Lynching is on the rise. No, it is not occurring in the Deep South. No, it is not being perpetrated by white men. And no, it is not being done because of the color of someone’s skin. Lynching is occurring in India. It is being carried out by Hindus. And it is being done because of someone’s diet.
India is a predominately Hindu country. In Hinduism, the cow is sacred. Many Hindus are vegetarians. Those who aren’t consume mainly chicken, fish, lamb, and goat — never beef from cows. Not only are cows not eaten, they are allowed to roam unmolested in India’s traffic-choked streets. Cows are decorated, honored, and given special feedings at festivals. Hindu holy men take around cows to seek alms. There are institutions in India to care for old and infirm cows. According to Great Britain’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), there are about 46 million cows in India, more than in any other country.
Adherents of Islam make up about 14 percent of India’s population. Although Muslims don’t eat pork, they do eat beef. This difference in diet is causing increased contention in India. There has been a rise in beef lynchings of those who slaughter cows and eat beef by “cow protection” vigilantes. Cow Security Squads formed to protect the sacred animal are rampant in northern India. There has also been violence perpetrated by the meat mafia against those who want to protect cows.
This conflict over cows is bad enough, but is exacerbated when the government is involved. Most states in India forbid cow slaughter. Some even ban the possession or consumption of beef. Cow slaughter is punishable in some states by a maximum prison sentence of ten years.
The controversy over cows in India is laughable to Americans. Are there any Americans who wouldn’t say that the government has no business being concerned about people’s consumption habits? Are there any Americans who wouldn’t agree that no one group of people should be able to use the power of the government to impose their will on another group? Are there any Americans who wouldn’t assert that the eating of beef should not be restricted or regulated by the government in any way?
Yet most Americans are dead serious when it comes to supporting their government’s prohibiting the unrestricted and unregulated cultivation, possession, sale, and use of cannabis. Even among those Americans who support the legalization of marijuana for medical use, most would still maintain that marijuana should be used only under the care of a physician and be subject to stringent state regulation.
The Controlled Substances Act defines marijuana as
All parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted there from), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination [21 U.S.C. 802(16)].
Although some states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and many states have legalized the medical use of marijuana, the use of marijuana for any reason is still a violation of federal law. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. As specified in 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(l), in order for a substance to be placed in schedule I, the Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration must find that
- The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
- The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
- There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
Just as the possession and distribution of beef in many places in India carries stiff penalties, so the possession and distribution of marijuana in the United States has the same. Under federal law,
Possession of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. For a second conviction, the penalties increase to a 15-day mandatory minimum sentence with a maximum of two years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Subsequent convictions carry a 90-day mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Distribution of a small amount of marijuana, for no remuneration, is treated as possession. Manufacture or distribution of fewer than 50 plants or 50 kilograms of marijuana is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. For 50-99 plants or 50-99 kilograms, the penalty increases not more than 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million if an individual, $5 million if other than an individual for the first offense. Manufacture or distribution of 100-999 plants or 100-999 kilograms carries a penalty of 5 – 40 years in prison and a fine of $2-$5 Million. For 1000 plants or 1000 kilograms or more, the penalty increases to 10 years – life in prison and a fine of $4-$10 Million.
Distribution of greater than 5 grams of marijuana to a minor under the age of 21 doubles the possible penalties. Distribution within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, public housing or within 100 feet of a youth center, public pool or video arcade also doubles the possible penalties.
The sale of drug paraphernalia carries a maximum prison sentence of three years. And the sentence of death can be carried out on a defendant who has been found guilty of manufacturing, importing, or distributing a controlled substance if the act was committed as part of a continuing criminal enterprise.
The essence of the U.S. government’s war on marijuana is this: locking up men and women in cages — to be raped, assaulted, abused, and humiliated, and their health, finances, family, and reputation to be ruined — for possessing a plant the government doesn’t approve of.
The reaction of Americans to cannabis laws in the United States should be the same as their reaction to cow laws in India: sheer lunacy. Just as anyone in India should be able to consume a cow, so anyone in America should be able to consume cannabis. If you live in India and don’t want others to consume a cow, then you should be limited to education and persuasion, not violence or law, in your attempts to get beef eaters to change their minds. Likewise, if you live in America and don’t want others to consume cannabis, then you should be limited to education and persuasion, not violence or law, in your attempts to get marijuana smokers to change their minds. In a free society, it can’t be any other way.