jasonphoenix jasonphoenix: Shona Banda and a plea to my fellow Kansans Regarding Cannabis


Shona Banda and a plea to my fellow Kansans Regarding Cannabis

The plight of Shona Banda is a story that every Kansan should be giving a moment of thought to.  No one would wish such a thing on themselves, or their children.

I've been pleased to see her story advanced in Kansas and the wider world, rather than ignored or dismissed out of hand, even if it has been sometimes confusingly reported on.

In brief, her child spoke up during a drug education class; the school called Child Protective Services, CPS contacted the police.  The child was detained and questioned, and Shona's house was searched.  She was arrested.  Her custody of her child is in jeopardy, for the moment she has lost custody.  There may or may not have been cannabis on the premises, although something was said to be recovered, there are no lab reports at present, but she may face multiple charges.

Shona Banda is also an advocate for medical cannabis, and suffers from Crohn's Disease.

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It remains to be seen what exactly will happen to Shona Banda, and how her story will play out.

I am certain that there are those who will look on her case as another pothead stoners that deserves to have her child removed from her home and criminal charges, as certain as I am that there are people who are outraged, confused, and frightened to hear of these events, and can place themselves in her shoes, whether or not they have used cannabis.  I am also certain her story won't modulate a shoulder shrug among some people, who simply never think of the issue of cannabis prohibition at all.

Its not just in Kansas, its all over this country.  Shona's saga is one public, present-day example of a tragedy that has played out daily for eight decades to mothers, fathers, children, families.  Rather than being a unique event, it is all too familiar for many others.

It is frightening for me, because as a high school student in Kansas, I spoke then as I speak now of the Prohibition of Marijuana and its ill effects.  To imagine that my freedom of speech could have endangered my parents sends chills up my spine, now twice as old as I was then.

I was assigned to give a report to my class on why marijuana is illegal, and have I spent the rest of my life confronting its reality and advocating the opposite.  I discovered then and know to this day that our system of criminalizing and prohibiting cannabis is harmful and dangerous to the citizens of Kansas, and the United States, and it cuts off valuable revenue while being expensive and dangerous to pursue.  I have said it then as I say it now.

We must end the prohibition of Cannabis.

Cannabis/Marijuana/Hemp is one and the same plant and it is illegal in all its forms in the State of Kansas, a prohibited controlled substance.  It cannot be consumed, grown, sold, or studied without consequences in the State of Kansas.

So long as we continue to criminalize and enforce the prohibition of cannabis, lives will be shattered, families torn apart, citizens imprisoned, and it appears that only police departments, prison systems, and criminal organizations swell with profit as a result.

We are shedding blood and lifetimes over a plant, a plant that has been proven time and time again to be beneficial and not poisonous.

These days, I like to compare Cannabis to Coffee.  No one thinks anything of coffee drinkers, there is no stigma attached to selling coffee, and it has its avid fans, occasional consumers, and addicts.  There is no risk and no penalties for drinking coffee.

Imagine a world in which Coffee is illegal, and you have to meet someone in a dark alley to get that good Guatemalan blend, pay through the nose at great risk to the both of you. Imagine being told that coffee would make your life hell, and that moment of discovery when you realized it was harmless, and wondered what else you'd be lied to about.

Imagine hiding your espresso machine or your french press or your coffee mugs and be nervous someone like your landlord or employer might notice the aroma, and you will lose your apartment, house, or job.  Having to make due with instant coffee as a substitute, or never knowing what pesticides had been used on your coffee beans.  Imagine dreaming of the European K-Cups, and envying their ability to grow and roast their own coffee, and drink it openly in coffeeshops.

Imagine the police finding coffee grounds and taking your children, fining you, placing you into custody, facing court charges. Imagine that you'd been caught selling coffee, and now face a mandatory jail sentence.  Worse still for someone daring to roast coffeebeans on their property, and losing your house or farm for manufacturing charges.  Imagine that you were shot by the police, because you knew if they caught you with a pound of coffee and extra ziplock baggies, you'd face certain jail time and a felony for distribution, so you ran instead.

Imagined hardened criminals with guns, trafficking pounds of poorly grown coffee beans packed in bricks, wrapped up in plastic trashbags, transporting them across the country at great danger.

Imagine that some of those around you continued to insist that drinking coffee was synonymous with evil and questionable moral fiber, that it deserved harsh penalties and law enforcement working to stop people from enjoying coffee.  Others simply not caring one way or another, and others suffering great penalties for being caught.  Imagine that those of your race or another's would receive different penalties for drinking, possessing, or selling coffee, and that your entire life could be in jeopardy for indulging in it.

