Connecticut wants to set all the drug addicts free, and Americans should be OK with that
The prison system in the U.S. is broken and has been broken for years. This is not some great revelation or big secret. For decades, critics have outlined its many problems ranging from racial disparity in arrest records to the controversy surrounding private prisons — yet one of the most glaring issues facing this nation is the way which we handle drug crimes. Instead of offering rehabilitation or counseling, we lock up addicts in prisons where drug use is rampant. Then they are sent out into the world with new addictions and a criminal record.
These complaints, however, have fallen on deaf ears. To this day, the prison population in the U.S. continues to balloon out of control. As a result, the U.S. has the largest prison population in the entire world with Russia and China sitting at second and third respectively.
While the current prison situation is abysmal, the Connecticut Supreme Court handed down a game changing decision which could drastically change the prison system in the U.S.
Last week, the Connecticut Supreme Courtruled that past convictions involving misdemeanor possession of marijuana could be reversed because the state decriminalized the drug in 2011. With thousands of petty possession charges in Connecticut alone, the ruling is set to right a lot of wrongs in the state.
The changes this ruling will bring to Connecticut alone are impressive, but when you apply this kind of ruling to a national scale, things really start to change. At the moment, three states (Colorado, Alaska, Oregon) and Washington, D.C., have legalized the use of recreational marijuana, more than a dozen states have decriminalized the drug and 23 states have approved the use of medical marijuana. As the legal status of the drug continues to evolve, states are going to be forced to face how they handle these scenarios. While there is no guarantee that any state will follow Connecticut’s example, the ruling does set a strong precedent.
While this ruling in no way undoes all the wrongs of our criminal system, it is definitely a step in the right direction. No longer will people be forced to carry the label of a criminal simply because they got caught with marijuana before the court said it was OK. No longer will people be forced to disclose to possible employers that they have been arrested for a crime that a majority of the nation deems OK. While there is still a ways to go before widespread acceptance of misdemeanor possession, this is a big victory for all pro-marijuana legalization people.
There are still many glaring problems with the way that the U.S. handles drug possession and the prison system in general. As a nation we are not doing nearly enough to change the things we know are wrong. Instead we pass our prison problems down to private business, who profit off the misfortune of others. At the end of the day, the ruling in Connecticut should be held up as a victory — a step in the right direction.
Reach the columnist at Alec.Grafil@asu.edu or follow @AlecGrafil on Twitter.
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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