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Blacks youths, legalized marijuana and generation incarceration

Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 3/13/2014, 10:10 a.m.
Dr. Gerald Deas

When I was a youngster, full of energy and acting up, the old folks would say I was “cutting up.” Cutting up was fun but was never that serious and would never land me in jail.

This undesirable behavior was curtailed by parents who did not spare the rod. A handy switch would bring you right back to your senses. Often it would never require a physical hit. In fact, just a frown on a parent’s face would send a signal to a child that enough was enough. “Settle down and behave!” Often, even a kiss and a hug could end cutting up and act as an antidote to bad behavior. 

Today, our jails are filling up with youngsters who are cutting up. In fact, prisons are sources of economic growth and have replaced mental institutions. 

Now let me get to the nitty gritty. The legalization of marijuana by our government may serve to help medical conditions, but at the same time, it is an anti-motivational drug that causes highs and lows of depression. 

A few years ago, I attended the Nazarene Congregational Church in Brooklyn and heard a sermon about the living conditions of slaves. The pastor told me how slaves who worked in the kitchen of the “high and mighty” were not allowed to take food back to their cabins for their meals. They could only take the “potlikker,” which was the water from the cooked vegetables and meats.

They survived working long shifts in the fields because they consumed the vitamin-rich nutrients in the broth. In fact, they mixed this broth with cornmeal and fat for their evening meals.

After explaining the nutritional benefits of potlikker, he went on to explain how today, “pot” and liquor are contributing to the downfall of our people. Hospitals, mental institutions and jails are filled with the negative effects of these mind-altering drugs.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Blacks make up 50 percent of the state and local prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes. And Black kids are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than white ones—even though white kids are more likely to abuse drugs.

In fact, while Blacks account for 12 percent of the population, they comprise 31 percent of arrests for marijuana possession, according to one study. With an overall marijuana incarceration rate that has doubled since 1991, whites were arrested at a rate of 195 per 100,000, while Blacks were arrested at a rate of 598 per 100,000 for possession of marijuana. In general, youths ages 15 to 24 made up over half of all possession arrests.

In addition to pot and liquor, our youngsters are also being subjected to additives in foods and beverages that are causing them to experience abnormal behavior. Back in 1976, Dr. Benjamin Feingold founded an organization whose sole purpose was to generate public awareness of how foods and synthetic additives adversely affect our health in the areas of childhood behavior, learning and mental health. 

Many parents do not realize how artificial flavors, food dyes, preservatives and artificial sweeteners such as Equal, NutraSweet, sucralose and Splenda all lead to hyperactivity, impulsive actions, short attention spans and poor sleep habits. For further information and to obtain the booklet “Behavior, Leaning & Health: The Dietary Connection,” you may call 631-369-9340 or toll free at 1-800-321-3287 or visit www.feingold.org, http://adhddiet.org or www.school-lunch.org.