Twenty-two year-old Michael Saffioti met with the dangerous consequences of marijuana use. Michael, just like roughly half of the 1.64 million arrested for “drugs” each year, was a victim of America’s senseless drug war and its bobbleheaded crusade against a plant.
Michael was not a criminal.
Saffioti suffered from severe daily allergies — so severe, in fact, that his mother says he had to be careful about the first girl he kissed. He constantly took precautions to ensure that his next meal would not be his last. Michael grew up reading labels, and carrying medication with him but suffered extreme reactions to dairy products simply by being in their proximity.
He found that marijuana use helped him cope with the anxiety that came with worrying about everything he consumed, or even was near. However, he did not have a prescription and his self-medication put him in and out of the legal system. His mother says it helped him. “Ultimately, he found and thought he was better functioning using marijuana,” said Rose Saffioti. In July of 2012, at his mother’s suggestion, Michael dutifully turned himself in for an outstanding warrant for misdemeanor marijuana possession, after missing a court date.
Michael was dead within 24 hours. “I wanted Michael to be held accountable for his legal issues, and I insisted on it, Rose Saffioti told KVAL, “but I didn’t want him to die.”
The camera in Module E-4 in the Snohomish County Jail captured the morning’s events. The camera catches Michael speaking to a guard, servers, and other inmates–apparently asking about the content of the oatmeal they were given that morning.
After a while, having been seemingly assured the food was safe, Michael is seen taking a few bites. A few minutes later, Michael is seen back at the guard’s desk using his inhaler. According to a legal claim filed by Rose Saffioti, Michael asked to see a nurse, and was instead sent to his cell. Michael pressed his “Call” button, asking desperately when the nurse would arrive. This was ignored.
The video shows Michael jumping up and down in his cell, begging for someone to take his allergy seriously–only to have his pleas for assistance fall on deaf ears. Michael was found unconscious in his cell by a guard about 35 minutes after he ate.
Nurses THEN arrived to perform CPR, and firefighters took over, but it was too late–Michael was pronounced dead a half hour later.
Michael had been a guest at this particular facility once before, so the staff had his medical records and the guards knew of his special circumstances, according to Rose Saffiotti’s lawyer.
According to Opposing Views, eight inmates have died in Snohomish County Jail in the past 3 years. One inmate, whose family is also suing, died of an infection while imprisoned. The National Institute of Corrections found the jail’s health department to be understaffed, and that overcrowding exacerbated the problem.
Marijuana became legal in Washington state soon after Michael’s death.
This callous disregard for Michael’s well-being sums up the plight of the nonviolent marijuana offender.
Can we truly justify this phony war on drugs?
Harvard drug economist Jeffrey Miron says that legalizing JUST marijuana would save over $8.7 BILLION (yes, with a “b”) per year. Of course, Miron points out, there would be significant financial advantages to legalization as well. If taxed like alcohol and tobacco, legal marijuana could raise another $8.7 billion in tax revenue.
Nonviolent drug offenders make up 25% of the prison population. Not only would reducing this number overall help deal with the aforementioned health disks posed by overcrowding, but it would increase the quality of life for the nonviolent offender:
A 2010 study published by the Pew Center on the States revealed that past incarceration severely damages men’s future prospects:
Taking age, education, school enrollment, and geography into account, they found that past incarceration reduced subsequent wages by 11 percent, cut annual employment by nine weeks, and reduced yearly earnings by 40 percent. Only 2 percent of previously incarcerated men who started in the bottom fifth of the earnings distribution made it to the top fifth 20 years later, compared to 15 percent of never-incarcerated men who started at the bottom.
In short, we are destroying lives over nonviolent drug offenses.
Let’s ask the DEA about marijuana policy: