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To The Senate Of The State Of Michigan: From John Sinclair

To The Senate Of The State Of Michigan: From John Sinclair image
Parent Issue
Day
12
Month
November
Year
1971
OCR Text

I would like to thank Senator Basil Brown for giving me this opportunity to address you today; I am unable to to speak for myself since I am being held at, at gunpoint, without appeal bond, by the State oí Michigan, on a 9 10 year sentence, for the simple possession of two marijuana cigarettes. I have been held for the past two years and three months while debate has raged on the question of reforming the state's barbarie marijuana laws; whether they should be reform ed, to what extent they should be changed, how much punishment should be saddled upon those people who are victimized by these laws. I have watched from my cell in the penitentiary while the State House of Representatives has passed progressive marijuana legislation on three seperate occasions, only to see that legislation rejected by the Senate on the grounds that it does not conform to the wishes of the pólice and prosecutors who are charged with enforcingit. As I understand it, the fundamental objection to the legislation which has been proposed by the Governer of this state, is that redefining the "crini'?" of marijuana possession as a "misdemeanor" would make it more difficult for prosecuters to obtain convictions in marijuana cases because the pólice would be constrained from from shaking down, "stopping and frisking", and otherwise harrassing young people they suspect of being "crimináis. " In other words the police would be forced to obtain warrants in order to search young -they would no longer be able to use the length of a young brothert hair as "probable cause" for a search, nor would they be able to kick down the doors of people's communes and tear peoples homes apart searching for races of marijuana so they could nail young brothers and sisters on felony chargers. Before you take any further action on the current marijuana bilí you should be aware of a few elementary things: first, niether you nor the pólice and prosecuters you are serving are fooling anyone with your antiquated "law and order" approach to the marijuana problem. The problem is simply the marijuana laws themselves, and the vicious methods which are used to enforce them. People, and especially young people, know that the only purpose of these laws is to intimídate, harrass, and repress young sisters and brothers who have embraced a life-style or culture which you have decided to be illegal. We know that these laws are designed to be used to stifle cultural and politica! freedom, to stigmatize young people as felons and crimináis, and perhaps worst of all, to cover up for the inability or unwillingness of the pólice and prosecuters to stop the traffic in heroin and other narcotics which are slowly killing off the spirit of our people. We know that if marijuana were removed from the criminal codes altogether, and if the police were to spend the time they invest in persecuting marijuana smokers to track down and bring to justice the big narcotics dealers who seem to have a special immunity from your brand of justice in this state, that the láw could be said to serve the interests of the people. All we can conclude is that you are not interested in justice, that you have no interest in bringing the "law" into conformance with reality, that your interest is simply to use the marijuana laws vindictively to punish those people who don 't share your dinosaur's-eye view of the world, Those of us who have been imprisoned under the marijuana laws know what you mean when you speak of "rehabilitation" - we know we aren 't crimináis, much less felons, and we know that it is the state itself , and particularly the state Senate, which must in fact be rehabilitated, that it is the "law" which mist be rehabilitated, that it is the pólice most of all who must be rehabilitated and brought into line with the law. Those of us - and the numter now reaches into the thousands--who have been victimized by the pólice, the prosecuters, and the courts under the color of the marijuana laws know that the whole system of justice in this state is nothing but a cruel farce which is set up to punish people, not "rehabilítate" them.for getting out of line. You should know that the present laws, which classiíy marijuana as a narcotic and possession as a felony, have done more than anything else (with the possible exception of the vicious prosecution of the people of Indochina by the United States government, and the suppression cf the civil and human rights of black people, brown people, and other national minorities by the racist institutions of EuroAmerican society) tofermentdissention and disrespect for the "law" in this state; that the anti-marijuana laws, and the illegal, inhuman, and wholly indefensibie methods which are used by the pólice and the courts to enforce them, have given thousands of young people their first realistic glimpse of the repressive nature of "their" government; and that these barbarie laws have been instrumental in turning young people against the institutions, the senates and legislatures, the courts and the pólice of the dominant culture in this society. You should know that by now, but you seem not to have learned a thing from the experience which has taught so many young people so mach in the past few years. You should 'now that it is the official pólice policios which you want to protect by retaining the felony provisions of the present marijuana laws in the new legislation, that it is these gestapo-like policios which have bred so much of the radie alism and disrespect for the law which you so piously deplore. I speak from my own experience with the criminal prácticos of the Detroit Narcotics Bureau, and you should know beyond a doubt that my experience has been shared by thousands of young people throughout the state whose only contact with the "law" has come as a result of the marijuana laws. You should know that as long as you persist in branding uu "felons" or "crimináis" of any sort becausc we smoke marijuana, you will be contributing directly and inevitably to your own increasing loss of authority. Jt_ all depends n what you want: if you want to gain the respect of young people for the law and the institutions of the state, you will have to bring the law into accordance with reality; if you want to intensify and spread the disrespect and alienation which are the bitter harvest of the present marijuana laws, you will reject the Governor's proposed marijuana legislation and continue to mandate the illegal policios and practices of thepolice and prosecutors of this state. There is no middle ground - either you will rehabilítate yourselves by rehabilitating the marijuana laws, or you will further convince the young people who are ing your actions very closely that you have nothing but contempt and hatred for them. There is only one thing I would add at this time; you must know that marijuana will be legalized within the next few years, because that is the will of the people who are destined to inherit this society, and the people's will must be served no matter how much you may try to subvert it. Marijuana will be legalized because people will not stand by and watch their brothers and sisters being hauled off to jail for doing something which harms no one and for which there is no rational excuse for punishment. The Governor and the House of Representatives have recognized this fact and they have gained a great deal of respect for their stand; the legislation which they have passed on to you for your approval is not perfect by any means, but it is_ a step in the direction oí a realistic policy on marijuana use and distribution. We respect that stand, and we support it, but we will not rest until aU_ criminal sanctions are removed (as Representative Jackie Vaughn UI has proposed in lus House Bill Nu. 5487). This is no frivolous issue; there is nothing frivolous about being subjected to the illegal tactices of the pólice, dragged into courts, lied against by the guardi-jis of the "law, " thrown into your jails and penitentiaries and left to suffer at the hands of the so-called department of "corrections. " And there is likewise nothing frivolous about our determination to correct this situation; we want you to understand that. You can continue to try to drag people back into the past and thus win their undying enmity, or you can take this opportunity to demónstrate that you are concerned with serving the needs of a substantial segment of your constituency, but either way the will of the people will inevitably be done. There is no way you can hold back history - you can try tu stand in its way and further un der mine your own credibility with the people, but that 's all you'll get for your efforts. You sliould know that befare you act on this bill, because if you think it's any different than that then you're just fooling yourselves. Thank you. Chairman, Rainbow People's Party Jackson Prison, November 9, 1971