Post Legal Marijuana, What Happens to Drug War Victims?

Post Legal Marijuana, What Happens to Drug War Victims?

Here’s an interesting question: What does the United States have in common with countries like Oman, Pakistan, and South Sudan?

The answer, as Take Part dreadfully details, is that the “Land of the Free” doesn’t guarantee a judicial concept called “retroactive ameliorative relief.” Basically, that means that if you receive a life sentence for breaking a law, and that law is overturned the next morning, you stay in jail for life. That’s an abomination, and as America approaches a new era of legal marijuana, it’s high time this injustice was addressed.

“Mandatory minimums, often imposed for drug crimes, have become a scourge of the legal system. They’ve taken discretion away from judges and handed it to prosecutors, creating a fundamentally imbalanced process.”

As we’ve said before, the War on Drugs doesn’t need to end because it’s been a failure, or a waste of money. It needs to end because it’s been a terrifying success, as its goal was to lock up black people and “hippies.”

Mandatory minimums, often imposed for drug crimes, have become a scourge of the justice system. They’re taken discretion away from judges and handed it to prosecutors, creating a fundamentally imbalanced process.

In many areas of the country—we’re looking at you here, Bible Belt—justice and the law aren’t even kissing cousins.

Today, a piece in the New York Times highlights exactly how the malignant legacy of mandatory minimums is playing out, by illustrating the case of 75-year-old disabled veteran Lee Carroll Brooker. Thanks to previous felony convictions in Florida, Brooker is currently serving a sentence of life without parole for possession of marijuana, which he was using to treat pain. In 23 states and the District of Columbia, Brooker wouldn’t have even committed a crime. But unless he wins on appeal, he’s die in jail.

So as Americans celebrate the progression toward legal marijuana, it’s important to remember that even after weed is legal from sea to shining sea, there will be epic work to be done. Freeing those unjustly imprisoned should be a moral imperative for anyone concerned with the movement to reform our current drug laws.

And for folks like Brooker, time is of the essence.

[via The New York Times, photo Getty Images ]

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