So far in the US, four states and the District of Columbia that have passed legislation legalizing recreational marijuana and the business has been growing fast. Unsurprisingly, the tax revenue from that has numbered in the millions – Colorado raised around $70 million during one fiscal year alone and during its first month, Oregon’s tax on the newly recreational drug raised $3.5 million. But this booming business has not been booming for everyone. In fact, the industry has a big race problem – white people have gotten rich while black people get to stay in prison.
Despite the fact that marijuana usage is pretty close between black people and white people, white people are significantly more likely to not be arrested when caught with possession and more likely to be in the booming business in states where it’s legal. The ACLU has several charts and loads of information about the discrepancies of arrest rates between black people and white people on this issue and recommends that “marijuana be legalized for persons 21 or older through a system of taxation, licensing, and regulation”.
Amanda Chicago Lewis wrote a piece for Buzzfeed about how black people are being shut out of the weed boom and a big part of it is how the War on Drugs has overcriminalized black people and other people of color, especially in comparison to white people. For the most part, states with legal recreational pot have prohibited people with criminal records from being involved in any part of the business. But that shuts out the very people who know what they’re doing and have experience growing marijuana because they were previously criminalized for doing just that. And that impacts more black people and other people of color than white people, thus allowing the industry to be predominately white.
I do believe that recreational and medical marijuana should be legalized and thus regulated – I even voted for Washington state’s Initiative 502 in 2012. But at the same time, the fact that the industry is incredibly white is a huge problem, especially since a part of this issue reverts back to the War on Drugs and the over criminalization of people of color. I do also believe in marijuana retroactive relief laws, something that Oregon has actually passed and could actually help the race problem in the industry.