Legalization of Marijuana
As you may or may not know, the Minnesota legislature is currently working through their latest efforts at revisiting this issue which has been pushed forward to varying degrees since the turn of the century. The short story is that as long as the Republicans control either chamber of our state's legislature, the bill will likely never get passed. But that isn't stopping this newest version of MN Democrats from trying to appeal to the progressive portion of their base voters by appearing to care about this subject. The very clear political reality is that often, the margins for victory between Democratic and Republican candidates, is smaller than the number of voters who support the other MAJOR parties in Minnesota. (Namely, The Legal Marijuana Now Party and the Grassroots Canabis Party) Both alternative parties often field candidates who siphon votes away from the 2 traditional political powerhouses and by taking a very public pro-marijuana stand, Democrats now hope to secure these independent-minded voters for themselves. Supporting legalization efforts is NOT a policy issue, it's simply a matter of political practicality and survival. Here is the latest bill, in its glorious entirety...
There are several important factors regarding this bill which everyone should know. 1.) NO ONE from the Legal Marijuana Now party was consulted or approached regarding this legislation. 2.) The Bill may seem long and technical, but it contains little or no specifics regarding the most important aspects of the idea, namely, who benefits economically. 3.) The bill itself is actually nothing more than a framework for a subcommittee of appointed individuals (to be named later) to construct the actual rules, regulations, policies, procedures and benefactors. 4.) For people who regularly use marijuana, the conditions and circumstances that will exist under the new "legislation and legalization" may well be more complicated and expensive than whatever they're doing now.
Don't get me wrong, I expect that someday it will work out somehow. Anything is possible. But if the history of how things happen in Minnesota is a gilmpse into the future of this industry, we should expect that a small demographic (akin to the people who control the craft brew industry) will design, control, promote and prosper from the burgeoning marketplace that will become the marijuana industry. We'll see exactly who is placed within the "Marjuana Management Board" and the "Marijuana Advisory Council" and how they plan to effectively reserve significant portions of the marketplace for the "communities that experienced a disproportionate, negative impact from cannabis prohibition in order to promote economic development, provide services to prevent violence, support early intervention programs for youth and families, and promote community stability and safety..." It's one thing to put into words, ideas that promote equality and fairness. Has anyone ever heard the concept, "all men are created equal..."? Written at a time when a significant portion of men were being bought, sold and held as slaves...? It's quite another for politicians to actually turn down their biggest fundraisers, voters and donors in favor of random citizens that they don't know and who probably won't be voting for them. Again, since the bill is merely an outline of idea to be formed and confirmed at a later date, only time will tell. One thing we do know, when it comes to economic equality and uplifting the very specific communities that have suffered disproportionately from the criminalization of marijuana use, states that have legalized marijuana have had mixed results at best. I would encourage people to read the following independent reports and news articles...
But despite these developments, many African Americans across the country are concerned that a lack of access to capital and systematic economic racism will exclude them from the burgeoning marijuana business the way they’ve been excluded from other business opportunities in the past.
“One of the things that we have definitely learned since the establishment of equity is that a license doesn’t go as far as need be,” said Jacob Plowden, co-founder and deputy director of the Cannabis Cultural Association, a New York-based nonprofit that helps “marginalized and underrepresented communities” compete in the legal cannabis industry.
The numbers are disturbing. Less than a fifth of the people involved at an ownership or stake-holder level were people of color, a 2017 survey found; black people made up only 4.3 percent. www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/Black entrepreneurs struggle to join legal weed industry (nbcnews.com)
Washington, DC, decriminalized marijuana in 2014, then legalized possession and growing but not sales in a voter-approved ballot initiative that same year. For possession, arrest rates between 2010 and 2016 dropped by more than 99 percent for black people and almost 99 percent for white people. But, again, racial disparities remained: Black people were arrested for possession at a rate of 8 per 100,000 people in 2016, while white people were arrested at a rate of 2 per 100,000 — four times less.
This is similar to what we saw in Colorado, one of the first two states to legalize pot in 2012. A 2016 report from the Colorado Department of Public Safety found, “The decrease in the number of marijuana arrests by race is the greatest for White arrestees (‐51%) compared to Hispanics (‐33%) and African‐Americans (‐25%). The marijuana arrest rate for Whites and Hispanics is comparable, but the marijuana arrest rate for African‐Americans is almost three times that of Whites (348/100,000 for Blacks and 123/100,000 for Whites).”
This is still progress for marijuana legalization advocates, since fewer people of all races are arrested for cannabis in the end.
But the findings also show the persistence of racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
The disparities are not explained by differences in black and white marijuana use rates. Surveys show black and white Americans use cannabis at similar levels. www.vox.com/identities/2018/4/20/17262276/
This isn't to say that we couldn't institute policies, procedures and protocols that helped create equity and fairness and even terrific economic opportunities within this new marketplace. We definitely could. Just like we could institute comprenhensive police reforms that transformed the way we protect our citizens and create a safe and fundamentally fair system of criminal justice for everyone. I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm saying that based on our history, it's unlikely that things will just magically turn out that way, without a very concerted and focused effort, led by people who have that very clear idea at the center of their overall planning. Most legislators are counting on the overwhelming majority of people (mainly, the "important" people and voters...) being so satisfied with the fact that our state has finally decided to legalize marijuana, that they don't look into the crevices and cracks of the legislation to find out precisely which peoples and communities are actually benefitted and which ones continue to be victimized.
Lastly, let me say this. I too have this issue on my wish list. My, "if I were in charge of everything, here's what I would do" list. Yes, absolutely, 100% we need to expunge old criminal records, but we need much, much more than that. We need to permanently finance a system going forward that will help undo the generations of unfair criminal injustice that has been applied to people. We need a fully restorative justice system that can allow everyone access to the same legal services and opportunities to positively resolve their outstanding issues. We need to incorporate police reform, criminal justice reform and restorative justice reforms into this issue so that we can deal with the problems comprehensively, learning from other states and what they did wrong, and what they left out, and what they failed to properly address. We're late to this game, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. It can also mean that we don't have to make the same exact mistakes that other states made and are still living with right now. With the right people involved at the top, we can do better. With the right decision makers controlling the arrangements and implementation, we can do it right. That's all anyone wants.