A recent Gallup poll indicates that 50 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. African-Americans tend to hold more conservative views on drug legalization, in spite of the fact that African-Americans are far more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for marijuana possession than their white counterparts.
Proponents of marijuana legalization say that this perspective might change if there were greater awareness around the foundation of the “War on Drugs” in the United States. “There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the origin of these laws was intended to be [utilized as] the new Jim Crow. In order to criminalize large swaths of the population,” said James Clark, a criminal defense attorney in Oakland, California.
African-Americans are often categorized as politically liberal. However, the black church has a large influence on the moral compass of the African-American community. This often-conservative influence might provide an insight into why African-Americans are against relaxing the drug laws that often split up their own families.
Rev. Dr. Cecelia GreeneBarr says, simply legalizing marijuana would not address the core issues at the heart of substance abuse.
“At the root of it [drug use] is despair, at not being able to have a better quality of life. I think there is another way to deal with despair.”
GreeneBarr, the pastor of Smith Chapel AME church in Inkster, Michigan says that black communities have been negatively impacted by vice, from prostitution to illegal drugs and the lines of personal discipline have been muted. GreeneBarr says, relaxing drug laws is not the way to reform the African-American communities interaction with the criminal justice system.
“From the perspective of a trained clergy person, it is not in our best interest to tip our hat at various forms of vice under the allusion that it will make our communities safer.”
GreeneBarr expressed concern that people would continue to be arrested and incarcerated for crimes connected to marijuana intoxication even if marijuana were legal.
“When people drink and drive, they kill people because they are drunk. When you get high, you have the potential to do the same thing.”
Attorney James Clark, a lecturer at Oaksterdam University, a college in Oakland, California which prepares students for various roles in the cannabis industry, says that there is a lot of misunderstandings surrounding the effects of marijuana intoxication.
“The reality is that it is a much more mild effect than alcohol. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that being under the influence of marijuana while driving is much safer,” said Clark, in comparing alcohol intoxication to that of marijuana. According to Clark, “The negative effects that are perceived show the strength of propaganda.”
Ending prohibition against marijuana would also have an impact on the black market that currently surrounds the sale and consumption of the substance.
Read more about this article in The Grio