25th May 2020 was one of the darkest days for Americans. This day, George Floyd was killed by officers, and the incident was shot on camera. These officers were affiliated with the Minneapolis Police Department. This needless loss of life put the entire nation in a state of shock and the disheartened community came out on the streets to protest the tragic incident.
The events that took place after this tragic incident have shown that America still has a long way to go to reckon with itself. Not much has changed since the enslaved Africans were brought to the coast of Virginia in chains. Even today American public institutions are embedded with structural racism and inequality. One of the most prejudiced among all these institutions is the Criminal justice system of the US. America still has a lot to address when it comes to providing its citizens with equal rights. Giving black heroes their due tribute during Black history month is the first step of making that happen.
How Cannabis is associated with racial injustice?
From time to time, every American generation has come forward and participated in the fight against racial injustice, be it slavery or Civil War. From battles against Jim Crow laws to marching for civil rights, fight against mass incarceration to the Black Lives Matter movement, there is a long list of social and racial justice issues this nation had to fight for.
Hundreds of protests are still taking place all across the nation. These protests are conducted to demand the state, local and federal leaders to eradicate the practices and policies that encourage and drive racial injustice within the system. One of the most important policy solutions under conversation is the end to the war on drugs. Marijuana criminalization needs to be stopped. Ending cannabis prohibition would be the first step to solving a much larger puzzle.
It is evident that cannabis prohibition is not the only aspect that leads to racial inequity in America. Moreover, it is not the only reason behind the racially-aggressive policies and misconducts. However, the criminalization of Marijuana is the most used excuse to perpetuate racial injustice. It is one way the institutions justify their racial prejudice.
The racial origin of cannabis prohibition:
“There are various racialized perceptions when it comes to cannabis users of color,” says Alex Jordan of EMUCoupon. “The reason behind the criminalization of Marijuana is the threat to public welfare and security, the people from different racial backgrounds are assumed to pose. This perception created around the people of color leads to racial prejudice against them” he explains.
The most affected of these communities by this discrimination are African Americans and Mexicans. As a result, the state and local governments are prompted to outlaw Marijuana usage.
In the states of America with a greater percentage of Mexicans, racial prejudice turned out to be the catalyst for Marijuana prohibition. In the early 1990s, it was contended in the Texas Senate that the Mexican community is crazy and Marijuana is what’s causing that. Similarly, in the Southern states where a significant percentage of black people reside, marijuana laws were imposed due to the fear perpetuated against black smokers. The citizens of the Southern states believed that marijuana is the reason behind the mayhem, murder, and rape among the black community.
How cannabis prohibition is filling prisons with people of color?
The use of marijuana when compared within black and white communities turns out to be equal across both of the races. However, African Americans are more likely to be arrested as compared to their white counterparts.
According to the federal National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 49% of white Americans were found to have consumed marijuana once in their life. On the contrary, 42% of African Americans and 32% of Latinx were to be consuming marijuana.
According to the information released by the FBI, more than 40% of the drug arrests made were made in 2018 for Marijuana offenses. 92% of these cases were filed for the possession of cannabis. Every year, more than 6000 people are deported for possessing cannabis.
The convictions for cannabis make it hard for minorities to acquire an education, job or residence. All because of the unequal enforcement of cannabis laws. This leads to the disproportional stigmatization of African Americans and the Latinx community.
Today, more arrests are made for non-violent cannabis offenses as compared to the violent crimes combined that take place in America. With more of such cases reported each year, the resistance against futile cannabis policies is also increasing.
What do the leaders of color think about cannabis prohibition?
When it comes to the leaders of color, we find various names that have been taking a stand against judicial racism. Some of them include:
- The National Black Caucus of State Legislators
- Former President Barack Obama
- S. Senator Cory Booker
- Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders
- The National African American Drug Policy Coalition
- S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Ca)
- The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
All of them have criticized and spoken out against the implication of cannabis laws. There are over a hundred organizations that have endorsed cannabis legalization. They have also suggested ways to curb the damage to the black community caused by the war on drugs. Some of these organizations include Human Rights Watch, NAACP, and ACLU.
How to regulate and tax the use of cannabis?
We cannot deny the fact that abuse of drugs is one of the biggest problems we are facing as a nation. However, it is evident that the current cannabis laws have failed to solve the problem. These laws have simply caused the courts and jails to fill with people of color. The best way to control drug abuse is to regulate and tax the use of cannabis similar to alcohol.
Branding people as criminals need to stop:
Cannabis is safer to use as compared to alcohol. Therefore, it isn’t right to brand the people who use this drug as criminals. This criminal branding causes families to separate and dreams to derail. This makes it harder for people of color to get jobs or an education.
- Making communities safer:
Cannabis needs to be removed from the criminal market. This will free up law enforcement resources and the police officers will be able to tackle more serious crimes.
- Regulation of the cannabis market:
To eradicate judicial racism, it is important to establish control over the cannabis market. Only the licensed business should be allowed to sell cannabis. The purchaser should be asked for proof of age.
- Creation of revenue and job opportunities:
Taxed markets generate revenue for the economy. The legalization of cannabis markets will create more job opportunities for people belonging to different communities. Moreover, the trade of cannabis within the illicit market will also be curbed.
The illegal use of cannabis is found to be associated with judicial racism. Every year, people of color have to face consequences even though the white communities are equally involved in the consumption and possession of Marijuana. The legalization of medicinal cannabis will not only offer relief from a variety of health problems. It will also cause peace to be restored, the economy to prosper, and the establishment of racial equity all across the nation.