Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor strangely dismissed marijuana legalization when talking to college students about the importance of political engagement. Justice Sotomayor, as a lawyer and a judge, should know the significance of ending cannabis prohibition. It is alarming that a Supreme Court Justice, who invoked the Civil Rights Movement in her speech to students, doesn’t understand the importance of ending cannabis prohibition and the entire Drug War.
While many want to scoff at cannabis law reform activism, ridiculing the advocates of just wanting to get high or to try and make it rich in a new legalized industry. However, what Justice Sotomayor and many critics miss is that marijuana legalization is about freedom and sound public policy. Marijuana prohibition, and the Drug War in general, takes away personal liberty and responsibility, ruining lives in the process, while not accomplishing any of its stated goals and wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
“We can only change the conditions you don’t like if each and every one of us becomes passionate about something,” Sotomayor said in the appearance at Amherst College.
“I don’t really care what kind of thing you become passionate about,” she said, before tilting her head and dismissively waving her hands, adding, “Maybe legalizing marijuana, but you know.”
And while Sotomayor followed up with, “Even that has people who have been passionate and have accomplished something, OK,” the implication was clear: Working on marijuana legalization is a frivolous waste of time that, in the justice’s view, would much better spent addressing a more meaningful issue.
The Drug War has been a terribly policy for the United States; it has decimated communities of color, stripping away educational, employment and housing opportunities. Marijuana prohibition is a huge reason why so many get ensnared by a criminal justice system that is imprisoning people for profit. Professor Michelle Alexander has called the mass incarceration of African-Americans due to the War on Drugs the New Jim Crow. It is rather insulting that Sotomayor would scoff at the work of Professor Alexander and others that have dedicated their lives to legalizing cannabis and ending the failed and harmful Drug War.