Smoking Sessions

The colonists confiscated the land of the peyote-using Native Americans so they could create an entire country where they can exercise their God-given freedoms and liberties. For the last 70 years, people like US Attorney General Jeff Sessions have decided that marijuana ain’t one of them.

It wasn’t always that way. Americans freely enjoyed their recreational drugs without interference from law enforcement–they also partook on a regular basis. But the combination of industries such as textiles and pharmaceuticals threatened by the appeal of hemp, religious fundamentalism, and hysteria brought on by racism –alleged widespread raping of white women by black men after using marijuana–turned the friendly plant into a menace.

The 1936 film Reefer Madness–financed by a church organization–depicted toked out white high school kids hallucinating, raping, and killing. The following year Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, and the road to mass criminalization and mass incarceration began.

Let’s not forget the forebears, like FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Federal Bureau of Narcotics commissioner Harry J. Anslinger, and Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, all who loved extreme law and order and ensured that marijuana was on a path to becoming a Schedule I narcotic, with all the ensuing felony convictions and extreme sentences to boot.

We know the rest of the history, from Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs to Drug Czar Bill Bennett that catapulted the nation to hosting 25 percent of the world’s prison population. The Corrections Corporation of America and the Geo Group could not be prouder. The two foremost private prison industrialists make big bank ensuring their prisons are fully stocked and profitable with the underclass.

It is not for me to say what is really in the head of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. It could be his Old Testament Judeo-Christian way of establishing and maintaining order, that those who do not conform must be suppressed, and if they disobey God’s law, they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Though a few of his previous professional black mentees tried to make a case for the Selma, AL native during his confirmation hearing, it has been clear Sessions does not have much love for civil rights and the people for which it advocates. He was the one that joked that he though the KKK was alright until he learned that they smoked pot.

Although there has been a nonpartisan national trend towards prison reform of incarcerating non-violent drug offenders–it has been proven that the War on Drugs has been extremely ineffective, costly and devastating to families and communities–there is one bare truth America does not want to face: we love locking up people, especially those damn black and brown poor and working class folks.

It’s classic utilitarianism, sacrificing the few for the good of the many. It’s been going on since the government negotiated, lied, and forced the natives into reservations. It was all for the good of the country. Who would want to spend their lives battling with people who lived in teepees?

That is the history of America. Whether it’s on a reservation, or in a prison, it’s about evicting others of another hue and culture, and sentencing them to a place away from the rest of society. And Sessions is another player in that fine tradition.

Ron Kipling Williams