Race in The Industry

By Cara Anderson
IG: @carajojo

The end of cannabis prohibition is deeply connected with racial bias within government officials and law enforcement.

Let’s look at Kansas State Representative
Steve Alford’s recent statement about cannabis prohibition:

“One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, it’s that the African-Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off to those drugs just because their character makeup, their genetics and that.” – Steve Alford

In fact, black people aren’t more likely to use cannabis than other races. According to NORML, “Over three-fourths of all marijuana consuming adults are white (76%), while only two-fifths (20%) are Hispanics or African-American.”

Alford’s comment isn’t just factually incorrect, it’s fueled by a deep-rooted racial bias. It isn’t all too surprising when an old white politician steps out and spews racist ideologies. The current President is doing it this week, too, like when he called Haiti a “shithole” country. Yes, it’s 2018 and we have elected officials that still believe in, and tout, racist propaganda.

Alford was referencing the prohibition era of the 1930’s, specifically the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. So, this state representative holds ideals from a time before the Civil Rights Act, a time when Harry Anslinger was commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.*

Harry Anslinger used racist propaganda to lay the foundation of what would later become the War on Drugs. His propaganda demonized minorities, stating that cannabis was used primarily by black and Hispanic people, and that the plant induces psychosis and insanity. Anslinger also argued against cannabis because he claimed it promoted interracial marriages.

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” – Harry Anslinger

So, while it was unintelligent at best for Alford to make this statement, his comment doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Despite his “apology” and statement that he isn’t racist, Alford’s beliefs correlate with years of injustice against black people. His comment showed that he stands with the government’s use of racist propaganda and lies to imprison and exclude minorities from profiting off of the cannabis industry.

It is a fact that in the US, black people are more likely to be targeted for cannabis related arrests than other races. New York state leads the country in cannabis arrests. After NY’s reduction of stop-and-frisk, cannabis related arrest numbers have lowered. However, the racial disparities among these arrests have not changed.

via theuncovery.org

In 2016, 46% of New York’s cannabis related arrests were of black people, and 39% were of Hispanic people. Only 10% of NY’s cannabis related arrests were of white people.

On the morning of January 11, New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Health, and Alcohol and Drug Abuse convened for a public hearing on the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. The hearing was aimed to legalize the use, distribution, and production of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over.

If cannabis is legalized in NY, the disproportionate arrest rates against minorities will edge many black people out of the industry. States are routinely denying people with drug charges from investing in, owning, or working at legal cannabis businesses. Disproportionately arresting minorities effectively lowers their chances of being able to work in the cannabis industry in the future.

Considering the disproportionate cannabis arrest rates of black people, state governments should be implementing programs like Oakland’s Equity Permit Program, not excluding them from an industry that, by 2020, is projected to create more jobs than manufacturing industryThe Equity Permit Program gives priority to people who have been affected by the War on Drugs. It’s time for governments to stop wasting tax dollars on cannabis arrests and excluding black people from the cannabis industry

* The FBN is now called the DEA.

Featured image via Grand Forks Herald.