Reefer sadness: Marijuana legalization is the total pots
I’ve got a burning question: Who benefits from marijuana legalization?
The UA Students for Sensible Drug Policy seem to think all Arizonans would, as they fight to get the measure placed on November’s ballot — much like the citizens of Colorado did successfully in 2012.
According to a recent Pew Study, 52 percent of American adults support legalization, but only a niche group will benefit from it.
Because Arizona would likely opt to handle the issue as Colorado is, our state would inherit all of the same problems caused by state sanctioned, non-inclusive legalization. Such limited authorization protects the same people — middle to upper class pot-smoking white folks who never needed protection — while only making life harder for those usually affected by marijuana criminalization — the working class and people of color.
Ezekiel Edwards, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project claims that Colorado’s decision to legalize has “stopped the needless and racially biased enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws.”
This would be ideal because, according to the ACLU’s report on marijuana and race, pot use in the 18 to 25 age group — the group most commonly arrested for possession — is about the same for white and black people. However, black pot users are nearly four times more likely to be arrested.
Unfortunately, Edwards’ belief is the biggest piece of pot propaganda since “Reefer Madness.”
Colorado’s systems haven’t just shifted, they’ve become “Big Marijuana” — a monopoly that further institutionalizes the classist, racist system that’s been governing drug arrests.
Goldie Taylor, author of the #BreakingBlack columns, explained the issue further in a recent Twitter tirade.
“Pricing and taxation will ensure that the black market for weed will persist. And that black market will remain criminalized,” she wrote.
It’s true that former hustlers would have a hard time getting a marijuana dispensary in Colorado off the ground. Legalization there is not a free market; there are plenty of regulations. A required license alone costs somewhere from $2,750 to $14,000. Additionally, all dispensaries must have the means to grow their own pot until October, install heightened security and, of course, pay their employees and taxes.
It’s just as hard to use the stores without sufficient funds.
Because of the aforementioned rules, some of Colorado’s shops are reportedly selling weed for prices as high as $500 per ounce, plus 25 percent sales tax. That’s insanely expensive compared to what could be picked up on a college campus or outside of a Circle K.
The drug dealers know this. They will see the demand for cheaper weed and meet it, continuing to exist as a criminal, but accessible option for those who can’t afford the hiked- up prices — the poor and people of color.
This same population — also traditionally stereotyped as drug-dealing — will likewise be the target of an even harsher war on drugs, as Colorado’s estimated $67 million monopoly is threatened.
Highly regulated legalization is only further giving law enforcement the go-ahead to troll low income neighborhoods, rounding up drug dealers with the same degree of profiling that has always been common in marijuana arrests, cops playing bodyguard to government interests.
It’s not a great leap of the imagination. Despite the perception of increasingly liberal attitudes toward marijuana, arrests are not decreasing: U.S. News & World Report states that one pot-related arrest was made every 42 seconds in 2012.
Even if dispensaries’ high prices are only short-term and the market eventually balances out, we’re still going to see a lot of arrests of and time served by populations that already have a disproportionate incarceration rate, Taylor wrote.
If Colorado were truly interested in leveling injustice and bringing about change, it would not demonize or differentiate between itself and street dealers. It would not decide that those previously arrested on drug felony charges couldn’t become vendors in the fancy new dispensaries.
The state would offer to train and invest in former drug dealers who wanted to get in on selling the drug legally. It would offer pardons to those serving time for minor possession charges.
Instead, what Colorado has given us is a token gesture of legalization, hoping that we’ll forget how deeply prejudiced our justice system is.
I’m not smoking it, and no Arizonan should until all Arizonans can.
For further reading about marijuana legalization from The Daily Wildcat, check out Dispute blazes up over marijuana legalization in Arizona and Marijuana is a cash crop banks need to accept