The High Cost of Cannabis Prohibition

Cannabis prohibition and stigmaOn July 6, 2016, Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Minnesota. On June 16, 2017, Officer Yanez was acquitted of all charges in the killing of Castile. In the days after the acquittal, authorities released investigative reports, including Officer Yanez’s interview with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BSA) where he stated the following:

 I thought, I was gonna die. And I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five year old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me. And, I let off the rounds and then after the rounds were off, the little girl was screaming.

Before I deal with the cannabis policy issues related to Castile’s death, I have to parse through what Officer Yanez says below as I am truly dumbfounded by it. Officer Yanez essentially says that anyone who smokes cannabis in front of their kid does not care about the life of their kid or about anyone else’s life either. Ponder that for a moment and then realize that if Yanez was telling the truth here (rather than simply mouthing an excuse he concocted after the fact) how ingrained in our society the idea is that people who smoke cannabis are flat out bad people.

Officer Yanez’s interview was released to the public within days of a Stanford Open Policing Project study showing that in Colorado and Washington State, highway patrol searches plummeted significantly after these two states legalized recreational cannabis in 2012. The type of traffic stop that resulted in Castile’s death occurs less frequently in states with legal cannabis.

In both Colorado and Washington, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis. However, in both states, individuals over the age of twenty-one are permitted to drive with cannabis stored in their cars. In states where cannabis is not legal recreationally, officers performing routine traffic stops may search a car if they suspect it contains cannabis. The decline in traffic stops in Colorado and Washington since 2012 is due in part to the fact that officers can no longer use possession of cannabis as a pretext to stop and search drivers.

The Stanford findings show that police are much more likely to stop African American and Hispanic drivers while driving. This is true in Washington and Colorado as well, though the overall number of stops have decreased substantially. Marijuana use has long been used as a pretext for targeting minority communities. Marijuana was first made illegal at the urging of Harry J. Anslinger, the nation’s first Drug Czar. Anslinger successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which outlawed possessing or selling cannabis. Anslinger used all sorts of racially charged (and wildly inaccurate) testimony as scare tactics to ram through his harshly anti-cannabis agenda. In the years since, minority communities have been targeted by law enforcement for cannabis crimes. A major study by the ACLU in 2010 found African Americans were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white people, though data shows that both groups use cannabis at the same rate.

Castile’s death shows how the danger of cannabis can stem from its legal status. Cannabis consumers face no risk of overdose and repeated use does not lead to physical addiction. Compared to other drugs like alcohol and opioids, cannabis is relatively safe. But Castile’s death shows how cannabis use can be deadly so long as it remains illegal.

What happened to Philando Castile was a tragedy and legalizing cannabis will not solve the complicated problems with policing in America. However, at a time when Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to renew the war on drugs, Castile’s killing is a chilling reminder of the human cost of cannabis prohibition and stigma.

3 responses to “The High Cost of Cannabis Prohibition”

  1. Most people are unaware that the constitution grants to individuals the right to challenge congress and even states on the need to forbid post use for medical research and use.

    As per the constitution, upon challenge that a law or rule cannot be proven by the gov to be needful instead of merely oppressive, the gov body is forbidden to enforce the law or rule. Since this right is not in the bill of rights, it has been ignored.

    I feel that there is enough evidence indicating that pot has beneficial medical benefits, that if congress was challenged on its prohibition of researching pot for medical purposes, congress would have to remove the ban on medical research.

  2. Thanks for not shying away from this issue. It would have been easy to pass this off as not related to the purpose of this blog, but it’s all related. The industry can’t exist without compassionate advocacy.


    Congressman Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) recently said in a statement: “39,706
    Floridians were arrested in 2016 for low-level cannabis possession.”

    That is quite a few potential voters! It is 90% of all Floridians arrested last year for . . . “drugs!”

    Which means all the really dangerous drugs, like heroin, spice, cocaine, opiates and other very powerful but legal pharmaceutical drugs account for 10% of people arrested for drug offenses?

    Just to be clear, that is nine out of every ten people arrested for drug violations in Florida was for cannabis.

    Right now, 10% of all Floridians are felons who are denied the right to vote.
    One out of every ten people. . Nearly one out of four black citizens cannot
    vote because they are felons.

    Now start calculating how many of those folks were cannabis users or grew their own, whether for medicinal purposes, or for personal use of cannabis, simply to relax and enjoy at home, on your own private property. Interesting picture? Toss in the number of people losing their jobs due to random drug tests, or cannot find a job due to pre-employment drug tests for cannabis.

