Reefer Madness…or So we Think?

It has been widely speculated ever since the late 1930 that Marijuana has caused numerous mental health issues along with it being classified as a gateway drug.  The smuggling of narcotics in the U.S had increased during this time due to the Great Depression and war. In 1937 Congress passed and enacted the Marijuana Tax Act which criminalized the plant; moving forward into the late 50’s stricter laws and sentencing laws set mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes. As time passed the use of Marijuana by mainstream Caucasian Americans help garner the CDAPCA (Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act) of 1970 which in short categorized Marijuana separately from other narcotics. However in 1986 POTUS Regan signed the ADAA(Anti-Drug Abuse Act) reinstating mandatory fines and upping the federal penalties for possession and distribution still making illegal to posses.


Since then the great state of California enacted Proposition 215  which would legalize medical marijuana use for people with chronic  illnesses and diseases. 80+ years ahead and now more that half of the states have now decriminalized and or passed legislation for medical/recreational use. Regulation by the government and propaganda by the U.S has kept a plant with multiple healing and useful agents from being used because it was though to cause hysteria, hallucinations, manslaughter ect. is actually in turn more beneficial.


Reefer does not cause one to go mad, however if used inappropriately you could suffer from long term memory lost, rapid weight gain/loss and possible lack of concentration if one becomes dependent. In  all no studies have proven Ganja to be fatal nor any of it naturally grown properties. If you do use Marijuana or considering  it for the 1st time don’t believe all the GOVERMENT hype, just consult your local pot head friend and enjoy life.

The Link Between Mental Health and Crime

When people are convicted of a crime the public’s typical belief is that “if you do the crime, you have to serve the time.”  That however, is where the though process stops.  People forget that at the end of their sentence, these same people are to come back into the general population.  Although the experience of jail and prison is assumed to be enough to change behavior, it rarely is.  Time and time again the same people appear in court to the same judges and serve the same sentences.  This is cycle that not only effects the lives of those people, but also the public as our dollars go toward keeping these same people behind bars.  It would be more efficient to ensure that these people go through a rehabilitation process that could help them not repeat those same criminal offenses.

Research shows that repeat offenders can suffer from different mental illnesses that affect the way that interact with societies laws which can lead to crimes such as shoplifting, public drunkenness, drug offenses, etc. .  In Shelby county a new mental health court aims to combat this cycle.   This court will allow criminals with mental illness to appeal to their case and lessen their sentence while also completing a mental health program. These cases will not be considered for extreme violent offenses such as stabbing, shooting, etc. however this can help prevent offenders from repeating their actions.

They’re people who have serious, persistent mental health issues, and we see them over and over…We would be involved in their life for a year, and get them set up with… what they need.   – Judge Gerald Skahan

The stigma our society has on mental health is one where we expect people with these conditions to simply “get over” their condition.  We as a people need to help prevent crime by cutting the problem at its source.  We need to help people so that we live a safer community.

How Proud are the Prideful?

I was downtown in my hometown, Memphis, TN this past Saturday when I noticed what seemed to be a celebration/parade going on close to Beale street. I had my Aunt slow down a  bit to take heed to what was happening and noticed a lot of people dressed in rainbow/color for the “gay pride” fair. The first thing that came to my mind was “wow, we have come so far as a nation!” I could feel the happiness/joy in the air as I watched everyone sing, dance, and party to what has to be the overall point of the celebration: the supreme court’s decision to make gay marriage legal in the U.S.  I must say, as an African American female, I am always most proud when I read the history of my ancestors and about their efforts to fight for their rights as humans so I am glad that I got to witness a moment that will become history because it meant that the people in my society accomplished what they fought so very hard for and equality was pronounced.

Legalization of Marijuana

Tennessee is one of the many states that has not legalized marijuana. Four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) and D.C. have legalized the use of both medical and recreational marijuana. There are 19 states that have legalized just medical marijuana. While the majority of the states have not legalized marijuana, I think, slowly but surely, more and more states are starting to hop on the “bandwagon.”

