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White people are capitalizing off of a plant that led to thousands of Black people getting incarcerated and essentially shutting us out of the legal cannabis market.

In 1992, Tupac famously said “instead of war on poverty, they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.” The effects of the War on Drugs are still active and visible 25 years after the rapper called attention to this already decades old problem. Black people are nearly four times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession than white people, despite marijuana usage being the same between the two groups. In 2015, African-Americans made up 30 percent of the population of Oakland,California but 77 percent of cannabis arrests, compared to 4 percent for whites.   Like many of the public policies in the U.S., the policies around the prohibition of marijuana was racialized and relied on racist propaganda instead of factual, scientific research. Before Richard Nixon, the man known for inciting the War on Drugs, there was Harry J. Anslinger, the director of the Bureau of Narcotics (known today at the Drug Enforcement Agency). Anslinger’s message to America was clear — weed is evil and it makes Blacks and Latinos “forget their place in society.” Anslinger was even quoted saying “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” Like many white men throughout history, Anslinger used the hypothetical sexual assault of white women to convince the country that marijuana was a dangerous drug. Today, those same white women are benefitting heartily from the legal cannabis market. This week, Fast Company profiled Karson Humiston, a 24-year-old white woman who created a job-listing website for cannabis-related jobs. Black and Brown people have experience growing and distributing marijuana in the underground market. We have also suffered the most from unfair laws and enforcement, but we remain overlooked for the same jobs that appear on Humiston’s website.
Related: PART TWO: BLACK-OWNED URBAN FARMS IN THE DMV

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