The biggest danger proposed by marijuana is that of not being white while consuming it.
While cannabis is in the process of being accepted in communities across the United States, minorities continue to be disproportionately criminalized for their usage of the plant.
A recent New York Times investigation uncovered the statistics; black people are eight times more likely to be arrested for low level marijuana charges and police make more weed related arrests in black neighborhoods, even when comparing areas with similar complaint rates.
This glaring racial disparity in arrests pertaining to cannabis confirms the racism permeating the United States’ law enforcement, the gentrification of the booming cannabis industry, and the horrendous waste of resources being funneled into the continued war on drugs.
While weed has been decriminalized or legalized medicinally or recreationally in all but 17 states, minorities continue to be punished for crimes such as possession, propelling white people to the helm of the now en vogue marijuana dispensaries and companies.
81% of marijuana business owners are white, 5.7% are Latino and 4.3% are black, according to Marijuana Business Daily. While minorities have been sent to jail over weed, white people have been able to take control of this billion dollar industry.
New York’s gubernatorial candidate, Cynthia Nixon, has identified this issue and has made legalizing recreational marijuana a pillar of her campaign.
“We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something white people do with impunity,” Nixon said.
The over-policing and mass incarceration of people of color is something that she plans to tackle as well as the expunging of past convictions for non-violent marijuana offenses..
Arresting and prosecuting people for non-violent weed offenses is also often unnecessary and a gross misuse of resources. Unsurprisingly, research has found that weed arrests in New York have not reduced serious crime.
According to the senior Harvard lecturer, Jeffrey Miron, the United States spends around 8.7 billion dollars a year criminalizing marijuana. Regarding the included 8.7 billion dollars in tax revenue that can be acquired from legalizing weed, a near 20 billion can be invested into the true needs of our country, California plans on investing a total of 150 million in medical and social programs by the year 2023.
Although legalization is a step in the right direction in regards to handling outdated biases towards cannabis and people of color, the criminalization of minorities’ weed consumption has already effectively diminished their job opportunities, housing prospects, their voice and ultimately their right to vote – their right to democracy.
We are far from solving the problem of race induced criminalization, but decriminalizing, legalizing, and amending weed convictions for minorities is a start.