By Andrea Lee
On Feb. 15, Billy Ray Cyrus tweeted a picture of his wife next to a cabinet filled with bags of weed. The picture was well received, with over 45,000 likes, but that should not be surprising. It is clear that the nation’s feeling towards weed is changing, with 14 states having made medical marijuana legal and eight states, including D.C., legalizing medical marijuana.
Politicians like Bernie Sanders are promising they will make weed legalized in all 50 states in hopes of winning more votes, but my problem is not with the new widespread acceptance of weed.
My issue is not with the picture of Cyrus or weed becoming more accepted. My problem is that people only approve of weed when it is in white hands.
The War on Drugs declared by President Nixon was racially charged from the start. This began during Nixon’s presidency. He disguised it as a strategy to lower drug use, but it was instead used as a way to silence movements lead by people who were fighting for change in America, like black power groups. Even Nixon’s Adviser John Ehrlichman admitted this, stating, “We knew we could not make it illegal to be either against the war or black but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities… did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”
When weed is in the hands of people of color, they are instantly criminalized. But in the hands of white people, especially white moms, it is seen as quirky and hip. Statistics found by the ACLU prove that white and black people smoke weed at the same rate, yet black people are four times more likely to get arrested. People like Corvain Cooper are serving life sentences for nonviolent weed related charges. Why is it that such a ‘crime’ deserves such a harsh sentence when convicted rapist Brock Turner only got three months?
This isn’t just a larger scale issue that can be ignored when it stops trending. It is happening right outside of RU.
Protein Bar and Kitchen, a Chicago based health food chain, has recently started offering cannabis oil to be added to drinks. In Illinois, black people are 7.5 to 8 times more likely than white people to be arrested for weed possession but yet “Susan” can have it in her after yoga smoothie on Wabash.
I am not naïve to think that the world I live in does not have a racial bias, but why does that make it okay?
How come when major news outlets discuss innocent black lives being taken by police, they always mention the victim has smoked weed or has been charged possession of it? It is an attempt to turn the victim into the guilty party? It’s bad enough that everyday police get away with this horrific crime, but the media has to find an excuse as to why they were a threat.
This bias has been right under our noses this whole time but people in higher positions are just now speaking up. Kim Kardashian has been using her privileged status to not only reverse the life sentence of black people due to drug charges, but she is taking it a step further by becoming a lawyer. It does not stop there, as on April 20 ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s used their platform to spread awareness to this discrepancy and called for lawmakers to expunge weed convictions.
This change should not only be in the hands of people with high profiles. We need to start changing the conversation from weed being legalized in all 50 states to weed being decriminalized in all 50 states.