OPINION: Marijuana prohibition laws harm the innocent

By Steven Adamo

In an interview with KPCC  radio, Cat Packer, the new executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, said that people who had been negatively affected by marijuana prohibition should have an opportunity to participate in the legal industry.

“We have spent millions and billions of dollars incarcerating people for a plant and substance that now under California law is not a drug,” Packer said.

On the mayor’s official website, Packer said “I look forward to serving the City of Los Angeles as we lead the development and implementation of responsible, equitable cannabis policies that will serve as a model for the rest of America.”

In February, the desert city of Lancaster— located in north Los Angeles County— was one of the few cities in California that approved commercial cultivation of medical marijuana.

Eddie “Snakepit” Edwards has lived in Lancaster for nearly 20 years and is a long-time cannabis user.

An experimental jazz musician originally from Berkeley, he was one of the first people to be arrested for cannabis in Humboldt County.

At the time, he said, he was one of two black people in the county.

In an interview, Snakepit recalled the day of his arrest in 1967, right around the time cannabis use was gaining popularity among the youth.

“I had two redbone hounds that would bark at an acorn falling on the ground,” Snakepit said.

“The whole team of officers came up and I didn’t hear one bark.

“They kicked in the front door and they came in through the back door with shotguns and automatic machine guns.

“When they broke in I remember my daughter saying to the officers “are you going to kill my daddy?’”

According to Snakepit, all they found was a box full of seeds, which was enough to arrest him.

A week prior to his arrest, the same officers shot his friend in the leg before arresting him for cannabis.

Years later, Snakepit ran into the officer that arrested him during a police reunion at a cafe in Eureka.

He said that the officer told him and the other officers that if he hadn’t arrested him, he would have gone down the wrong path. “He was taking all the credit for my new behavior,” Snakepit said.

Snakepit only had one question for the officer: “What did you guys do to quiet my dogs?” The officer could not give him an answer.

Snakepit had a recording studio at his home in Lancaster for nearly 20 years before losing his home in October to a financial crunch.

It was located just north of where the city of Lancaster is issuing permits for legal medical marijuana cultivation.

The Orange County Register reported in May that 1 million square feet of industrial space was purchased in the city of Lancaster by Beverly Hills-based firm called StarGreen Capital.

In the article, StarGreen Capital “hopes to sell off, lease out or partner with entrepreneurs to use for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing.”

When asked what he would do if given the opportunity to open up his own shop, Snakepit said that it wouldn’t be a place to just purchase cannabis, but also a space for music, art, food and cannabis education.

The upcoming legalization of Cannabis for recreational use is considered by many to be a “green rush,” but the people whose lives have been negatively impacted by its prohibition should have an opportunity to benefit from its legalization.

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