Recent troubling comments about cannabis from members of the Trump administration sound eerily familiar to Dustin Costa.
As of January 2017, the septuagenarian has been serving a de facto life sentence over a nonviolent cannabis offense for 11 years.
Statements like those made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who has hinted at a crackdown on cannabis laws and recently claimed marijuana is only “slightly less awful” than heroin – don’t exactly have Costa feeling hopeful about an early release.
“The history of how marijuana became illegal is full of the same kind of scare-mongering we see with the Trump [administration],” Costa told Civilized over one of his allotted 15-minute phone-calls.
“As somebody who believes strongly in the principles of liberty and truth and justice that drove the founding of our country, to see this rise of authoritarianism... you have to wonder where the country is going now.”
For Costa – locked up on charges of manufacturing and distributing cannabis, as well as possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense – and his uncounted fellow marijuana lifers, it’s a chilling reminder that the War on Drugs that robbed them of their freedom is far from over.
Considering the rapidly changing perspectives on cannabis prohibition across the country – the kinds of perspectives that bumped the number of recreationally legal states from four to eight in the recent presidential election – it’s also a perplexing juxtaposition to the desires of the American people, said Costa.
“It’s wonderful to see the world changing its attitude toward marijuana, but it begs the question: why doesn’t our criminal justice system reflect that?” said Costa.
“The real irony for me is that here we are in a civilization where progress is speeding up faster and faster, and yet the government is still caught back in the Stone Age and seems to be getting more and more out of touch."
"We are living in a country with a government that does not reflect the will of the people.”
Costa’s recommendation for those on the outside? Grab your “pitchforks and torches.”
“I think we’re sliding toward revolution. We don’t want to go there but that’s where we’re headed as long as the government is unresponsive,” said Costa. “We’re sinking more and more into an authoritarian state with [Donald] Trump... and the War on Drugs is a microcosm of what’s wrong with this country.”
Banner image: Dustin Costa, Marijuana Lifer Project. (marijuanaliferproject.org)