On Tuesday voters in Alaska voted to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use in the state. Alaska now joins Oregon and Washington, D.C. who also passed legislation Tuesday night to legalize weed in each state, reports say. Colorado and Washington State legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012.
“In Oregon, the law legalizes personal possession, manufacture and sale of marijuana for people 21 years of age and older. Mimicking similar plans in Washington State and Colorado, the Oregon law will also create a commercial regulatory system for the production, distribution and sale of marijuana,” according to a CNN article.
So what does this mean for the African-American people living in those states?
1. Less African-Americans in prison
One of the most important ways African-Americans are affected by the legalization of weed in Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. is that less African Americans will be sent to prison.
In The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Alexander argues that marijuana should be legalized because of it’s use to place many African-Americans in prison. “…in seven states, African Americans constitute 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison,” writes Alexander citing recent evidence by Human Rights Watch.
With this new change in policy, we can expect far less African Americans to be ushered to prison on drug charges–in Colorado after they passed marijuana legalization, the number of marijuana petty possession charges has fallen to just 133 per month a year later after being as high as 714 a month.
2. Less decriminalization
Alexander also writes, “In at least fifteen states, Blacks are admitted to prison on drug charges at a rate from twenty to fifty times greater than that of white men. (Humans Rights Watch 2000)”
African Americans have been targeted through arrests and if the reason for arrest is absent, we can believe that persons will be arrested far less. Arrests can’t be made without any available grounds.
3. Opportunity for jobs
One of the major obstacles in job searches in the African-American community is having gone to prison or being a felon. Many people who have “moved weight” in the Black community have felons and find a tough time finding jobs. However, the new policies guarantee African Americans of tomorrow equal access to jobs in America.
Former CEO of the NAACP Ben Jealous, said, “Arrest disparities have led to mass incarceration and criminalization of African Americans. Any arrest, even for marijuana, is a blot on someone’s record and an impediment to future jobs and opportunities.”
4. The Government will capitalize off of our recreation
Governor Hickenlooper said marijuana stores sales would be a billion dollar business for the 2014 fiscal year and is a“great social experiment of the 21st century.” Colorado’s state’s department of revenue sales have resulted in $10.8 million in taxes in the first four months.
Why it matters? Instead of Pookie and Ray Ray making money off of selling weed on Main Street corporations and stores can profit on Wall Street. Also, the government will be able to produce more money on taxes. Thus, we will have to cast our eyes on what our elected officials are doing in DC, Oregon, Alaska, and Colorado, and other future states.