asian cop allows his fears to impede his clinical judgement and pulls the trigger on a black man reaching for his wallet, as per the officer’s orders, suggesting marijuana legalization could have prevented that situation requires a bit of a stretch of the imagination… Perhaps a decades-long stretch.
      Nonetheless, there is no denying that after 75 years of suffering the catastrophic consequences of racist marijuana prohibition propaganda including but not limited to disproportionate incarceration and a civil war of state sponsored terror, child custody, family separation and exploitation of minority communities for asset forfeitures, predatory fees, fines and medical bills, corrupt legal kickbacks and laundering campaign donations, private prison quotas, beurocratic parasitic behavior and the list does go on, we can see how marijuana prohibition has contributed to the cyclical socioeconomic inequality and minority distrust of local law enforcement that preys upon those they are sworn to protect. There is also no doubt that the increase in race-based police violence adds another layer of difficulty as activists and advocates for groups like NORML or Law Enforcement Against Prohibition to focus our law makers on how legalization is part of the solution, and prohibition is part of the problem.

    7. Julian says:

      The solution is called whole-plant preventive medicine. And instead of drugging us, imprisoning, dividing and isolating us from eachother just to sell a patented molecule with more side effects than solutions, marijuana challenges us as a society to apply a variety of non toxic cannabinoids to a variety of problems to feed our various deficiencies, rather than play whack-a-mole with our bodies and communities and only cause more harm.
      Marijuana challenges our entire fucked up tunnel-visioned, single-study, patent-for-profit scientific rewards system, turns it on its side and invites us to reward a more peer-based review of our systemic problems in our society.
      Marijuana reminds us that there is more violence in silence, allows us to manage but perceive the origins of our pain, and look shamelessly for collective solutions, where the reward is not a grant, a title, a patent or personal wealth; the reward of taking a puff of cannabis and sharing our thoughts is a collective bargain where the second or third study is vital to the scientific process.
      And who knows? Perhaps there will be a place some day where law enforcement can sit down with the communities they represent, smoke a joint, and start looking for real solutions like directing unemployed young men to work programs or putting a joint instead of a gun in the hands of someone talking about suicide? What kind of world would that be? One where cops, social workers and nurse practioners work with cannabis to engage their local community and prevent violence instead of allowing our private insurance lobbyists, beurocracies and pharmaceutical industries to prey upon and incite violence? Is my green jaundice so great that I cant say cannabis is not always the solution, but a tool in the old medicine box that permits us to treat multiple problems more openly?

    8. Julian says:

      Knowing there is less an “either or” solution but “both and more” we can finally see how all our problems are related; that there is no silver bullet to systemic hatred and violence, only love, prevention and treatment through a history of knowledge and a tool box full of herbs and seeds that treat the whole list of problems at once, and never rules anything out by focusing too much on one problem, one solution, or the history of knowledge our ancestors worked so hard to provide us with, less it shall be forgotten.

    9. Miles says:

      As Americans we all have common goals. We all want to see our country be great. We want for our people to work together for our common good. The vast majority of us condemn senseless violence. We care about our families and work to provide for them and to take care of them. We work to better ourselves. We all deal with the anxiety that the divisiveness and hate that comes from prejudice.

      The marijuana laws that most of the people in this country must live by have been put in place because of racism and greed. It is one of the many things that create a divide in our country and keeps us from working together for the common good.

      I ask those in power in our Federal Govt: Can we please end the practice of marijuana prohibition? It is truly causing much more harm than good. If you truly care about the people of this country and want to do what is right let’s end it now! Stop persecuting your fellow citizens for making what should be not only an American right but a human right. We should all have the right to choose what to eat, what medication to be treated with, and to be able to make our own choice about a recreational substance.

      The people of this country should not have to beg our leaders to do what is so obviously the right thing to do, but I am so tired of the hate and suffering that has been caused by the anti-marijuana laws that I am begging: Please, please, end the incarceration of your marijuana using citizens, Please stop stealing our stuff via asset allocation. Please end the bullying, name calling (potheads indeed), and lies that users are stupid or useless. If we can end the prejudice against the LGBT community, surely we can end the prejudice against marijuana consumers.

    10. Justice League says:

      Reforming our nations drug laws is front and center in this debate. The majority of encounters with police are for simple marijuana possession.

      And a tid bit of personal advice, no matter who you are, resisting arrest never ends well. Do your best to communicate to the policy you are not a physical threat to them. If they act in an unprofessional manner, use the judicial system to bring charges. Do not take the law into your own hands. The system is not set up that way. Follow “Hands up, don’t shoot” literally.

      Take charge of your own communities. Get involved. Become hands on. Don;t expect anyone to give you anything.

      Stay safe, and act like a model citizen when out in public.