I am Samuel Caldwell.
By Erica Warren
I am Samuel Caldwell. And, you are Samuel Caldwell. All of us could be in the same situation as Samuel Caldwell, the first victim of marijuana prohibition, whether we use the drug or not.
On October 2, 1937, the day that the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act was enacted the FBI and Denver police raided the Lexington Hotel in Denver, Colorado where they arrested Samuel Caldwell, an unemployed laborer, and another man by the name of Moses Baca.
On October 5th, just three short days later, Caldwell was the first marijuana dealer convicted under U.S. Federal law. Caldwell allegedly sold two marijuana cigarettes to Baca. Caldwell was sentenced to four years of hard labor for his “crime”. He served out every day of that sentence at Leavenworth Penitentiary; he died shortly after being released.
Now let’s fast track to modern day, keeping in mind all of the technological advancements and military weaponry that have been handed over to police in the name of War on Drugs. Today we have mandatory minimum sentences designed to imprison the impoverished and drug-addicted. A number of discriminatory discrepancies exist in today’s laws such as with crack and cocaine, literally the same drug, but one with an 18:1 difference in sentencing for use, possession or distribution. Now I ask you, is this a war on drugs, or a war on Americans?
Mothers, doctors, and pharmacists aren’t being jailed for giving children meth, under the guise of a “brand name pharmaceutical” such as Ritalin. However, cancer patients who use marijuana to ease their nausea from chemotherapy face federal prosecution. That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?
And being a victim of the war on illegal drugs is not just limited to drug users. Radley Balko tells the story of Mario Paz, in his white paper “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America”. Mario Paz was an innocent grandfather who was shot and killed by El Monte, California police in 1999 during a paramilitary style drug raid to find drugs that weren’t there. After the deceased Paz was determined to be innocent of any crime by police, that same police department still attempted to seize $10,000 they found in Paz’s home the night that he was shot and killed. The police invoked forfeiture laws that put the burden of proof on Paz’s family to show that the money wasn’t obtained illegally. The family did show proof that the money was obtained through legal means.
And this, my dear friends, is an illustration of how the drug war has evolved. It is no longer a war on minorities and poor people (which is wrong in and of itself) but it is now a war on every American citizen. Anyone, any American citizen, has the potential to become a victim.
I know I don’t live in California; I was born and raised in Missouri. But, I have seen medical marijuana laws spread across the country, and it started in California. If you vote yes on Prop 19, and it passes, this will be just one step toward the end of drug prohibition in this whole entire country, and it will have started with you! The whole world is watching and waiting to see if Prop 19 passes, so please, I urge you to vote yes. You be the hero who first started paving the road to more sensible drug laws in this country. You be the hero that begins the end of the global drug war.