Criminalization of Marijuana and the Black Community
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
The criminalization of marijuana can be introduced through the context of the war on drugs. During Nixon's presidency, he sought to stigmatize marijuana, depicting it as a "killer" drug, much more harmful than it actually is. In reality, marijuana was popularized in America as a means of reducing the use of much more detrimental drugs, such as crack and cocaine. The criminalization of marijuana that has been perpetuated in America since Nixon's presidency has disproportionately impacted the black community.
When looking at the relationship between marijuana and the black community, it is important to first note that drug arrests and incarceration rates for African-Americans are significantly larger than for those of differing races. The American Civil Liberties Union finds that “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession.” Despite the fact that white and black Americans are reported to use a comparable amount of marijuana, the rates of black arrest remain higher.
In order to solve the racial disparities brought about by the criminalization of marijuana, it is imperative that marijuana be legalized. While in jail on minor drug charges, black Americans are subject to extreme mental health decline, abuse and high recidivism rates upon release. Without legalization of marijuana, a system of law that accepts racism and social injustices is perpetuated.
Upon release from jail, most past inmates cite trauma they experienced as a trigger for major depressive episodes, psychotic episodes, etc. On top of that, inmates become severely depressed in jail as they experience long-term isolation and in some cases extreme feelings of guilt and shame. Suicide attempts are positively correlated with release from jail, showing the devastations that can be brought upon black Americans due to the use of an innocous drug.
Recidivism rates in the black community raising are another factor that exemplifies the damages done to the black community by the excessive criminalization of marijuana. Recidivism is problematic because it leads to inmates never leading a stable life again, long term mental health issues, and exposure to worse drugs and/or crimes. The imprisonment of black Americans for marijuana use simply makes the situation worse because it exposes them to damaging experiences. Legalization of marijuana would solve the issue of black Americans being put in jail in the first place, solving the issue of an increase of use of drugs such as crack or heroin.
Currently, marijuana is being criminalized beyond what is necessary in order to harm a community in America that is already at risk and discriminated against often. One of the first steps in providing black Americans with a more positive lifestyle is legalizing weed. In this way, they would no longer be disproportionately impacted or forced to deal with the repercussions of jail such as a poor mental state or recidivism.