Nothing can blow your high quite like realizing weed’s relationship to racism.
Black people and white people smoke weed at a similar rate, yet black people are criminalized more often. In the latest episode of MTV’s “Decoded,” appropriately released on 4/20, host and producer Franchesca Ramsey examines if legalizing weed can help fight discrimination.
Ramsey notes that the stigma behind people of color who smoke weed started a long time ago.
“Weed was originally made illegal in the ‘30s because America has historically been racist as f**k.” She highlighted a disturbing claim from the first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger:
“Half the country’s crime comes from Mexicans, Latinos and Negroes who use marijuana.”
Ramsey cites the “racist weed arrest patterns” that occur in America. Black people are twice as likely to be arrested for pot in the west, three times more likely in the south and four times more likely in the northeast and midwest.
She makes a case for legalization, especially since 52 percent of the country approves of it: “Since any drug arrest leads to loss of benefits, this means more people of color can continue to access jobs, student loans, public housing, and a variety of government services.”
Even though legalization may prevent some racist criminalization and arrest rates decrease, black people are still more likely to go to jail for marijuana offenses, as noted in the video.
In Colorado and Washington, for example, recreational weed is legal, yet black people are twice as likely to be arrested for for breaking the states’ pot laws. In fact, between 2012 and 2014, weed-related arrests for black and Latinx teens increased after Colorado passed its legalization bill (for adults 21 and older), whereas the rate for white teens decreased. And black people are notoriously shut out from weed-related business and marketing in states where it is legal, according to a 2016 BuzzFeed News report.
As Ramsey says in the video, legalization isn’t a complete solution to ending racial bias, but it’s “a small and important F-U to the criminalization of people of color.”
Watch the full episode above.