Black youths, legalized pot and generation incarceration

Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 9/27/2018, 11:34 a.m.
When I was a youngster, full of energy and acting up, the old folks would say I was “cutting up.”

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 it was never that serious and would never have landed me in jail. This undesirable behavior was curtailed by not sparing the rod. A handy switch would bring you right back to your senses. Often it would not require a physical hit. 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 as an antidote to bad behavior could end cutting up.

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 might 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 Nazarene Church in Brooklyn and heard a sermon about the living conditions of slaves. I was told 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 “pot likker,” which was water from cooked vegetable and meats. They survived working long shifts in the fields because of consuming the vitamin-rich nutrients in the broth. In fact, they mixed this broth with corn meal and fatback for their evening meals. After explaining the nutritional benefits of pot likker, the preacher 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 those experiencing 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 children are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than white Children—even though white children are more likely to abuse drugs.

In fact, while Blacks account for 12 percent of the population, they comprise 31 percent of marijuana possession arrests, according to one study. With an overall marijuana incarceration rate that has doubled since 1991, whites were arrested at 195 per 100,000 whereas Blacks are arrested at 598 per 100,000 for possession of marijuana. In general, youths age 15 to 24 made up more than 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 affect adversely our health in the areas of childhood behavior, learning and mental health.

Many parents do not realize how chemicals such as 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 can contact the organization at 631-369-9340 or toll free at 1-800-321-3287. Visit and for more information.