As marijuana legalization gains momentum and spreads across the country it’s time to take stock of the soaring numbers and figure out what they mean for the black community.
According to CNN, support for legalizing marijuana has risen from: 16% in 1987 to 26% in 1996; 34% in 2002; and 43% two years ago.
Just a few months ago, a poll found 55% of those questioned nationally said marijuana should be taxed and regulated, 44% disagreed.
Two-thirds of those aged 18 to 34 said marijuana should be legal, with 64% of those 34 to 49 in agreement.
Half of those 50 to 64 believe marijuana should be legal, but that number dropped to 39% for those age 65 and older.
Black Enterprise talked with Art Way, senior policy manager, Colorado, of the Drug Policy Alliance who isn’t surprised that most of the legalization resistance comes from the elderly. “Many of those over 50 years old or who came from the old civil rights guard did not support marijuana legalization and really took a hardline in the drug war,” he says.
That hardline is expected to soften now that the numbers show the disparate and selective discriminatory enforcement of the drug war. Over the years, the drug wars were predominantly fought in African American communities and the collateral consequences have not been kind to people of color.
Way says, “Many of our people were labelled drug offenders and have drug convictions on their records which impact them regarding employment in all aspects as well as education and housing.”
African Americans make up 13% of the country’s population – yet, 31% of those arrested and more than 40% of people incarcerated for drug offenses are black. A black person is four times more likely than a white person to be arrested for marijuana possession in the U.S.
Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, says, “After 40 years of impoverished black men getting prison time for selling weed, white men are planning to get rich doing the same things.”
Way says, “Drug laws have always been used to maintain a social or racial hierarchy within this country and it continues to this day in places like New York City or Chicago, where 85% of all the drug possession charges are young black and brown people.”