Recently, attorney Angela Rye has established herself as a sharp political commentator in the liberal world, able to reduce big ideas and statistics into surprisingly simple messages. Her work at CNN and NPR also earned Rye a lucrative deal with BET to host and produce a news program.
In other words, when Angela Rye talks people listen. In a collaboration with news website ATTN:, Rye broke down why the issues the cannabis industry and community face moving forward extends beyond legalization.
— ATTN: (@attn) January 18, 2018
“Legalizing weed does not go far enough to end the war on drugs,” Rye said. “White folks are making money from the same marijuana that put black and brown people in prison. Even though more than half of the states in the country have legalized weed in some form, the actual victims in the war on drugs are still being left out.”
“Some legal states won’t even let some of those former ‘convicts’ work in the industry because they previously smoked or sold weed,” she continued. “And the fallout from that is impossible to deny.”
Rye also spoke on the lack of black representation in business ownership throughout the cannabis space, an issue that continues to plague the industry. As she cites, a survey of more than 3,200 marijuana dispensaries in the U.S. found that fewer than 50 were owned by black people.
In Maryland, 15 out of the 145 applications to grow medical marijuana in the state were approved, though black owners were not included. That is despite Maryland having racial diversity requirements for issuing growing licenses. The disparity has caused serious backlash amongst Maryland’s Black Caucus who may ‘take a knee’ if the General Assembly doesn’t approve an expansion of its medical marijuana program that includes diversity owners.
“Just because a state legalizes weed, doesn’t mean everyone gets to celebrate,” Rye stated. “Because the millions of people who were arrested, convicted, and jailed over weed are still suffering the consequences. And that group happens to be mostly black, Hispanic, and low-income.”
Despite identical rates of marijuana usage between black and white people, black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. Those with marijuana-related arrests on their record could be denied housing loans, jobs applications, and with some states denying voter registration.
However there is improvement being made. Oregon courts now make it easier to set aside past marijuana-related convictions while the cities of Los Angeles and Oakland implemented programs that prioritizes legal marijuana permits for those with past convictions.
As Rye says, one thing is abundantly clear—when it comes to marijuana, there’s more work to be done.