Liberty Speaker Series Recap
Posted on: May 21, 2012
Three unique and articulate perspectives on freedom and justice converged on May 18, 2012 at the Liberty Speaker Series event in Fort Worth. DFW NORML Executive Director Shaun McAlister joined Dr. Alan Bean of Friends of Justice and Suzy Wills of Drug Policy Forum of Texas to discuss the failure of prohibition at the Tarrant County Libertarian party sponsored lecture.
The speakers covered topics like racial imbalances in the drug war and prohibition’s high costs to society, as well as examined ways that political activists can influence public perspective and demand an end to the war on drugs.
Groups like DFW NORML “give people the opportunity to engage in the political process,” McAlister said. He explained that consuming cannabis but refusing to stand up against the drug war is tacit approval of the status quo. McAlister said the problem is that most people do not realize how bad the drug war is until they are affected by it directly, and until that point, many people are cautious about speaking out about it.
One of the reasons society has been hesitant to demand an end to the destructive social policy of prohibition is that “the drug war is not being waged in prosperous white communities,” said Dr. Alan Bean.
Bean and his wife, who are ordained Baptist ministers, became advocates of drug law reform when they witnessed a mass of arrests for drug dealing in the tiny town of Tulia, Texas. An overwhelming majority of those arrested were black and lived in the poor part of town. The charges were brought as the result of the uncorroborated testimony of a corrupt undercover cop. Bean recognized the racist motivations behind the arrests, and since then has worked tirelessly as a civil rights activist and drug law reform advocate to bring about radial change in Texas.
Suzy Wills examined the political and financial motivations for the drug war. “The drug war is ineffective and corrupt from top to bottom,” Wills said. She peppered her thorough presentation with nearly unbelievable facts.
21% of citizens in the United States have a criminal record that affects their ability to get a job. There are more arrests in Texas for marijuana than for all other crimes combined. If the minimum wage rate increased at the same rate as drug war spending has increased over the last 50 years, the minimum wage today would be over $400 an hour. European countries that have regulated marijuana have usage rates at half of what we have in America. In fact, the United States has seven times the rate of incarceration as Europe, and the rate of American women who are incarcerated is 10 times that of Europe.
Bean agreed that there are deeply entrenched economic factors that keep marijuana illegal. “Careers and families are dependent on the perpetuation of the drug war,” he said, referring to the large number of people employed in the law enforcement and corrections industries. “It’s not going to go down without a fight.”
Wills agreed, and pointed out that the largest political lobby in the country is the pharmaceutical lobby. These corporations have an obvious interest in making cannabis legal only in a pharmaceutical capacity, rather than allowing people to grow their own medicine.
McAlister encouraged everyone to speak out in favor of legalization. It’s not just pot smokers who have a vested interest in ending prohibition. Anyone who believes in true freedom should take a stand against a failed drug war that causes violence and destruction while attempting to legislate personal liberties. His advice for potential activists is to arm yourself with knowledge and talk to as many people as possible about ending the drug war. “Stop being afraid of what you believe in,” McAlister said. “There is nothing to fear–except prohibition.”
Watch Shaun’s Talk Here