Now imagine that Coffee had actual medicinal properties that could heal people, medicine that had never fully been investigated because it had been made illegal 80 years ago. Imagine that Coffee could be turned into paper, oil, resin, soap, and fabric and not just a delicious and refreshing experience.

Imagine sipping your coffee and imagine if it was illegal as we have made cannabis illegal in our State and Country.

The risk and consequences of cannabis are not in the plant itself, but in the criminality and prohibition of the plant.  The benefits of cannabis far outweigh the artificial risks we have created through our prohibition.

In my State of Kansas, farmers could produce both medicinal quality and industrial quality hemp easily overnight.  This would provide an immediate shot in the arm to Kansas farmers, allowing them another valuable cash crop that we know grows well in our fertile soil, from years of enforced eradication efforts at present to our prime growing during WWII in support of the military effort.

Hemp is a valuable feedstock for many cattle and other livestock, and growing it outdoors actually limits the ability to surreptitiously grow recreational cannabis by flooding the air with pollen.

Not that we would bother to surreptitiously grow recreational cannabis if prohibition were lifted.  We would build businesses and hire employees.  The recreational and medicinal cannabis Kansans grow indoors will increase our Kansas ingenuity in indoor lighting and hydroponic methodology which we can apply to many other indoor crops, not limited to cannabis or hemp.  These systems can be applied to growing more food for Kansas consumption or export, and setting up the ability to pay for private infrastructure to increase our agricultural capabilities in the field and indoors.

Kansas industries could use this agricultural crop to create American grown and made hemp-based products in a wide variety of applications that could only grow as we rediscover knowledge lost over the course of prohibition.  Paper, that wonder material we use everyday from trees and fill our landfills with could be easily made with hemp products, to say nothing of the thousands of other possibilities including usable oil for fuel and plastics.

The employees hired and the businesses instantly opened will provide work for even remote areas of Kansas as they grow to fill demand.  Kansas business owners could create shops that sell the implements and safe Kansas grown product for adults to enjoy recreational cannabis safely while providing jobs to artisans, farmers, and the manual labor necessary for any small business.  From glass techniques to the microelectronics used for vaporization to apps for finding and enjoying legal cannabis, we could create and innovate in this field here in Kansas.

Kansas universities could become fore-front leaders in medically examining the positive--and the negative--aspects of cannabis in medicinal, recreation, and industrial forms, helping Kansans suffering and seeking relief.

Our universities could further the cause of finding new and innovative methods to create oils, papers, plastics, and fuels from industrial hemp from the plant itself to the byproducts of the processing for other materials.

Credit Unions and Co-Operatives could be formed for cannabis and for industrial hemp, bringing much needed stability and ability to communities as they re-invest across the industry, and would be easily formed under Kansas state law if prohibition were lifted.  This could boost our economy significantly, and provide alternatives to our increasingly consolidated and corporate banking paradigms.

Kansas farmers and co-ops are forced to choose between planting Monsanto branded corn or wheat, and the amount of fertilizer they must use to make up for a few cash incentivized options.  While our cattle farmers notice the rising costs of growing or buying feedstock and the detriments of our current factory farming paradigm that is destroying our agricultural heritage are becoming more and more apparent.

The use of crop rotation, nitrogen fixing, and beneficial root systems of hemp grown in Kansas could benefit not only the large corporations that run acreage across our state, but also the small family farmers that could utilize it to better soil management, avoiding another Dust Bowl as homes and farms go bankrupt and foreclosed.

Local businesses are likewise folding as options for community income shrink to fewer consolidated sources of revenue, and amenities that draw employers to communities like parks, sidewalks, drinking fountains, and public transportation fall by the wayside under budget cuts.

Social safety nets that provided security to Kansas families with children and to those at risk of starvation are  today put through more levels of filtration than our municipal water, and the money paid into these programs is eyed greedily as a resource to plunder even as private contractors profit from administrating our social programs in a byzantine bureaucracy.

In the name of deficit and reduced revenue, we're cutting school budgets, and limiting access and availability of social programs--even discussing spending large amounts of taxpayer money to labs for mandatory drug testing recipients of social programs. Not that those convicted of cannabis are eligible to apply in the first place.

Perfectly responsible adults in Kansas rightly fear losing their jobs or their livelihood for their recreational use of cannabis--and worse: those seeking medicine for their children, their parents, and themselves are placed in the same position as hardened criminals.

