America’s criminal justice system has never been kind to minorities. Long before the drug war wrought untold havoc on the Black community, people of color were much more likely to run afoul of the law, even if they were innocent or had committed the same crime as a White individual. The war on drugs stepped up this racial persecution and allowed the criminal justice system to arrest and convict nearly half a million Black Americans.
A California government task force recently released an interim report on offering the Black community reparations for the damage caused by marijuana criminalization and the failed drug war as a whole. Established by a bill passed into law in 2020, the Reparations Task Force published a nearly 500-page report to delve deeper into how the U.S.’s drug policies were weaponized against minorities and led to a cycle of widespread incarceration.
It includes an extremely detailed analysis of the history of the failed drug war and how law enforcement was used to disproportionately target and imprison Black people. The report states unequivocally that the government criminalized African Americans “at all levels” for social control.
For instance, the report says, one of President Richard Nixon’s top advisors reportedly claimed that the administration’s plan was to get the public to associate Blacks and hippies with marijuana and heroin, and heavily criminalize both drugs to disrupt those communities. The report states that despite research showing that both White and Black people use drugs at nearly identical rates, Blacks are almost four times more likely to be prosecuted and imprisoned on drug charges.
Despite the fact that White people make up the majority of recreational drug users in the country, the report adds, Blacks and Latinos make up three-fourths of the people imprisoned for drug offenses. This has led to significant voter disenfranchisement, the report says. Even worse, it has led to the breakdown of the Black family.
With hundreds of thousands of Black men in prison, many of them for minor drug charges, scores of Black children have had their families ripped apart and have been forced to grow up without the emotional and financial security offered in a two-parent household. The interim report also notes Republicans aren’t the only ones to blame for the institutional racism that pervades America’s criminal justice system; Democratic leaders also pushed for more punitive drug policies. For starters, President Bill Clinton signed the 1994 Crime Bill into law, increasing the penalties for drug charges and upping the rate of mass incarceration.
Then-Senator Joe Biden was also instrumental in passing a couple of bills that further exacerbated racism in law enforcement and sentencing disparity. The task force will release a final report with recommendations on July 1, 2023.
Such reports from committees instituted by state governments vindicate the cannabis industry and industry players such as Cannabis Strategic Ventures Inc. (OTC: NUGS) for campaigning to end prohibition in order to end the racial disparities evident in the way drug laws were being implemented in different jurisdictions.
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