As to be expected, there are both  pros and cons of legalizing marijuana. Two of the pros: 1) less reliance on illegal drug trade and 2) there will be an age limit and you must have proof of ID to purchase. No drug dealer from around the block is only going to sell to you if you’re at least 21 years old and have your ID with you. At least the accessibility to younger buyers would be limited; because while I don’t believe the minute you wake up on your 21st Birthday, you’re “ready” to start smoking, too many young people are gaining access to marijuana too easily.   Two of the cons: 1) the government would put taxes on your marijuana (good for the government, bad for the marijuana buyer/smoker) and 2) it might be assumed that smoking marijuana is perfectly suitable for anyone as long as they’re of age. Mainly because of there being less reliance on illegal drug trade and taxes that the government would profit from, I don’t think it would be a half bad idea to legalize marijuana.

Just like with any other topic, there will be misunderstandings or misperceptions. Contrary to popular belief.. 1) Marijuana is not addictive for most smokers. 2) Marijuana usually doesn’t MAKE a person lazy and unmotivated. If they’re like that after they smoke, it’s probably because they were like that before they smoked. 3) Occasionally smoking marijuana can actually result in healthier and stronger lungs (vs. a non-smoker)- thanks to the ingredient THC, which contains anti-inflammatory properties.

Marijuana has been around for a long time, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon… So if it’s already out here in the world being grown, smoked, sold, etc. (WITH LESS FATALITIES THAN ALCOHOL OR CIGARETTES) why not make it where it’s safer and more beneficial (especially to the government)? I say “especially to the government,” because I believe the amount of money they would get from putting different taxes on marijuana would, overall, be substantially larger than the amount of money they SPEND to send people to jail for smoking. I’m not saying that they are wrong for putting the accused in jail or that doing so is a waste of money. I don’t think either of those.. Don’t you think, though, that it would be a lot more favorable for the government if they used money they got from the taxes on marijuana and use that to put the people who abuse the law and the drug behind bars?

Not only would legalizing marijuana benefit the government.. Medical marijuana can be used to improve the condition of people with all types of “illnesses.” It can be used to treat Glaucoma, improve lung health, help control seizures, and stop cancer from spreading. It may also decrease anxiety and help relieve chronic pain.

Although there are some not-so-good-parts about legalizing marijuana, there are obviously a ton of benefits. These benefits could positively affect so many different people. Legal or illegal, people are going to smoke marijuana. Legal or illegal, marijuana will not be for everybody.

Insults in the Early Presidential Running

I haven’t been following too closely the early statements and criticisms of presidential hopefuls. Right now there are just too many voices vying for attention for me to be well-informed about them all. But one runner has (purposefully?) drawn much attention by his attitude toward all other candidates: Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has probably been the loudest and most combative voice in the running yet, whether he’s referring to his party or not. He’s commented on Fiorina’s face, Rand Paul’s looks, Bush’s low-energy persona, and you’ve heard the rest. He seems to be campaigning with the idea that his “no-pulled-punches” techniques will attract voters who desire change in our government. He has been quite direct on issues that matter to the public, but he has taken it even further by attacking the character or physical looks of his opponents – something that has little or nothing to do with their policy stances. This is not particularly new for Trump, who has a history of making these kinds of remarks, but it does seem new to the presidential running process (at least in my experience).

The targets of his attacks have usually responded, but they have yet to take on his employed methodology. Rand Paul has called Trump’s techniques “sophomoric” and Chris Christie has chided him for his childlike arguments. Those not in politics, though, have responded to Trump in a different way: attacking him back. From internet newspaper writers to fast food workers, many people have created posts and opinion pieces that employ Trump’s same tactics. They have commented on his hair, tan, entertainment success, and so on.

This has led me to realize that we are beginning to (if we haven’t already) evaluate candidates based on things that don’t particularly matter in regards to the Presidential Office. I’m worried that if this practice of criticizing presidential candidates (for things unrelated to the Office) go on for too long, this mindset will become natural for us. I could see this being a problem in future elections where the common voter evaluates a candidate first by his or her looks, speech ability, and so on before his or her political beliefs. I don’t want to build a slippery slope argument here, but this could put us in danger of institutions with money comically mocking a runner on social media and influencing our opinions before we really get to learn about his or her platform. I’m just hoping that when this Trump ordeal is over, we won’t think it normal to mock or even “light-heartedly tease” a candidate for things that don’t apply to Presidential responsibilities.