We have increasing deficits, increased scrutiny and fear on the border between our neighbors in Colorado, and Kansas citizens facing criminal charges or sitting idly in Kansas prisons and jails on the taxpayer dime, while private corporations vie for lucrative contracts to supply prisons with mandatory numbers of expected growth.

Like many states, we have an increasingly well equipped and militarized police force in Kansas to go with our incarceration rate, although both seem largely unnecessary for our State's social welfare.  They are necessary for carrying out armed incursions on drug warrants, which never fail to garner publicity, especially when large quantities or a fatality is involved.

But any quantity, in any format is viewed the same in Kansas, and penalties for the possession of this "hallucinogenic narcotic" are worth considering.

While a charge of possession or paraphernalia is a misdemeanor with up to a year of incarceration and a $2500 fine, any second charge is a Felony with 10 months mandatory up to 3 1/2 years and up to $100,000 in fines.  Selling cannabis of any amount is a felony with one year minimum mandatory to five years incarceration and up to $300,000 in fines.  Any amount.

These are serious penalties, and they have real world effects in their enforcement.  We should ask ourselves if murderers, rapists, and corrupt public officials face the same burden and penalty of law in Kansas as we apply to those involved with cannabis.

Because cannabis is a cash crop, it is trafficked, and all those engaged in its use and movement do so at great personal risk, without regulation, and tax-free.  For many, cannabis is a labor of love, and others an act of civil disobedience.  Friends helping friends, and keeping peacefully to themselves for the most part, hoping not to run afoul of the law, like gazelles hoping the lion doesn't strike.

But for some, cannabis just part of a diversified portfolio of criminal activity, along with running guns and ammo, selling cocaine, heroin, and meth-amphetamines, and ensuring illegal things get onto the black market.  Those people will continue with or without cannabis in their portfolio, just as they have with alcohol and tobacco.  They don't pay taxes, and they don't check for ID.  They don't care about Kansas.

They aren't going to craft glass pieces and apply for business licenses.  They aren't going to start credit unions and start growing crops.  They aren't lawful citizens, and separating the lawful citizens who could benefit from cannabis from them would be better for all lawful citizens opposed to their criminal activity.

We can remove cannabis from the black market, tax it, regulate it, and create opportunities to create business and commerce in Kansas.  We can grow and create with industrial hemp.  We can do better for ourselves, our friends, and our neighbors by making this one small change.

Our penalties for selling to underaged and for driving under the influence can be enforced as they are at present, but can be adapted to a more sane and rational penalties on par with our enforcement of alcohol, tobacco, or guns.

We can free up our Kansas Law Enforcement, our labs, and our Courts to pursue more dangerous substances and activity and maintain the public peace, while leaving peaceful, law abiding citizens aside.

More importantly, we must get our non-violent offenders of these unjust laws out of prison and jail, back to their families, and returned into the workforce, paying their taxes as lawful citizens.

Too many young and old entrepreneurs, potential cultivators, artisans, and would-be researchers have had their abilities and dreams curtailed or heavily penalized for an industry we want to encourage them to return to peacefully and as law-abiding citizens, rather than fostering lifetimes of distrust in our system of laws and law enforcement as we have done for too long.

We can prevent another generation of Kansas children from getting an education from our prison system rather than from our public schools, from having to grow up with one of their parents absent, or being made a ward of the State for the sake of a plant no more harmful to society at large than many other things we tolerate.  Of living in fear of law enforcement, and thus viewing them and the laws they uphold with suspicion.

How many children get placed into protective care because one of their parents was run through the system based on suspicion or possession of a plant?  How many juvenile offenders have caused their parents to lose their homes and farms under suspicion of trafficking?  How many parents have found themselves charged to protect their children's indiscretions?  How many lives have been torn apart in the pursuit of justice applied to unjust laws?

And worse still, we're talking about a plant with real medicinal qualities, a thing I am hard pressed to argue alcohol or tobacco or guns have.  Yet, we recognize our adult rights and risks when it comes to alcohol, tobacco, and guns in Kansas.  We regulate and we tax these things accordingly.

Just across a state line, Colorado proves the point that there is value in this plant, and that all hell hasn't broken out since they ended Prohibition.  Instead they have profited, while their neighbors suffer.

We can do better Kansas.  I have faith in you.  Let's create a better example in Kansas for the rest of the Union.

Please support the decriminalization, fair regulation, and encouragement of a legal recreational, medicinal, and industrial cannabis policy in Kansas.

We must decriminalize and regulate cannabis for our own benefit, beneficial for those who will consume and those who will abstain.

The benefits of cannabis far outweigh the artificial risks we have created in error and pursued for far too long.

We must end the Prohibition of Cannabis.