LEFT HOOK COLUMN
By Walter Davis
Eugene Davidovich is a Navy veteran. His service connected health issues resulted in his doctor authorizing medical marijuana. Now, he faces four felony charges and the possibility of a long jail sentence.
According to Americans for Safe Access San Diego, the local District Attorney is aggressively pursuing users of Medical Marijuana in San Diego. Aggressive arrest tactics are reportedly in place despite state laws that make medical marijuana use legal and the recent federal guidelines that indicate federal authorities will not be pursuing charges against medical marijuana users in states where such use is legal.
Marijuana is effective for conditions including glaucoma, cancer, aids, migraine headaches, and people suffering pain from extensive burns. Victims of the recent fires in the county have been authorized by doctors to use medical marijuana.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance and Esquire.com, every 17 seconds someone is arrested on a drug violation and every 38 seconds someone is arrested for a cannabis violation in this country. Felony charges result in a life time of punishment for previously convicted people. They have challenges getting employment even after they stop using and are frequently left with no choice but to return to crime. They are punished over and over again and often cannot qualify for public assistance.
Insurance companies often do not cover addiction treatment; prevention programs are scarce. American tax payers get an annual bill for more than 52 billion dollars, for the war against drugs. With schools closing, Americans lacking health care and San Diego needing fire protection equipment, is this a logical use of resources? Further, the flow of drugs is not being stemmed. 15,000 people lose their lives each year in the current drug war. The number of lives being claimed in Chicago and New Orleans alone exceeds the number of lives lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan annually.
President Nixon classified marijuana a schedule 1 drug in the 1970’s. In 1986, President Reagan set the minimum sentencing guidelines. This revoked discretion among local judges forcing them to hand down long prison sentences to drug offenders. Prisoners get drugs in prison easily and treatment is not a viable option; this appears to be a barbaric method of managing this problem with no sign of abatement.
There has been an 80% increase in the prison population since 1986. The average sentence in prison is 56.8 months. The average sentence for violent crimes is 63 months. The average sentence for drug offenses is 76 months.
In the 1960’s Bull Conner ignored federal authorities who ordered him to cease targeting African Americans. Sheriff Arpaio is targeting Latinos in Arizona despite federal guidelines opposed to his actions. Voter’s wishes, civil and human rights are being violated in 2009 in San Diego for political gain. Should valuable tax dollars and police services be expended to go after medical marijuana users consuming legally?
Walter Davis is head of the San Diego Community Coalition, authors a syndicated newspaper column and assists nonprofit and community groups develop media campaigns, including public access television programming.The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine.