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Archived: Who Will Benefit From Marijuana Legalization

As the debate over the legalization of marijuana rolls on, the right now seems to be more open to the possible reality that prohibition has reached its final chapter. For the first time we are seeing members of Congress from both sides coming together to craft legislation to decriminalize this drug. Political foes by trade Elizabeth Warren and Cory Gardner have put aside their differences to write their piece of legislation, “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States,” to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales.

“Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development,” Warren said. Gardner also had something to say on the issue: “The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters — whether that is legalization or prohibition — and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”

As legislation is turning toward legalization there is still a racial disparity when it comes to who gets locked up. According to a recent report by the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, Black people are still getting arrested more than white people even in states where pot is legal.

Arrests for Black people have only dropped 25 percent and for Hispanics 33 percent, compared to 51 percent for whites. Studies have shown that Blacks and whites use pot at the same rate and these alarming statistics have driven the conversation to racial and policing issues.

One Republican lawmaker from Kansas suggests Blacks respond worst to marijuana than whites “because of their character makeup, their genetics.” Is this true or are police looking for Blacks harder than whites

“As white people exploit the changing tide on marijuana, the racism that drove its prohibition is ignored,” Vincent M. Southerland, executive director of NYU Law’s Center on Race, Inequality and the Law, and Johanna B. Steinberg of the Bronx Defenders, recently wrote for the New York Times. “So are the consequences for Black communities, where the war on drugs is most heavily waged.”

New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon suggested giving Black people the first opportunity to sell legal weed. After much criticism from Black leaders such as Al Sharpton she has backed off from using the term “reparations” in her push to legalize marijuana but states “Marijuana legalization is coming. We have to make sure that people like John Boehner [former House Speaker] aren’t the only ones profiting.”

Time will tell if Black people will benefit from the legalization of marijuana or if this is another way white people will assert their power.

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