Republican Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul stated, “The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected young black males” in testimony Wednesday morning at the Senate Judiciary Committee, referring to US drug laws as “Jim Crow” laws that prevent one-third of African American men from voting in elections.
Senator Paul also identified the corruption inherent in marijuana prohibition. “Federal grant money is based on convictions,” he testified. “It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that it’s easier to round up, arrest and convict poor kids than it is to convict rich kids. If law enforcement is expected or pressured to meet some quota due to the federal dollars their department might receive, they are more likely to go looking in urban areas than the suburbs.”
The statistics support Senator Paul’s testimony. “The ACLU reports that blacks are between four and five times more likely to be convicted for drug possession even though surveys indicate that blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates,” Senator Paul continues. “The majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white; three-fourths of all people in prison for drug offenses have been African American or Latino.”
Senator Paul even related a personal anecdote of a college friend busted for a closet-grow three decades ago. “[H]e still can’t vote and can’t own a gun. He hasn’t been arrested or convicted for 30 years -- but still can’t vote or have his Second Amendment rights. Getting a job is very difficult for him.”
These collateral damages from the imposition of mandatory minimum sentencing and draconian drug laws caused Senator Paul to ask, “Let judges start doing their jobs,” and “That we repeal mandatory minimum sentencing.” He told the committee of the astonishing sentences handed out to young men over low-level drug crimes, including Weldon Angelos, “A 24-year-old who was sentenced to life in prison for three marijuana sales.”
The cost of mandatory minimums is staggering. Senator Paul explained that since mandatory sentencing began in 1986, “America's prison population has quadrupled to 2.4 million. America now jails a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country, at the staggering cost of $80 billion a year.”
Awareness of the futility and folly of the War on Drugs is growing, with more hearings on drug policy in the Senate during this Congress than any other in recent memory. A bipartisan coalition that spans liberal Democratic Senators like Patrick Leahy of Vermont to conservative Republicans like Rand Paul of Kentucky are recognizing the need for an end to prohibitionist policies with respect to marijuana. HIGH TIMES just wants to know… what took you all so long?