Pot, Prohibition and People of Color
By now, you should know that cannabis prohibition is based on racism. The father of prohibition, Harry J. Anslinger, was well known for his racist views. Blacks and other people of color are at least twice as likely to be arrested for possession than white people, even though they use marijuana at similar rates. Even in states where cannabis is legal and arrests for possession are way down, people of color are still busted way more often than whites.
If you’re still not aware of how the color of law is used to incarcerate minorities, watch Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th and read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow to get a better understanding.
But the cannabis industry, in its rush to grab every dollar possible, is not doing enough to create opportunities for the people that have been hurt the most by prohibition. Of all the states and cities with legal pot, only Oakland, California lets people of color get a good shot at creating solid cannabis businesses. Legalization shouldn’t be racist. Keeping people out of jail and creating more economic opportunities for users from all walks of life is the goal, but dismantling a racist drug policy only to replace it with a legalization system that excludes people of color isn’t progress.
We have to make sure that the cannabis industry stays true to its social-justice roots. Support reform organizations like the Minority Cannabis Business Association and the Drug Policy Alliance. If you see racism in the industry, point it out. Anti-racist white people especially need to pay attention to these things and speak up, as many did recently regarding Trump supporter and political dirty-tricks specialist Roger Stone’s being scheduled to give a keynote speech at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo in Los Angeles in September. I get that legalization needs support from all sides of the political spectrum, but booking Stone, who’s made numerous racist statements in the past, such as Twitter posts calling one black TV commentator a “stupid negro” and another “an arrogant know-it-all negro,” doesn’t help solve the problem.
Racists don’t listen to people of color. It’s not their thing. The cannabis industry needs activists now more than ever, but not just to push for nationwide federal legalization. We must make sure that the new people looking to cash in on the legal industry adhere to the ideals of social justice. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
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