They Said It On Marijuana, Quotable Saturday, Part CXIX

Marijuana and Race

In Marijuana And Racism: Bearing The Blunt Of The Problem, we wrote about how our nation’s drug laws have always been and still are disproportionally applied to African-Americans. In They Said It On Marijuana, Quotable Saturday, Part LXX, we discussed how Richard Nixon started the War on Drugs to divide White and Black America so as to further his presidential candidacy. And in They Said It On Marijuana, Quotable Saturday, Part CIV, we wrote on how ultra-conservative Charles Koch opposes our current drug laws as unjust because of their grossly uneven impact.

But as we wrote in The Marijuana Industry is not at War with the Poor, it is not fair to single out today’s cannabis industry for blame. Our nation has massive problems with racism and those problems manifest themselves in the following critical areas:

  1. Housing. For hundreds of years, African-Americans were forced to live in particular neighborhoods and then denied loans to buy houses even in those neighborhoods. Even if we were to end all such discrimination tomorrow (which will not happen), the history of that discrimination would continue to have impact for centuries.
  2. Job Discrimination.
  3. Educational disparities.
  4. Laws and law enforcement. The classic example of discriminatory drug laws is how using crack cocaine (associated more with the African-American community) would subject you to a much harsher punishments than using cocaine (associated more with the White Community), even though they were essentially the same. And as for law enforcement, well just watch the news.

The newly legalized cannabis industry — just as is true of our society as a whole — has racial impacts and disparities. Those in the cannabis industry have an obligation to be particularly mindful of this and of how our cannabis criminal laws have and still do disproportionally harm African-Americans. And this mindfulness should include seeking to develop and implement ways the cannabis industry can positively impact the African-American community and race relations in this country. As we previously wrote:

The cannabis industry should not pretend that it doesn’t impact communities because it does. It is up to states and communities to engage in smart urban planning that works to improve communities in the long term. At the same time, they should encourage and incentivize marijuana businesses to be good neighbors.

Whenever we write about race and cannabis we get comments (sometimes very angry comments) saying that Whites too have suffered and continue to suffer from our nation’s terrible drug laws. We do NOT dispute that for a moment and that is why we constantly call for legalization and for wiping clean the criminal records of those convicted of non-violent cannabis offenses. And we do not believe that those currently in the cannabis industry are any more the cause of our country’s racial problems (cannabis related or otherwise) than anyone else. But to try to claim that African-Americans have not suffered disproportionally is just factually wrong.

The question we need to be asking is what should be done and what can we/you do to improve things.

We would love to hear your ideas on this.