    I have a good idea of the dimensions of the issue because I was a President of a small public transit system employee union and a Florida AFL-CIO Central Labor Council
    delegate and officer in the 1980’s. A lot of people, good safe bus and tractor trailer drivers, lost their jobs early on during the Nancy Reagan anti-cannabis days of drug testing; some of the best I knew.

    No wonder so many people in Florida cannot buy a home, pay for medical care or even have enough food to eat; living day by day, scraping by under grim circumstances and conditions.

    Think legalizing cannabis could possibly change some things for the better? Then join us!

    Just one more “statistic” to consider: Over 61 % of voters will approve legalizing cannabis according to the most recent polls. We need 60% to prevail.

    The Medical Marijuana Amendment had 71.3 % of all votes cast last year, in 2016, to approve this law. If we can collect enough signed petitions, we will pass the RIGHT OF ADULTS TO CANNABIS in 2018.

    FLORIDIANS FOR FREEDOM (FFF) made the connections long ago. We formed this non-partisan volunteer citizen’s advocacy movement in Florida in 2015, to end the prohibition of cannabis by legalizing it. We have a fast, easy, low cost, low budget all volunteer way of accomplishing this feat. Three easy steps . . . sign a petition, gather a few signed petitions and contact us via Facebook or call me to set up picking up
    large numbers of signed petitions.

    Our RIGHT OF ADULTS TO CANNABIS [Serial # 15-20] provides the right of adults in Florida over the age of twenty-one to possess, use and grow their cannabis for personal use on private property and within your own home. We vote on this in November of 2018 and two months later, this new law “self-actuates “and becomes effective on Tuesday,
    January 8, 2019.

    Print a copy from You might like it! Even if you signed one, please help!

    If you really like it, please make three copies; sign one, and pass two on to two other registered Florida voters to copy. Ask them to sign one and pass two along . . . a continuous path of three steps leading to a million signed petitions, from every county within Florida.

    Some folks are even making 10 copies or more to give to voters to sign. We can use all the volunteer assistance we can obtain. This is a low cost, low budget citizen’s volunteer campaign.

    We proactively try to stop people from being arrested and convicted as felons, by way of the ballot initiative route where citizens write the laws, debate, and decide for themselves whether or not to vote to approve such new law, as proposed. We do not have to rely on
    politicians to do it.

    We just have to collect signed petitions from Florida voters, about 25, 000 from every county, and we can create our own legal cannabis law that elected officials cannot delay, detour nor deny.

    It is why many of us also collect VOTING RESTORATION AMENDMENT [Serial # 14-01] petitions signed by registered Florida voters in 2016 and 2017. 10% of all Floridians can no longer vote because they are convicted felons. This is adversely affecting our state

    Felons are creating a class of disenfranchised Americans, often for life in states like Florida. These laws are being removed in other states, but here in Florida is where you no longer can vote due to being arrested, convicted and sentenced as a felon for life due to simple cannabis use.

    Even worse, patients in Florida who “illegally” use cannabis to ease their pain and suffering or to even stay alive have been subject to arrest, trial, conviction and prison for medicinal use. Until now, even if you have a “marijuana medical card” from a state from where you just moved to come to Florida, you can still be arrested for illegal
    medical cannabis use.

    Rep. Smith went on to say, “These draconian marijuana possession laws have wasted taxpayer dollars, unnecessarily filled up our state prison system, and distracted law enforcement from focusing on apprehending dangerous criminals. We should be creating opportunities for people to succeed– not creating obstacles and ruining lives over minor infractions or youthful indiscretions. It is past time for the legislature to
    end the unjust incarceration of Floridians for non-violent drug offenses.

    If Amendment 2 was any indication, public opinion on marijuana has changed drastically over the years. Tallahassee politicians must catch up with where a majority of Floridians already are.”

    He is correct, however, even the $100 fines rather than prison still leave people being arrested and paying fines for . . . cannabis use? The Florida State Legislature is not ready yet to catch up.

    It is why Florida voters, ourselves, will take good care to craft our own laws under which we will live, prosper and grow our own cannabis, cutting back profits from which come the slush funds pharmaceutical companies use to buy our elected politicians.

    Next, we speak of hemp reducing and then replacing petroleum production and products to use more ecologically earth friendly, sustainable, biodegradable and safe hemp crops and products.

    We have a Facebook Page for every one of our 67 counties, so we could cover the state everywhere. To contact us, type in your county’s name, followed by Floridians For Freedom [Example: Alachua Floridians For Freedom, or Marion Floridians For Freedom or Sarasota FFF]

    Chris Kennard FFF Volunteer
    Coordinator, North Central Florida
    Cell Phone: (352) 375-0375 Email:

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