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We’ve all seen the big time celebrities walking around wherever they so please, blunt in hand. It’s no secret that Snoop Dogg and Miley Cyrus like to smoke week; you can literally find Rihanna with a blunt between her fingers at all kinds of award shows.
How can these celebs get away with it, while the rest of us would end up in jail?
Well, obviously it’s dependent on where you are geographically—marijuana laws differ from state-to-state. For instance, in California, it’s legal to possess and intake marijuana as long as a physician has prescribed it to you. However, in places like Arizona or Florida, if you’re found with even the tiniest bit of marijuana you could be tried criminally and maybe even given prison time.
Paul Armentano, deputy director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and author of “The Citizen’s Guide to State By State Marijuana Laws” (2015, Whitman Press) says that it’s no longer easy to generalize marijuana laws in the U.S.
“There exists such a patchwork scheme across the U.S. and the legality or illegality of marijuana today is largely a factor of geography more than anything else,” Armentano tells BTRtoday. He adds that there are currently four states where adult usage of marijuana is legal, 26 states where there are regulations in place governing the medical use of it, and almost 20 states where the possession of certain amounts of marijuana is decriminalized, which means you don’t get arrested, but you are subject to a citation or fine.
This means that in most states there is legislation set in place that does not favor marijuana possession. So how come celebrities flaunt the stuff around as if they make the rules?
“They don’t get prosecuted every time they are photographed consuming marijuana, because they are not an enforcement priority. Marijuana enforcement tends to primarily focus on poor communities and people of color.” – Morgan Fox
“There tends to be one set of laws and justice for the rich and famous in this country and then another set of laws and justice for those who are not the rich and famous,” Armentano admits. “That rule does not just apply to marijuana laws, it tends to apply to laws in general.” NORML’s mission is to educate the public on marijuana laws to eventually move towards legalizing the responsible use of it by adults and create a safer environment in accessing it. He also shines light on the occasional celebrity/rich and famous marijuana bust, and advocates that the laws tend to be the problem.
“Ultimately there are nearly 700,000 arrest every year in this country for the violation of marijuana laws. There are many many people that continue to be arrested and prosecuted in states that continue to maintain criminal prohibitions on marijuana,” he expounds.
Armentano concludes that there would be a number of benefits if the responsible use of marijuana for adults was legalized throughout the entire U.S. “Right now, it can be argued that the criminalization of marijuana burdens taxpayers,” he begins. “Most importantly, the enforcement of these laws disproportionately impacts those who are poor, young, and who tend to be African American or Latino.” According to Armentano, the continued criminalization is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern—he feels strongly that marijuana should not be a criminal justice matter.
Morgan Fox, senior communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), seems to also believe that the current marijuana laws are unfair. “Even if someone does not serve a day in jail and only pays a minimal fine, the negative impacts of an arrest can last the rest of a person’s life,” he tells BTRtoday via email.
Fox explains that celebrities get arrested and citied for marijuana use quite often. “They don’t get prosecuted every time they are photographed consuming marijuana, because they are not an enforcement priority,” he states. “Marijuana enforcement tends to primarily focus on poor communities and people of color.”
Fox describes that prior to 1937 marijuana was legal and even listed as a medical product in the U.S. pharmacopeia. Yet, since it’s prohibition, Fox admits that the laws haven’t seen much of a shift until the recent 2012 changes made in Colorado and Washington, when they became the first states to legalize marijuana usage for adults and started a regulated market for it. Since then, two other states, and the nation’s capital have since legalized marijuana. “Five more [states] are poised to do the same in November,” he concludes.
Hopefully with the change of laws and shift in public opinion, Rihanna and Snoop Dogg won’t be the only ones walking around with a blunt in hand.