The Marijuana Justice Act, first introduced by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, is a bill that would legalize cannabis nationally with the intent of reducing the amount of minorities and low-income individuals arrested for minor marijuana possession charges. While many west coast states have legalized recreational marijuana use, and much of the northeast has as well, statistics having to do with impacts of arrests on minorities have not come down.
Knowing that simple legalization of cannabis is still tarnishing people’s reputations is proof that measures like the Marijuana Justice Act are necessary to curb the injustices due to marijuana prohibition. The intentions of the legalization of cannabis was not to simply improve the lives of wealthy white people.
In 2016, more people were arrested for simple marijuana possession in the United States than all violent crimes combined. More than one person is arrested every minute for marijuana possession in this country. An astounding 574,641 people were arrested for simple marijuana possession in the U.S. in 2016 — that’s 89 percent of all marijuana-related arrests. These aren’t dealers, distributors, or kingpins. They are just everyday people with a little bit of weed.
What we do know is that they were black. In spite of countless studies showing that African-Americans and white people use marijuana at almost the exact same rate, African-Americans are 375 percent more likely to be arrested for it. In fact, if as few people of color were arrested on marijuana-related charges as white people, America’s prison population would plummet by 40 percent.
This disparity extends to places that have legalized weed — and not just medical marijuana. As far as arrests go, the legalization wave has mainly helped white people. In Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana, arrests of white people have plummeted, but arrests of African-Americans and Latinos have actually skyrocketed as much as 50 percent. One has to ask: For whom did Colorado make marijuana legal?
Considering the fact that even states that have legalized cannabis are still seeing lives ruined by marijuana arrests means that more needs to be done. Are you surprised to hear that minorities have not received any reprieve from being arrested for cannabis possession?
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