Are you one of the 1.5 million Californians who is a medical cannabis patient? Do you have an appreciation for cannabis? Probably! (If you don’t, please email me so we can chat at firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you had the chance to say thank you to cannabis, would you? Well, I’ve got a deal for you, because your chance is right here, right now. I believe that every cannabis user is a teacher. Didn’t sign up to be a teacher? Too bad.
As a cannabis user, you hold the torch of responsibility to educate those around you. About what? About the drug war. The drug war may sound like a super confusing thing to you, or maybe it’s super interesting to you. Either way, what we all have in common is that cannabis helps us one way or another. It’s a double-edged sword though because while it’s helping one person, it’s hurting another. It’s hurting the “casualties” of the drug war. If by casualties, I mean: mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, families. Lives are lost, families are torn apart and the socioeconomic status gap widens.
According to drugpolicy.org, “women are now a fast-growing segment of the U.S. prison population. More than three-quarters of women behind bars are mothers, many of them sole caregivers.”
On June 1971, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs”. These “drugs”, including cannabis, have been used across the planet for medicinal and ritual purposes for thousands upon thousands of years. Now, there is a lot of detail that goes into the war on drugs and there are already some great websites where you can learn more, so I won’t attempt to recap the last hundred years, but check out the links at the bottom.
This article is about giving a moment of honor to those that came before us. Those that made sacrifices, those that are forgotten, those that stay strong in the most challenging of times: women incarcerated by the drug war.
According to aclu.org, “over the past two decades, the number of women in prison increased at a rate nearly double that of men. Women of color are disproportionately affected: African-American women are more than three times as likely as white women to be incarcerated, and Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely. Two-thirds of women state prisoners are the mothers of minor children.”
Between 1986 and 1999 there was an 888% rate of increase in the number of women in state prison drug offenses compared to the 129% rate of increase during that same period in the number of women in state prison for non-drug offenses.
In the ACLU report titled “Caught in The Net: The Impact of Drug Policy on Women and Families”, it sheds light on the humanity of the women’s prison population. The most vulnerable and marginalized in society are the ones who are hurt the most my this drug war that was declared 46 years ago. “The majority of women in prison are between the ages of 25 and 44, are mothers, and have, at most, graduated from high school. More than 37% of women in prison earned less than $600 per month prior to their incarceration, and nearly 30% received public assistance. According to BJS [Bureau of Justice Statistics], more than half (55%) of incarcerated women report physical and/or sexual abuse in their childhoods and immediate past. Seventy-nine percent of women in federal and state prison reported past physical abuse, and over 60% reported past sexual abuse.
As a general rule, women wind up behind bars for activities they undertake to feed themselves and their families, supplement incomes, sustain a drug addiction, or escape violent situations and relationships.”
There are many things that are lost and taken from the women incarcerated by the drug war. One important thing lost, is her story. If you haven’t read Part 1 of this article, I encourage you to do so as I talk about the importance of her story. The website CanDoClemency.com (look up Amy Povah’s story) as well as The book, “The Tallahassee Project: A Glimpse Inside the Shattered Lives of 100 Non-violent Women Prisoners of the War on Drugs” by John Beresford, M.D. are two great examples of honoring those women whose stories were taken from them.
One of these many stories includes Patricia Clarke’s. Patricia has spent almost half her life in federal prison, already serving 24 years of her life sentence because of a non-violent drug conspiracy, on a first offense.
I urge you, a cannabis user who is in full appreciation for cannabis in your life to share Patricia’s story and the stories of the women who are silenced by the drug war. Just because cannabis is “legal” in many states now, doesn’t mean the drug war is over, it’s far from over. Now take that deep puff of your favorite healing herb and inhale that inspiration so you can exhale positive change around you. The cannabis plant has given you the “tokin torch” to share the history and “her-stories” of the drug war and instill a sense of urgency in others to act on making a change. A great place to begin is to learn about a woman named Patricia Clarke, who has Sickle Cell Anemia and reported with excellent conduct in prison:
“I am a liturgical dancer for the church. I attend bible study. Since my incarceration, I lost my Grandmother, Uncle, and one of my brothers. I have been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. I know I can be a productive member of society and pray I will be given a second chance but in the meantime, I will continue to do what I can within these prison walls to prove that I am worthy of that second chance. Freedom is a precious gift that I will always cherish if given that opportunity to participate in a life that will make others proud of me.”
Written By: Sugar Laytart
Originally Published on The Irie Times
READ PART 1
drugpolicy.org / Drug Policy Alliance
aclu.org/fairandsmart / American Civil Liberties Union
mpp.org / Marijuana Policy Project
http://www.candoclemency.com/women-deserving-clemency/ / Can-Do Clemency
Caught in The Net ACLU Report
The Tallahassee Project by John Beresford, M.D.
Petition requesting Executive Clemency Requested for 25 Deserving Women: