Why is Social Equity for Minorities Who Were Harmed By the War on Drugs Needed?

Avatar Maria Calabrese |

Photo Courtesy of Business Insider

Legalization in and of itself does not include diversity or access to the cannabis industry.

Marijuana legalization and its ensuing commercialization require social equity programs to enable access and inclusion into the industry for marginalized populations and communities. Marijuana’s bad wrap is based on racism. Today, in the United States marijuana criminalization still disproportionately affects minority groups.

The racist origins of marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs have impacted and decimated decades of minority lives.

There were no federal restrictions on the sale or possession of cannabis in the United States in the 1800s.  There were many applications for Hemp (from the cannabis), including using its fiber from the plant for clothes, paper, and rope. A New York Times article from 1876 cites the positive use of cannabis to cure a patient’s dropsy (swelling from an accumulation of fluid).

Ironically in the early 1900s, Mexican immigrants fleeing poor conditions from their country brought the practice of growing and consuming “marihuana,” the Spanish spelling to the United States. Harry Anslinger, the man behind the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act  “took the scientifically unsupported idea of marijuana as a violence-inducing drug, connected it to black and Hispanic people, and created a perfect package of terror to sell to the American media and public. By emphasizing the Spanish word marihuana instead of cannabis, he created a strong association between the drug and the newly arrived Mexican immigrants who helped popularize it in the States. He also created a narrative around the idea that cannabis made black people forget their place in society. He pushed the idea that jazz was evil music created by people under the influence of marijuana.” [Business Insider, Alyssa Pagano, Mar. 2, 2018]

Racist propaganda negatively shaped the public’s perception of the plant and fueled discrimination.  In 1938, within one year after the Marihuana Tax Act passed, “black people were about three times more likely to be arrested for violating narcotic drug laws than whites. And Mexicans were nearly nine times more likely to be arrested for the same charge.” [Business Insider, Alyssa Pagano, Mar. 2, 2018]

Today, as the list of states legalizing marijuana increases, so does epic economic opportunity, for some.  The President of the United States holds firm to the unjust 1900’s racial dogma and warns that minorities are crossing our borders, bringing drugs and murdering our people…

Now more then ever we need to understand and advocate for social equity programs that funnel resources to the people who need them most.