Now that Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana, the momentum for reforming our nation's anachronistic pot laws is unmistakable. President Obama is finally talking about reform with a serious tone instead of dismissing it with jokes like he did early in his first term. And a majority of Americans say they want to relax the rules on this not-remotely-dangerous drug.
But this is a good time to remember that justice reform must be bigger than marijuana. We do, after all, live in a time of mass incarceration. The United States has 2.3 million people behind bars -- more than any nation on earth, both in absolute terms and per capita. Our sentences are more punitive, and for crimes more trivial, than the rest of the western world. In all, nearly 65 million Americans have a criminal record.
Judge Jim Gray found during his tenure on the bench that far too much time and money was being spent churning low-level offenders through the system -- leading his colleagues to come to him "literally in tears" about having to give harsh sentences to people who really didn't deserve it. Check out his story:
Reforming marijuana laws is a crucial part of fostering a fairer and more cost-effective justice system. The fact that these laws are finally starting to change is a heartening and remarkable development. While we're at it, though, let's seize the opportunity to change our dysfunctional criminal laws, period.
More:Mass Incarceration Law Enforcement Against Prohibition War On Drugs Marijuana Crime Marijuana Incarceration
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