Monday, January 19, 2015

Marijuana Arrests and Social Justice

An important feature of the marijuana legalization debate centers on the issue of social justice and the disproportionate arrest rates of people of color and in communities of color. Legalization proponents argued that legalizing simple marijuana possession for adults will have a tangible benefit in this arena. Hopefully so. But does this really get at the root cause of the issue?

One has to ask, will creating a recreational marijuana industry really have a net positive impact on the issue of social justice? Will communities of color where marijuana retail stores are opening in greater numbers somehow be immune to the kind of negative consequences they already face from high-density alcohol and tobacco stores? What about addiction rates, crimes against persons, and health consequences? What will the effect be on youth for whom possession remains illegal?

Here is an interview with Project SAM Director, Dr. Kevin Sabet, who calls into question the wisdom of legalizing marijuana to reduce the number of unfair drug arrests. He points out that legalization, and the "Big Tobacco 2.0" it will create, has far reaching negative effects for all communities, and we all should be paying attention.

Although we may have removed adult marijuana possession as a vehicle for institutionalized oppression, we need to remain vigilant to its continued influence on all Washington communities.

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