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2021 Legislative Session: Jobs for drug peddlers; and rewriting history

If You Ask Me

After seven years of trying and failing, the 2021 Connecticut General Assembly followed 18 other states in legalizing the possession and sale of marijuana.  

But the final vote didn’t come until after a bizarre battle over an attempt by some Democrats to give those convicted of selling illegal marijuana preferred treatment if they applied for jobs selling the legal stuff.

I am not making this up.

This arrangement, aimed at getting drug selling jobs for mostly minority ex-convicts living in the cities, was eliminated from the final bill after Governor Lamont threatened a veto. But the Hartford Courant reports the new law, approved by the governor, still says “people from cities that have borne the brunt of the war on drugs will qualify for expedited licenses, whether or not they have a criminal record.” They made money from the war on drugs. That’s some brunt to bear.

With a confusing formula, the legislation erases marijuana sales convictions by the years in which they occurred while allegedly retaining the convictions of those guilty of selling other drugs that remain illegal.

“I look forward to signing the bill and moving beyond this terrible period of incarceration and injustice,” said the governor after this version of the bill passed.

The governor’s reaction seems somewhat at odds with his original objection to giving convicted drug sellers a preferred shot at selling the newly legal drug. Some marijuana sellers did get unfairly long jail terms for selling small amounts of the drug but maybe they should be judged individually and get help in another line of work.

It’s as if the authorities had decided to let convicted bootleggers produce and sell legal alcohol after Prohibition ended. Al Capone would have loved the idea.

There are still strong arguments for and against the legalization of marijuana but its impact on public health and safety remains unknown. We do know that bans on selling alcohol and cigarettes to teenagers have never been successful and younger kids will easily obtain and use the legal drug.  

There’s no question that the long war on drugs had awful consequences for the mostly minority residents of the nation’s cities but I have difficulty including those who profited from the sale of these drugs among the innocent victims. Nor should I have to remind politicians that these “victims” did not always restrict their drug inventories to illegal pot. And let’s not forget they were well aware they were breaking the law. 

That’s breaking “the law of the   land.” This one is going to need a lot of fixing.

While some Democratic lawmakers were trying to give ex-cons a leg up in the soon-to-be lucrative legal pot profession, their opposite extremists in the Republican Party were trying to prevent school children from learning too much about our nation’s racist history.

This nationwide campaign to soft-pedal our racist history came to Connecticut  when Sen. Rob Sampson, a Wolcott Republican, submitted legislation banning the teaching of “divisive concepts” after it was “revealed” to him that kids were being taught the American Founding Fathers “were nothing but racist white men.” Divisive concepts were not otherwise defined, so name your own.

When asked during the debate over his measure to provide some concrete examples of these awful things being taught in our schools, the senator couldn’t do it. He later explained that he was surprised when his measure came up for debate and didn’t have time to do research. In other words, the senator introduced legislation to combat this educational evil without knowing anything about it.

The former Confederacy has been trying to rewrite the history of slavery and the Civil War since 1865, calling it the War of Secession, worshipping it as the “Lost Cause” and portraying slavery, like “Gone with the Wind,” with happy slaves and loving masters.  

The Solid South was long a Democratic stronghold because the new Republican Party of the despised Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and defeated the rebellion. But when the Democratic Party’s northern wing led the fight to end the South’s suppression of its black citizens in the middle of the 20th century, the region turned Republican.

Since then, the lot of Southern blacks has vastly improved, not because reactionary Republicans replaced reactionary Democrats as the region’s ruling party but because moderate, mostly Northern lawmakers from both parties passed laws that strengthened the right to vote and desegregated schools and other public accommodations, thereby eliminating the South’s most blatantly bigoted practices.

But trying to rewrite history and depriving new generations from learning the truth about our past will only hinder good faith efforts to finally eliminate remnants of racism.  

We may not be a systemically racist society but we have had a shameful racist past that still disrupts our present. And only the truth shall make us free.  

 

Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com

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