I have in the past four years been wrestling with my thoughts over who would be the most viable Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 to challenge President Donald Trump and win my vote. I had since made up my mind not to cast my vote for any candidate who doesn’t present major-policy-changing ideas and also not ones grounded on merely getting rid of “undesirable Trump” for all his downcast attributes in the past four years. In fact, if it hadn’t been the negative effect of the global pandemic on the American economy, I think Biden would have faced an uphill battle of beating Trump on the health of our economy that he had impressively built.

And to be quite honest when President Trump intimated his intention to go after China for recklessly spreading the plague around the world, I almost thought of rooting in for him because of my invariable conviction that, no matter what, President Xi Jinping’s government or the communist ruling party of China must be held accountable for the destructive effects of COVID-19 on every economy in the world. But that all changed when recent intelligence reports, reiterated by Joe Biden in their debate last night, revealed Trump’s hidden private bank accounts in China where he had been borrowing money for his personal business. As typical of him, he tried to debunk it with not what many Americans were dismissing as baseless allegations but with “I have closed those accounts in China since 2015”. Who would believe that or ever trust his effectiveness in going after China after such revelations and his refusal to still release his taxes?

So as President Barack Obama put it two days ago at a political rally in Pennsylvania in support of his former vice president’s candidature that Trump was in the White House more for his personal gains than that of the Americans in general.

Nevertheless, when Joe Biden finally emerged as the Democratic presidential frontrunner, I thought he was going to run primarily on “Obamaism” until I heard an important statement made by his running mate Kamala Harris during her debate with Vice President Mike Pence on October 7, 2020. That a Biden government would not only decriminalize the possession and use of marijuana at federal level but will go further to expunge the criminal record of the millions of ex-convicts on the substance, mainly black people and minorities, from the national database.

That essentially won my vote for a government which I think will provide us with the most progressive post-coronavirus-pandemic administration Americans will forever extol.

Already 16 states in the USA have decriminalized the recreational use of the “drug” while others are commercially cultivating and harvesting it, with all indications denoting its ultimate national legalization soon.

Then just like in the case of alcoholics most lawmakers now agree that the unfortunate and inevitable abusers and addicts are better of being treated in substance-abuse centers and helped to readjust back to normalcy rather than being subjected to such cruel punishments.

But without a doubt, I think it is well overdue for this long-awaited holistic expunge of the criminal records of these poor folks, locked up in the past and present for possessing or smoking marijuana, a policy that has apparently destroyed the lives of millions of ambitious and brilliant young men and women often condemned to the life of surviving through crime and other unorthodox means.

In 2016, in my neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey, I ran into a 29 year old African American lady selling odd items like winter gloves, scarfs, hats, wallets, belts, incense and other similar things crammed on a small rectangular table.

I cannot remember what I bought from her but I certainly purchased few items out of sympathy after briefly hearing the story of her first major setback in life that drove her into the job of a petty street vendor.

Tameka is the name still echoing in my mind as the one she gave me. She had completed high school at the age of 17 with outstanding performance and had throughout wanted to join the US Air-force. In her entry exams she had scores above the average and was scheduled to report for training when few days before, a white cop arrested her smoking a “joint” with friends at the Branch-Brooks Park on Clifton Avenue.

She was tried and convicted to a jail term of six months and since then all efforts to rehabilitate her life for something better had failed. She told me how most of her friends and family members in the neighborhood caught in the same quandary had to resort to crime for survival and had turned some into repeated offenders constantly going in and out of jail. She never wanted to go back to jail which drove her into becoming a street “hustler”.

These stories of arrests and incarcerations of mostly minorities have not decrease the number of users and abusers of the substance as expected especially after enduring harsh punishments but instead continue to increase and create more criminals everywhere.

In 2018 alone, over 660,000 Americans in possession of or caught using marijuana were convicted by the bias justice system adding to the over-bloated criminal database unnecessarily turning young boys and girls into irreversible delinquents. The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris presidency promised to overhaul the decadent justice system that would, among this one, treat all Americans equally and give a second chance to most hopeless people.

Just for you to know, all three former US presidents before Donald Trump, i.e. Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama had confessed to have at some point in their youthful or adolescent lives experimented the “drug”. I don’t know about Clinton and Bush who as whites would have most likely enjoyed preferential treatment had they been caught by cops, but in the case of Obama, an African American, his arrest with the substance would have terminated all his hopes and chances of ever becoming a US senator, let alone a president. He would have been among the millions of criminals in the system’s database, permanently destroying his life and perhaps never noticed in history.

Expunging these records will be the greatest thing an American president would be remembered for in modern history. It will be like a gift from the gods in a post-coronavirus pandemic.

For that reason I voted for the Biden-Harris ticket and will urge all my fellow Americans to join me in doing so.

Thanks for reading.

SAMSUDEEN SARR

BANJUL, THE GAMBIA