Reported efforts to begin following through on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2013 election promise to reduce marijuana arrests in the city has distressed Sergeants Benevolent Association police union President Ed Mullins. Mullins is quoted Wednesday in the New York Post lamenting that “If the current practice of making arrests for both possession and sale of marijuana is, in fact, abandoned, then this is clearly the beginning of the breakdown of a civilized society.”
The city’s apparent move to reduce the number of marijuana arrests comes soon after an October joint report of the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project publicized that the number of marijuana possession arrests in New York City were on track to remain the same under de Blasio’s leadership, or even increase, compared to arrests under Michael Bloomberg, the preceding mayor.
Of course, the truth is that there is nothing civilized about arresting people and throwing them in jail for making the choice to use, buy, or sell marijuana. Such choices have been tolerated or accepted in much of the world for centuries and were legal under United States law for the majority of the nation’s history. US legal prohibitions and punishments were imposed in the 20th century, including with the enactment of laws such as the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 and marijuana’s inclusion in schedule one of Controlled Substances Act of 1970, thus applying the most expansive level of prohibition to actions involving the plant. In contrast, looking further back to the origins of the US, we find that Founding Fathers grew hemp on their farms, including George Washington at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.
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