I’ve always thought it was an absurd proposition that we arrest and prosecute our young men for marijuana possession. Indeed, I remember in my formative years as a middle-schooler the dogs and law enforcement presence that was deployed to intimidate, harass, and arrest children in the public schools for possessing marijuana. I remember asking myself why society needed to act with such force against its youth; why marijuana and drug possession couldn’t be dealt with like any other misdeed, with parental discipline and community support.
Last year I was living at 10th and Cherry, down the street from Harpo’s. Late one summer night the police were called to a ruckus at the Brookside Apartments across the street; there were frequent loud parties featuring all manner of drunken and bellicose behavior, and I thought nothing of it. The next day the news broke…Governor Jay Nixon’s son, Will, had been arrested for marijuana possession, charges that would be later dropped by prosecutors citing lack of evidence.
And this week…news broke that three MU football players, including Doriel Green-Beckham (who is the no. 1 recruit in the nation) were arrested for marijuana possession. Again, I don’t understand…why harass these young men? Why put promising young lives and dreams in contact with the criminal justice system? I generally think that it is unjust for the government to intrude into our personal lives without a pressing societal need…and yes, I presume that neither Mr. Nixon nor Mr. Green-Beckham’s immediate or proximate relationship to marijuana justified the use of force to sanction and punish their behavior.
During those minutes the police were citing and arresting Mizzou’s young men for marijuana, they could have been walking the beat, ensuring that innocent people had recourse in the case of assault. Indeed, anyone who’s ever partied in Greektown knows how drunk and rowdy the town can be at night. When I used to work at restaurants in downtown Columbia, it was common courtesy to walk the female staff to their cars late at night after closing. Clearly, this is a core desire of society for law enforcement: to make the streets safe when people are dangerous.
But instead of being able to guarantee their citizens that this maximum effort is expended on their behalf, our law enforcement chooses to fritter away their valuable time arresting and citing young men for marijuana. Hence we do not receive the full benefit of the law enforcement services paid for by our tax dollars. People are not as safe as they could be because police officers are sniffing for marijuana and not patrolling for safety.
Responsiveness matters in law enforcement. Bottom line.
Ray Hartmann Nails it on Donnybrook
My good friend David Johns pointed me to this recent episode of the St. Louis show Donnybrook (which makes me nostalgic for my old life in St. Louis). At about the 40th minute, CEO of St. Louis Magazine discusses the DGB marijuana arrest, advocates for the legalization of marijuana, and receives a round of applause from the audience.
I’ll leave you here. But remember…our participation in society brings with it a moral obligation to confront injustice and speak on behalf of those who are oppressed. We shouldn’t be arresting young men for marijuana. They deserve their liberty. The public deserves better choices from its law enforcement. To sustain the status quo harms us and maintains the manifest injustice of marijuana prohibition.