The Lynchpin of Cannabis Reform: Racial Disparity


On Nov. 5th, The cover of the latest edition of Time magazine reveals the bitter divisions in America amid a pandemic and a presidential election. By using half of a torn-up American flag face mask, journalist Molly Ball explores the question of how the president, whoever that turns out to be, will lead an increasingly divided nation.

2020 destines to be an abnormal year in the world’s history. The pandemic racks the global economy and tests governments’ response capacity. To save more lives and resurrect the economy, many countries and cities resort to the lockdown, which inevitably sacrifices the liberty of civilians and the interests of people in some businesses like catering and transportation. That’s why the American society has now evolved into contradictory sides, and the contradiction flares up during the 2020 presidential campaign.

One of the hot topics in this-year election focuses on legalizing cannabis at the federal level. Several days ago, the Dem candidate Joe Biden appeals to his supporters to promote his propagandistic video that shows his stance on cannabis legalization. As a matter of fact, in the path of cannabis reform, the priority is to eliminate the discriminatory law enforcement in American society for a long time.

 The cover of the latest edition of Time magazine – CNN

Race and the Drug War

The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color.

Many different communities of color bear the impact of the discriminatory enforcement of drug laws. 

· People of color experience discrimination at every stage of the criminal justice system. They are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, harshly sentenced, and saddled with a lifelong criminal record. This is particularly the case for drug law violations.

· Nearly 80% of people in federal prison, and almost 60% of people in state prison for drug offenses are black or Latino.

· Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for black people as for white people charged with the same offense. Among people who received a mandatory minimum sentence in 2011, 38% were Latino, and 31% were black.

· Black people and Native Americans are more likely to be killed by law enforcement than other racial or ethnic groups. They are often stereotyped as being violent or addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Experts believe that stigma and racism may play a major role in police-community interactions.

Punishment for a drug law violation is not only meted out by the criminal justice system but is also perpetuated by policies denying child custody, voting rights, employment, business loans, licensing, student aid, public housing, and other public assistance to people with criminal convictions.

These exclusions create a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans. Like drug war enforcement itself, they fall disproportionately on people of color.

· One in 13 black people of voting age are denied the right to vote because of laws that disenfranchise people with felony convictions.

· One in nine black children has an incarcerated parent, compared to one in 28 Latino children and one in 57 white children.

Cannabis Influencers

The unequal enforcement of cannabis has widely aroused rejective actions from American society. 

Senator Cory Booker (Democrat-NJ) raised the problem of racial disparities in cannabis enforcement and the broader war on drugs during his questioning of Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court nominee. Cory Booker is a strong advocate for cannabis reform, including decriminalization and dealing with the racial inequalities due to the War on Drugs, in the judicial system.

Booker stated, “The war on marijuana in 2017, there were more possessions of marijuana arrests in America than all the violent crime arrests combined and they were disproportionately African American people.”

Cory Booker Hammers Amy Coney Barrett on Cannabis Criminalization and War On Drugs – Budsoul

“My point is, you see an African American is not more likely to use marijuana, but they are more likely to be convicted of a felony for it in some three-to-four times compared to white people, I hope you can see that means they’re going to be more inclined to lose other rights and liberties that deeply affect their lives,” added Booker.

It is also inspiring for the cannabis industry to witness more and more celebrities in color joining in the business. For instance, American rapper Jay-Z launched his own cannabis line called monogram, and Seattle former NBA player Shawn Kemp opens the marijuana store. As is reported by media, their common original intention is to motivate more communities in color to step into cannabis career.

Besides, there are some social alliances committed to exposing discrimination and disproportionate drug law enforcement, as well as the systems that perpetuate them. 

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