Like Ben & Jerry’s said: “Legalization without justice is half baked”. True, dat.
How are you feeling today? High, maybe? That is if you participated in yesterday’s holiday, 4/20. If you don’t know, 420 is known globally as a celebration of cannabis. It’s an unofficial holiday and may be irrelevant and unimportant to those that don’t partake. But, as more states have legalized cannabis whether that be just medically or both recreationally and medically, there has been important discussions on the unjust laws surrounding the plant. There’s a lot of information out there on the decriminalizing of cannabis and in this post I will breakdown what that means, why it’s a cause of discussion, and how we as citizens of the United States can help make changes in the criminal justice system. Making changes in the criminal justice system will also help with racial justice and I’ll explain how.
First of all, where did 420 come from?
Good question. It sounds like a story straight out of a movie (actually it should be a movie, Netflix get on that!). In 1971, a group of five California teens nicknamed “the Waldos”, learned of a Coast Guard member who had planted a cannabis plant but could no longer tend to the crop. Allegedly, the plant owner, gave a treasure map to the Waldos that would direct them to the abandoned cannabis. They would meet once a week outside of school after practice to search for it at…you guessed it…4:20 pm. One of the Waldos, Steve Capper, told the Huffington Post that they’d remind each other in the hallways that they were suppose to meet up at 4:20. They never found the treasure but they do go down as legends for coining 420.
What is decriminalization?
Decriminalization means that when you violate certain cannabis laws that you get no criminal charges but, there are still laws that if broken may result in fines or other penalties. There are thirty one states as well as Washington D.C that have enacted laws to stop jailing their residents for having possession of small amounts of cannabis. In 17 of those states marijuana is fully legal for adults 21 and older and 14 of the states have “decriminalized” simple possession.
Where is weed legal, exactly?
It’s fully legal in:
- Washington D.C
- New Jersey
- New York
- South Dakota
It’s legal, kinda in:
- Arkanas – medical
- Connecticut – medical
- Delaware – medical
- Florida – medical
- Georgia – only CBD oil
- Hawaii – medical
- Indiana – only CBD oil
- Iowa – only CBD oil
- Kentucky – only CBD oil
- Lousiana – medical
- Maryland – medical
- Minnesota – medical
- Mississippi – medical
- Missouri – medical
- New Hampshire – medical
- New Mexico – medical
- North Dakota – medical
- Ohio – medical
- Oklahoma – medical
- Pennsylvania – medical
- Rhode Island – medical
- Texas – only CBD oil
- Utah – medical
- Virginia – only CBD oil
- West Virginia – medical
- Wisconsin – medical
What’s so wrong about criminalization?
According to MPP.org, every 58 seconds someone is arrested for a marijuana offense. Also according to MPP, in 2019 there were 545,601 cannabis arrests in the United States and 92% of those arrests were for possession alone, not for selling or manufacturing. Another crazy fact about marijuana in the U.S. is that there are more arrests made for cannabis possession every year than all violent crimes combined. Yikes! But, I haven’t gotten to the worst part about the problem with criminalizing weed. Since cannabis is legal most places one way or another, it’s became a legitimate lucrative business with cannabis shops popping up left and right. In 2020, cannabis sales hit a record high of 17.5 billion! This isn’t so great for the Black people in jail serving 5-10+ year sentences on cannabis charges…According to Ben & Jerry’s, 81% of cannabis executives are White while only 4.3% are Black and although both races partake at similar rates, Black people are arrested at a much higher rate than White people even in legal states.
How can I change the law?
Another good question.
There’s something called the MORE Act. The MORE Act bill was passed in December 2020 by the House of Representatives. It would decriminalize marijuana and expunge nonviolent marijuana convictions across the U.S. Unfortunately, The MORE Act was never put to a vote in the Senate. Thankfully, there are some cities and states like Seattle and San Francisco that are leading the way in expunging convictions. There’s also prosecutors that are refusing to prosecute marijuana possession cases and clearing prior convictions.
To find out more on how we can try to get laws passed visit the links below:
Send a message to representatives.
MPP.org – More on decriminalization, bills, + laws.
MPP.org – More on Marijuana legalization, bills, + laws.
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