Cynthia Nixon has made legalizing marijuana her priority in her campaign for governor of New York. Along with the legalization of pot, Nixon wants to see reparations for those who have already been charged with crimes involving marijuana. Nixon believes this would be a step in the right direction for the criminal justice system and racial inequality. Finally, someone plans to act on the disparity in arrests among marijuana users.
Far too many minorities have been thrown behind bars while white people get to flourish in the same industry that incriminated others. Black people use marijuana at similar rates as white people, but are four times more likely to be incarcerated for it, according to statistics from the American Civil Liberties Union. As recreational marijuana has been legalized in nine states, it is time that we free those incarcerated for these low-level drug crimes. With more than 2 million people behind bars, our nation’s prisons are overcrowded and these non-violent offenders should walk free.
Another issue for people who have been charged with a drug crime is that many states do not allow felons to apply for a growers license. This hurts minorities because while 10 percent of the marijuana industry identify as black, Latino or Hispanic, the same group account for more than half of the business in the industry, according to Marijuana Business Daily. We need diversification in the industry and to stop hurting minorities for doing the same thing as white people. There is a staggering difference in the percentage of white-owned marijuana operations and all others. White business owners account for 81 percent of shops owned in the industry, according to a survey by the Marijuana Business Daily.
While minorities end up incarcerated, white people opening these businesses face far fewer barriers. Nixon is right to push for reparations for the incarcerated. Those same people who have been jailed are the reason the marijuana industry is thriving.
As more and more states legalize marijuana, we need to talk about the injustices in the industry, as they seem to have been forgotten. Letting people out of jail is the first step in making things right.