The prison population has been on a hefty rise since Ronald and Nancy Reagen’s “War On Drugs”. Now Barack Obama will be the first president in 36 years- since Jimmy Carter- to leave the U.S with a diminished prison population.
The “War On Drugs” has certainly been the biggest primer for the almost forty-year spike in the prison population. That statistic especially rears its ugly head in places like Arizona where just possessing marijuana can glean a sentence of almost 4 years in prison.
But in an epic presidential move, Barack Obama has made the decision to not enforce federal restrictions on marijuana if states legalize and regulate distribution. In fact, Obama’s incarceration rate in 2012 and 2013 was the lowest on record with it dipping into the negative in 2014. The first time in nearly 40 years this has happened.
Finally, after all these years, and prison being a very real future faced by many especially in the African-American community, the prison population is in decline. This is a massive change that still leaves the U.S being the number one incarcerator in the world.
President Barack Obama has certainly been doing his part in dropping the national incarceration rate by pardoning over 1300 inmates in his tenure in office. However, the real credit for the drop in the prison population falls to an independent federal commission that has been guiding judges to make more lenient decisions when dealing with drug offenders as well as reducing sentences for already incarcerated offenders. The U.S Sentencing Commission voted in 2014 to allow over 46,000 inmates convicted on drug charges to apply for a sentence reduction.
Surely, the legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational use in more than half the nation has led to a significant drop in sentencing. It has also decreased racial disparity as African-Americans are 3.73 times more likely to end up incarcerated for a marijuana-related offense than Caucasians.
The next time you safely buy some pot at a local dispenser, don’t forget the old adage, “Thanks, Obama.”