The state of Colorado made $76 million in marijuana taxes and fees. Marijuana retailers in the state performed $700 million in sales during the 2014 year. On the federal level, some estimates predict that legal marijuana will be a $35 Billion a year industry within the next five years. People are making money hand over fist in this newly regulated, newly legalized market.
Meanwhile, a lot of other people are sitting in jail for simply possessing marijuana. 88% of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010 were for simple possession, not for trafficking or distribution. Sentences don’t come close to suiting the severity of the crime (or non-crime, as it is in more and more places in the US) up to Life Without Parole. For marijuana. The same marijuana I can clip a coupon out of the Westword for. The same marijuana I can buy at any recreational dispensary with a state ID showing I’m at least 21 years of age.
The same marijuana a Minnesota mom is facing two years in prison for providing medicinally to her disabled son. The same marijuana leading to an Alabama woman’s chemical endangerment charge (originally a law intended to protect children from living in meth labs) for possibly using marijuana during pregnancy. The same marijuana a black person is almost four times as likely to get arrested for having as I am (even outside of a recreational/medical state like Colorado.)
A Colorado appeals court has ruled that some people convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana may petition to have those convictions overturned. They won’t get their time back. They won’t get their lost income potential back. They won’t get their arrest record expunged. But it’s a start. But a start shouldn’t be enough. The obvious unfairness of millions of people in jail for this plant while others can treat it as a legal, respectable source of income should move us to call for amnesty for people in jail on marijuana possession charges.