What is the link between marijuana policy and racism? The drug war is a tool of racial oppression. We see this in racial disparities in arrest and incarceration rates for drug offenses that exist even though white people and people of color use and sell drugs at about the same rates.
We see it in the way stop-and-frisk policies have been used to target communities of color.
And we see it in the legal marijuana industry now taking shape, which risks excluding the communities that have been most subjected to drug war enforcement by making people with past drug law convictions ineligible for licenses.
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Sometimes the racial implications of drug war policies are overt, and sometimes they are more insidious. But the bottom line is that when we work to dismantle the drug war, we are working to end a tool of oppression.
So when white supremacists chant Nazi slogans and our president defends them, we have to speak out. If we fight the racism inherent in the drug war but allow it to go unchecked elsewhere, our work may take down one tool only to see it replaced with another.
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We saw this when the drug war replaced Jim Crow last century, and must fight to keep it from happening again. The only way to ensure that our drug policy reforms truly end the harms of drug prohibition is to support the fight against white supremacy wherever it is taking place.
Megan Farrington is the director of digital communications for the Drug Policy Alliance.