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The Hypocrisy of Cannabis Capitalism

A growing portion of the country is embracing marijuana legalization, thus fueling the legal industry’s growth. As of April 2022, nearly three-quarters of all U.S. states have legalized medical cannabis, and over one-third have sanctioned its recreational use by adults.

However, due to marijuana’s historic criminalization, millions of people of color remain incarcerated for low-level offenses. The 2020 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report “A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform” found that Black Americans are 3.64 times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for unlawful cannabis possession, and most states prevent anyone with a criminal record from participating in the legal industry. Over 80% of marijuana business owners in the U.S. are white men who already have access to financial and social advantages.

Though marijuana legalization continues to expand across the country, “racial disparities in arrests are not improving. In some parts of the country, racial disparities in arrests are getting even worse,” according to the ACLU.

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity and Reinvestment Expungement (MORE) Act, which aims to erase nonviolent convictions related to cannabis and repeal federal criminal penalties for the possession, growth, and distribution thereof. In addition, the legislation would impose a cannabis tax to fund economic, educational, and social programs for those most heavily impacted by the historic criminalization of marijuana.

The MORE Act will now head to the Senate, where its fate remains uncertain. There is an imperative for governments to support the communities they have long ravaged. If you agree, let your senators know here.

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