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MLK Day: Cannabis and Civil Rights


Last fall, I came across a memorable opinion piece by Steven King (paywalled), a guy who has written some 10 million words in his career. This particular piece was four short paragraphs, however. Seven sentences. It addressed mass shootings in the United States and it was uncharacteristically short because King concluded that the problem, though devastating, was unsolvable. “There is nothing more to say,” he concluded.

I thought of that essay this morning. I’ve been writing an MLK Day post on this blog for seven years running. I am not the best person to write on that topic, demographically, but it’s certainly something I’ve studied. The theme of my posts is that cannabis is a civil rights issue. Each year, I have demonstrated with facts (upon facts upon facts) that the War on Drugs continues in insidious ways; and I’ve looked for signs of improvement. Little has changed, however. When it has, it’s often been for the worse.

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So I will keep this blog post to four paragraphs today. Suffice it to say that according to The Man, marijuana related arrests topped 227,000 in 2022, which is an increase from 2021. Three things to note: 1) that number is almost certainly underreported, because many law enforcement agencies don’t report data to the FBI; 2) 92% of these arrests were for simple possession, which is just awful; and 3) worst of all, an outsized number of those arrests were certainly of minorities and people of color– just like every other year I’ve dug into this.

More states continue to legalize cannabis and lots of people make a living in the cannabis industry. Many of them not only possess cannabis, but “traffic” at a large scale under state authority. Yet, we are going backwards on civil rights and cannabis overall. How can this be? I feel out of things to say.

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Facts upon facts:



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