Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer made cannabis legalization and drug decriminalization a part of his police accountability plan recently and now he, and Representative Barbara Lee, are urging their colleagues to legalize cannabis as part of the movement to bring about racial justice. Cannabis prohibition has been a racist policy from its inception and the consequences have definitely had a racist impact as Black Americans are much more likely to be arrested and imprisoned for cannabis, even though use among races is about equal. Marijuana Moment reported on the Reps. Blumenauer and Lee’s “Dear Colleague” letter:
“We have all seen the pernicious effects of selective enforcement of cannabis prohibition across the country, and it is not just in red states or rural Republican America,” the letter states. “We have seen for the last 50 years the cannabis prohibition used disproportionately against people of color, especially young Black men. The use of cannabis is fairly uniform across different racial groups, but the people caught up in the net of cannabis enforcement are heavily skewed towards these young Black men.”
“It is time that we as Democrats take a stand against this pernicious hold-over from Richard Nixon’s blatant attempt at criminalizing the behavior of African Americans,” the two lawmakers, who are co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, wrote, adding that prohibition has contributed to mass incarceration across the country.
“We urge you to examine these issues, the legislative options, and to make federal cannabis reform part of the communities’ support in their quest for racial justice. We have information in greater specificity, if you wish, and have other pieces of legislation that will improve this tragic situation. Regardless, we hope you will be mindful of this rank injustice and the overwhelming support, which includes 93 percent of voters under 30. The cannabis reform train has left the station.”
As federal lawmakers debate legislation to address police accountability, reduce violent encounters with law enforcement, and bring about more racial justice, they should heed Reps. Blumenauer and Lee’s call to end cannabis prohibition. A whopping 40% of all arrests are for cannabis. Each law enforcement encounter has the chance of turning violent and each conviction can unnecessarily deprive someone of their freedom and employment, educational, and housing opportunities. It’s time that Congress follow the will of the voters and end federal cannabis prohibition. It won’t solve our racial issues, but it is one piece of the puzzle.