April 20, 2009

Thoughts on 4:20. Your drugs are not "fair trade."

Each year, many progressives are drawn into a holiday that somehow manages to be both underground and mainstream. April 20, 420, or 4:20, is a day that is celebrated with extensive use of marijuana, and sometimes other drugs.

I'm not trying to be a killjoy or to ruin anyone's fun this year. I'm not going to tell you "this is what your brain will look like on marijuana" or that it's the world's most dangerous drug. But on this particularly drug-centered day, I am going to ask that you that you look at your drug purchases with the same level of scrutiny you would give to a cup of coffee, a chocolate bar, or a pair of shoes. If you care about the lives of the people who are involved in producing and delivering the goods yo use, you should think extra carefully about drugs.

Here are six reasons the drugs you are buying would probably never be certified as "fair trade."

  1. Poor people and people of color are the ones doing time for your drug use. It's not that middle class people, suburban people, or students don't do a lot of drugs. They do plenty. I don't even need to cite statistics on the first point - you know that this is true. Drug arrests and sentences are much more frequent for people in poor communities and communities of color. There are a number of reasons for this, some having to do with the over-policing of these communities, others having to do with who has more access to private spaces. Don't just think about your dealer, but about his/her dealer and his/her dealer. Most drugs go through a lot of people who reach you. And in that chain is likely to be a large number of poor folks who are making very minimal profit and who are risking a jail sentence to get you your product. More info here, here, and here.
  2. A single drug conviction can prevent a person from receiving TANF ("welfare") or food stamps for a lifetime. This can be a conviction for possession, distribution, possession with intent to distribute, etc. So anyone caught in your chain of production and distribution who gets caught can be at an even higher risk for remaining poor. Even a person who is released following a rape, murder, attempted murder, or robbery sentence can access TANF as a safety net. Read more here.
  3. People with drug convictions have difficulty finding housing and jobs. So that person who risks arrest somewhere in the chain of drug buying can be homeless, unemployed, and unable to receive cash benefits.
  4. Immigration law allows deportation of some people convicted of drug crimes. An undocumented person may end up deported even if found "not guilty."
  5. There are no minimum wages or work conditions for drug dealers. Street-level drug dealers, who are usually those at the bottom of the pyramid, are often subject to physical and emotional abuse, threats, and incredibly low pay. Oftentimes, people cannot leave once they begin working for a drug dealer, for threat of injury to themselves or to their families.
  6. Young people are in danger all over the world because of U.S. and other "rich" countries' drug markets. Large global gangs start recruiting and threatening people young, all over the world, trying to force them to join the gangs. The U.S. public is slowly becoming more aware of the problem as a result of recent incidents near the Mexican border, but the problem is not new. Read a couple of articles on the topic here and here.
Spend your money where your values lie. Boycott the drug market until it is fair, regulated, and taxed. If you need another way to spend your money until then, consider donating to the Sentencing Project or the Marijuana Policy Project.


Ily said...

Good points.

Anonymous said...

Conveniently, those are all *also* reasons why marijuana should be legalized!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, as usual. :-)