By Poly Paradyme
Source: Activist Post
I feel nothing but sadness for Ross and his family. I was riding the bus through downtown Seattle on my way to work refreshing my twitter feed for the #SilkRoad hash tag. I knew today was sentencing day. Suddenly….there it was on my screen.
Life in Prison. It’s such a contradiction of terms. What kind of life does one have in prison?
Infinite empathy for other humans is essential to getting through life, but this time it cut deep. My heart immediately felt heavy and began to pound in my chest harder as I read on. An odd sensation fell over me as it kind of hit me that this was happening. What turned from disappointment became Rage. Rage turned into inspiration to write this.
No one – NOT ONE PERSON – deserves to be in jail for buying, selling, or using drugs. Especially a non-violent friendly person like Ross Ulbricht. But Ross’s story is all too common nowadays. There are people serving life sentences for less than what Ross did. The drug war feeds human suffering into a machine that churns out funds, power, and control for the US Government.
Ross is quite possibly going to jail for the rest of his life unless he somehow receives a pardon or a successful appeal. He will die in prison, slowly with likely another forty years left in his life. His life sentence is in reality, a slow death sentence. It’s like being in front of a firing squad for decades, only to die of natural causes.
He will father no children. He will not have the same luxuries we personally get to enjoy. Ross will not get to be with his mother and father as they age and pass onto the next phases of life. He will never get to attend his sister’s future wedding. He will never get to engage in marriage himself. Ross will never aspire to his full potential locked in a cage. His day to day schedule for the next forty years has been planned out for him. He will wake up at the same time every day, shower at the same time every day, and be limited to a small space with other inmates.
Some would say he got what he deserved for selling drugs. I would remind those people that the Government has sold (Iran-Contra) and enabled drugs (Afghanistan Opium) worldwide for decades and wonder if they would hold them accountable as well. You may also remember, “The Fast and the Furious” where we provided weapons to the cartels via the DEA. The government condemns actions and then behind our backs engages the very actions that most citizens would go to jail for.
It this sentence Ross’s fault? No. While he was found guilty as charged by the government this sentence is not his fault. The circumstances that allowed him to profit and propagate were cultivated by our own government. By prohibiting drugs you make their value skyrocket and their sale becomes lucrative. If it wasn’t him creating Silk Road, it would have inevitably been someone else.
The government has a long standing, but profitable problem with the war on drugs. Sixty or more years of evidence demonstrate that the War on Drugs and the punitive policies thereof, “damage our social fabric” to cite the judge. Ross simply filled a void in a market that needed to be filled. The world needed a digital marketplace where anything and everything could be sold. He solved a problem by facilitating an open and free market that could be used in relative safety and anonymity while providing ratings and customer service. Ross saw a chance to apply his libertarian ideas into practical action and manifested a raw change in Internet connectivity.
On the surface this sounds very American and pro free markets. Drugs *should* not be a crime. But in America the land of freedom, freedom to choose your drugs is frowned upon.
I’ve never met Ross. I doubt I ever will get to. But this man whom I’ve never encountered means more to me than most people will ever understand. He means something to me because he is me. He is all of us. Any one of us could find ourselves in a similar position for any reason if the Government decided we were worth the trouble.
Ross is a good soul stuck in a meat grinder of a machine known as the American Drug War. Anyone reading this article could find themselves under the thumb of the US Government some day for one reason or another. Bankrupted and stripped of their freedoms for inane reasons.
Ross and I come from similar backgrounds. West coast. Good family. Excellent education. We held similar political views on freedom and personal experimentation. His joke of a trial has resulted in nothing but pain for him and his family. I’ve personally caused similar (but much less serious) pain and embarrassment to my family in the past. I’ve been in a courtroom before agreeing to things because of the way evidence is presented and the choices limited to me. I’ve suffered sleepless nights and false accusations before due to the war of drugs like countless others.
Now consider there are millions in prison, probation, or facing loss of liberty due to the failed prohibition policies. Ponder on the billions wasted in the criminal justice system putting away low level offenders and vendors trying to make some money. All of these harms are preventable by changing the way we treat drugs and drug users.
Unfortunately Ross compromised the integrity of his legacy by calling Silk Road a, “terrible mistake” and a “very naive and costly idea” prior to sentencing. I can’t blame him for defaulting on his legacy given the sentence he was facing. I feel the need to make something clear….
SilkRoad was genius. The OpSec was awful, but it’s unwise to downplay the greatness of the billion dollar industry he created. The first concentrated effort to show that Bitcoin has value and that the world of drugs can be made safer. The Darknets today are a thriving business and there are at least 6 solid markets actively distributing narcotics and other products. I could easily go onto Agora and place an order for some heroin today in an hour or less. The drugs would arrive in 3–10 days and no one would be the wiser except me and the vendor.
Your government only sanctions certain states of consciousness. Your only choices are endless brands of corporate products. But should you choose to ever add some psychedelic color to your life, there’s hefty fines, courtrooms, and jail time waiting to extract your time & wealth for making completely natural decisions to use drugs.
Ross is not without guilt here, he admitted to creating the site. I’m not going to even try to say he’s innocent. But a man’s life should not be signed away with a shoddy trial, suppressed evidence, and courtroom theatrics that belong in Law and Order. To date, there is still a great body of evidence under seal that the general public has not been made aware of. I’m sure Ross, Lyn, and Dratel would all like to see those documents made public.
But when you get to the root of this case, the very core. The question becomes again, “Do we even care if Ross sold drugs?” and prompts the question, “What are the alternatives?”
A society with legalized drugs can mitigate the harms caused to the small percent of users with no social support net. It can prevent billions in spending for court time and jail time. Legalizing would ensure that Cocaine is no longer tainted with cutting agents, or cheap research chemicals being sold and labeled as LSD to make more money. It would allow addicts and junkies to come forward seeking treatment without fear or reprisal. There are billions to be made in tax revenue from legalizing as well. We can end the modern cartels by making their products legal. No more gangland killings over drugs. No more drug cartel profits. No more people getting sucked into a vicious and repetitive justice system that churns out prisoners and profits but not progress.
We have a responsibility as a species to look upon ourselves and see our mistakes and reflect on new choices to explore. People make mistakes. People do drugs. We will never stop drug users with an iron hand, so let’s try to help with a soft touch.
Our choices as a society are to throw drug users in jail and make their lives infinitely worse, or we can choose to help them grow, do good, and be better.
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