US House Hearing on Racial Impact of Marijuana Laws a Sham
Social Justice Advocate: US House Hearing on Racial Impact of Marijuana Laws a Sham
Exclusion of Opposing Viewpoints, Promotion of Marijuana Does a Disservice to Minority Communities
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will hold a hearing on the subject of “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform. Notably, all four witnesses invited to this hearing are supporters of legalization.
“It is insulting to me, as a second generation social justice advocate from the District, to see a Congressional committee hearing on the racial impacts of marijuana laws host a rich, white male whose Colorado-based company directly profits off the backs of people who look like me,” said Will Jones, founder of Two is Enough, a DC-based social justice advocate and Community Outreach Associate for Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “Colorado’s marijuana industry has been proven to view minority and low-income communities as its profit centers. How can this man possibly comment on racial injustice and marijuana laws? Any congressional hearing on marijuana that refuses to hear from activists like me, who how the marijuana industry will target black and brown people in the same way Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco has, does a tremendous disservice to social justice. Its organizers should be ashamed.»
In the last year, Mr. Jones has presented the social justice argument against marijuana legalization in state legislatures across the country including New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, and Illinois. While not invited to testify at this hearing, Mr. Jones was allowed to submit written testimony for the record. His testimony, viewable here, discusses the failures of marijuana legalization to address social justice issues and the harms it brings upon minority communities.
In one minority neighborhood of Denver, there is one marijuana business for every 47 residents. The proliferation of marijuana businesses in these communities is concerning, as research has shown that users of the drug are 2.6 times more likely to go on to abuse harder substances. Furthermore, frequent use of marijuana by youth is correlated with higher possibilities of welfare dependency and and a permanent loss of up to eight IQ points.
Although total marijuana-related arrests went down in Washington, D.C. between 2015 and 2017, distribution and public consumption arrests have more than tripled. Among adults, 89% of those arrested for these offenses were African American. Additionally, juvenile marijuana-related arrests increased 114% between the three years before and after marijuana legalization.
“By excluding opposing views from this hearing, members of Congress are missing out on crucial details and doing a serious injustice to minorities nationwide,” continued Jones. “Young people who use this drug at least once a week are almost six times more likely than non-users to drop out of school and over three times less likely to enter college. Is this empowering? Is this social justice? The promotion of drug use is not what my communities need to succeed, especially since today’s high potency marijuana is linked to mental illness, less productivity, impaired driving, and continued arrest disparities. None of those things will help struggling communities succeed.”