Changes in Military Retirement Benefits

The current administration is appears to be moving forward with plans to reduce the retirement benefits of personnel who complete the necessary time in service to become eligible for retirement pay.    Five years ago I retired from the military and began receiving retirement pay.  After 20 years of service I received 50% of my base pay.  In essence you earn 2.5% of your base pay but only become eligible once you have completed 20 years of service.  The proposed legislation would reduce a twenty year retirement to 40% of  military base pay plus introduce their version of a 401k plan.  The plan will also alter medical benefits of retirees.  I believe this is going to adversely affect retention, which will lead to future leadership deficits that will weaken our national defense.

When I enlisted in the military I did so to take advantage of the GI Bill which would pay my college tuition.  I planned on serving the required 4 years of my initial contract, be discharged and pursue a college degree.  A wife and two kids later, I was near the end of the four years and decided that it would financially in my best interest to to remain in the military until I could afford to get out, go to school and take care of my family.  The decision not to get out of the Army ultimately lead to my retirement.  The attractiveness of completing 20 years of service out weighed the obvious inherent danger and family stress of military life.  I advanced through the ranks and became increasingly proficient at my job.  More importantly, I grew as military leader.  Senior military leadership is vitally important for training, moral, mission accomplishment and a host of intangibles that are too many to list in this forum.  In my opinion, without it you could potentially just have a bunch a people with guns (Ok, that was extreme).

My point is that while many in the military love what they do professionally, longevity in service in related to the benefits that have traditionally been awarded for faithful service.  I fear that the proposed changes will initially influence the decisions of those who find themselves at a crossroad trying to decide whether to stay in the military as I did or leave for greener pastures.  If implemented there will be military personnel still eligible for the old retirement while new recruits will fall under the new plan.  I believe this will deter new recruits from deciding to retire.  Despite the projected benefits to the government and to the military as a whole, which are suppose to result from this change, I don’t see it as a positive, overall.  Maybe it is because I feel that military pay is currently too little which is why my retirement is barely above the poverty level.  When you consider what our military has endured since 911, the idea that a reduction in retirement pay is on the horizon speaks volumes to the disconnect between government officials and the military.

When retention numbers drop, it will create a gap in what has been historically a natural succession of leaders in the military.  The seasoned leaders will leave and the military will become a revolving door for young Americans looking to get a start in life, not staying for a career in the military.  How can they trust that benefits available to them at the time of their enlistment will even be available if they did decide to stay?  What security would they have when they see a government that appears to lack empathy for one of it’s most sacred assets?

History will tell if this is a point when we are poising to diminish the structure within the military which has helped to make it great.  The development of the military leader.  Without proper leadership from veteran military leaders we will see a drastic decline in the quality of our military.  The proposed legislation could possibly what catapults in that direction.  Our country has had the luxery of wielding the strongest military in the world for quite a while.  Now, in the face of global terrorist uncertainty, we are putting national security in jeopardy.  Hopefully, my fears are misguided and this will not come to pass.  I’m just glad I was not put in the situation many of my brothers and sisters will find themselves.

