For many years, African American and Hispanic communities paid a high price for marijuana prohibition. While statistics indicate that marijuana has been used equally by white people, arrests for marijuana possession have disproportionately gone to African American and Hispanic communities. This injustice has hurt families and people who were arrested for the non-violent crime of possessing a medicinal plant that is safer and healthier than alcohol and cigarettes. A conviction not only leads to a hefty fine and time in prison but also greatly hurts the chances of getting future housing and employment. For this reason, many states with legalized marijuana are working hard to remedy the situation by giving more assistance to minority groups who want to get into the marijuana business.
Minorities Targeted for Cannabis-Related Arrests
According to a 2013 study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union, in 2010 the black population made up 14 percent of the U.S. population yet they were all also subject to up to 36 percent of all marijuana possession arrests. The study found them to be 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people. A 2016 report conducted by the ACLU of California and the Drug Policy Alliance found that Hispanic residents were 1.4 to 1.7 percent more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.
Marijuana Industry-Related State Provisions for Minorities
Oakland, California is trying to make up for this by setting aside half of their marijuana licenses to be used by low income residents who were convicted of a marijuana related crime. The cities in the state are being encouraged to do the same by advocates. Massachusetts have included within their marijuana legislation encouragement to participate in profiting from the new industry specifically for those who were disproportionately harmed by prohibition in the past. In Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal, almost 3 percent of all retail licenses were given to African Americans who make up 3 percent of the state’s population.
States Trying to Make Amends
Other states such as Florida are trying to make up for past mistakes in dealing with the distribution of licenses. Last year, Florida passed a provision to ensure that a cultivation license will be given to someone who is a member of the Florida Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association once 250,000 patients register in the program. In Maryland, a bill is on the table that would create 7 new licenses that would go to minority owned companies. This comes after the state had lawsuits filed against them for not including minority owned companies to receive a cultivation license.
All in all, the issue has arisen and work is being done to encourage and assist minority groups in being able to profit from marijuana laws as opposed to being harmed by them. There are currently 8 states that have legalized recreational marijuana and 28 states that have legalized medical marijuana with marijuana bills existing in many other states that are under discussion. With the consideration of minority groups in legislation and officials working to restore some semblance of justice to the many lives that have suffered for marijuana prohibition, it seems like some healing or at least relief may be on its way soon.