The relatively young weed industry in the United States is anticipated to become a $30billion industry by 2019. This figure highlights a huge demand for both recreational and medical use, but one industry in America that is struggling with the newfound acceptance of the plant is the private prison complex.
It’s difficult to envisage in some corners of the globe that America doesn’t hide the fact that it runs prisons under the guise of “rehabilitation centres” in a nature which is strictly for profit. How does the United States benefit from incarcerating its own citizens? First, let’s look into what is manufactured in these private complexes in which prisoner/employee hybrids works for less than a dollar an hour:
It’s worth noting here that whilst Federal Prison Industries aren’t permitted by law to sell manufactured goods on the open market, privately owned prisons are allowed to do this. This surely establishes the incentive for a private prison to expand its workforce and in doing this, places its own interests above justice and society as a whole.
In fact, there is a contract clause implemented by the biggest Private Prison distributor, the GEO Group, in four States that requires that its facilities are 95%-100% full despite the fluctuating rates of crime. More prisoners equate to greater productivity, which in turn increases profit, without really having the significant overhead of paying the workforce a wage. It isn’t slavery under the guise of imprisonment, right?
How does Jeff Sessions and his recent demand of Federalism against weed legality have anything to do with private prisons?
In February 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a move that can only be regarded as unapologetically in favour of the private prison industry. He rescinded the Obama administration’s efforts to phase out the private prison complex that now has a value surpassing $3billion.
The lion share operators of these for-profit prisons are GEO Group and CoreCivic, who both make the argument that they have facilities dwindling in workforces/inmates, and have perpetually fought for the harshest sentences for crimes such as non-violent drug possession, with cultural relevance and any sense of justice out of sight.
There has been speculation that Sessions is set to make a personal financial gain from loosening the leash on the Private Prison Industry, but this argument has it the wrong way round. The two largest private prison distributors in America, GEO Group and CoreCivic, made financial contributions towards Donald Trump’s election campaign that was of similar value to the money that Donald Trump put behind the campaign himself.
These two companies are simply getting the deregulation that they already paid for with the endorsement. To focus on Sessions’ personal financial interest is to deny the much broader connection that the private prison industry has with the Trump machine. Why focus on an Alabaman pawn if you’re given the chance to glimpse the greater game at play?
America’s obsession with incarceration means that 22% of the global prison population are American citizens. Jeff Sessions’ two significant moves to firstly, allow the private prison complex to roll out and expand and secondly, apply Federalism to the ground gained by the legal weed industry will be potentially massive in terms of financial reward should the incarceration rate climb to the levels of pre-legal weed when non-violent drug possession charges were rampant.
Inmates get paid a minimum rate of $0.23 per hour for manufacturing goods in these private prisons, and whilst some attempt the argument that this is a rehabilitation process that teaches one to value a job and even develop a skill for the outside world, it collapses at the recognition that this is an extreme, aggressive capitalism that if promoted and endorsed as it has been in recent months, leads to slavery via loophole.
We can try and objectively look at these two very different Jeff Sessions reversals of the Obama administration, I mean, maybe we’ve just got our tin foil hats on too eagerly? But consider the first paragraph of Sessions’ first announcement that he was going in hard against the weed industry:
“Marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws. And I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize.”
– Jeff Sessions
There is no cultural commentary whatsoever and the only realistic reason that Sessions would revert to a Federal stance, despite 64% of Americans agreeing with a more liberal approach to weed, is to incarcerate. There is no rhetoric about the long-term ramifications of recreational weed use in youth (although since becoming legal in Colorado, youth usage rates have dropped so goodbye argument!).
When these numbers are presented on a chart, or used to highlight the audacity of the establishment’s stance on marijuana, it’s easy to forget that these numbers aren’t cold, hard figures that’s sole purpose is to win an argument. These are people, loved ones, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who died because of a chemical demon and often, as a means of escaping the torments of reality, with no other means to turn to.
If those in positions of extreme power in American politics really cared about substance abuse, surely they would first address the substances that are killing people and look to reform those. Instead, Jeff Sessions will declare a war on weed to improve the rate of imprisonment to fill the soon to be booming private prison industry.
For the legal weed industry to survive, supporters must chastise the likes of Sessions and fight tooth and nail. Weed culture as a whole needs to have a greater voice in trying to reverse engineer the institutionally racist war on drugs too, and acknowledge that whilst consciousness expanding Californian yoga and Seth Rogen are great, the journey of weed in America has been much darker than some commentaries would have us believe.
We’d like to wish General Attorney Jeff Sessions, who once remarked that he thought that the KKK were good people until he found out that they smoked pot, that he has the worst of luck in his recent endeavours in the grand game, and that we see you Jeff, through slightly reddened eyes, we see you.