EBT reform

As a former employee of Kroger and Schnucks, i have seen many transactions from small to large. Two types of transactions i saw were people using EBT cards(food stamps) and women, children and infants (WIC) program vouchers. For those that do not know, these are government programs that help the less fortunate of our country. I try not to question the validity of some of these transactions, but there seems to be trends that should not be allowed and probably are illegal. Personally i have seen groups and groups use one EBT card. When someone has a family of seven children I can understand it would be hard to feed and clothe that many kids. I also ask myself personally if one does not believe they will be able to provide for however many amount of kids, why would they have them? Having ten people buy whatever they want off an EBT card is almost hard to imagine but it happens all the time in Memphis. Also the quality of food that is purchased on many occasions is pure junk. If parents use the WIC program they are only allowed certain brands and quantities of specific juice and vegetables. I believe something like that should be implemented with EBT or “Food Stamps”. One should not be able to buy 8 gallons of sugar filled punch, 5 bags of family size chips and Little Debbies cakes if tax dollars are being used. I firmly believe that you have the freedom to put whatever you want in your body, but if you are using other peoples money there should be limits. Another thing I happened across was children using the EBT card without any guardian or owner of the actual card present. There should be a photo of the only person that is allowed to use the card on the card. Bank of America uses something like this with their customers debit cards. If tax dollars are going to be spent helping someone and their family, there should be healthier guidelines on what can be and cannot be bought. It works with WIC decently well and with WIC the proper nutrition for the baby is achieved. At the end of the day, nutrition for the less fortunate is all we are seeking to obtain by these programs.




Public Housing

Everyone knows that Memphis used to be filled with several public housing units that many would refer to as “the projects.” They came with the stigma of being cheap, low income, having very limited facilities, and infested with mold and bugs. Then emerged the HOPE VI federal grant, which was designed to tear down standing public housing, and replace it with nicer facilities. It aimed to improve the community by attempting to de-concentrate poverty in the community. However, racial patterns occurred, and on average nearly 700 African Americans were displaced from their homes. For example, while Cleaborn Homes at Heritage Landing here in Memphis may look nice from the outside, it is still 99% African American, and 80% of its residents use housing vouchers they can barely afford, and are easily subjected to eviction. Since being demolished and rebuilt in 2011, Cleaborn Homes have since run completely out of money and have laid off over 75% of its staff.

Ultimately, rebuilding with HOPE VI leads to severe restrictions placed on the community. While this could be a positive thing, meaning residents are keeping up with the care of their homes there has been no one-for-one replacement housing. This means that over 10,000 units a year have been lost, in the U.S. displacing even more people. Urban Renewal displaced existing residents and replaced the former site with something more aesthetically pleasing. While the new homes look pretty on the outside, very few problems have actually been solved. While the federal government supplies the grant, if the local government does not change the way it is being implemented, then more HOPE VI projects are looking to fail.

Affirmative Action

Blacks have been discriminated against in America since before the Revolutionary War. They have fought in every war that this country has been involved in. They helped to build the nation to what is it today. Some would consider the 1960’s to be the time of most progress for blacks. It was the 1960’s that saw policies such as the civil right act of 1964 and also this is the same decade that John F. Kennedy first referred to affirmative action. Affirmative action was supposed to limit discrimination in school and work. This public policy was designed to help combat the “good olé boy” system and to ensure blacks a more secure place in a country they helped build. If not for affirmative action many blacks would have missed out on opportunities for jobs and education. Today, just one generation removed from a system that was in place for centuries, there is still debate over this corrective action. Some feel it is “reverse racism”. Others believe it is a necessary action to help uplift a people that this country has intentionally subjugated. Regardless of where one stands on the issue, we can all agree that blacks in America deserve “a fair share”.

Memphis Police benefits

In a city where the violent crime rate is 350% higher than the national average, you would think that police protection would be a top priority. In Memphis, there is a 1 in 13 chance of becoming a victim of a crime. It has been near the top of the ten most dangerous cities in America for over a decade now. Policing the city should be the government’s first prerogative, but in recent years Memphis has made poor investments and miscalculations with the traditional pension plans; they are switching to more of a private- sector 401k plan. This has forced policemen and firefighters to pay higher premiums and lose some of their retiree health benefits. Over 552 officers last year took sick days to protest this proposal and over 200 officers left for safer jobs in other cities with better benefits. If  police officers don’t feel like they are being supported or appreciated, why would they take their job seriously? They obviously haven’t because our city’s steady crime rate over the last decade. All workers need incentives to feel motivated to do their job well. Why are police officers any different?

Crime reduction is a major issue in Memphis, this plan is not a sufficient proposal to reduce it. The city government should find a way to make these public servants feel more appreciated so that they can better serve us.