Normalizing cannabis: Black and White
Updated: Mar 23
With North America on its way to a greener future and the rest of the world close on its heels, we will see the old stigmas of cannabis use being smoked away. Public support for cannabis is gaining momentum amongst all age groups and crossing into societies regardless of culture, creed or race.
“ There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are African American, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” -Harry J Anslinger
History of the racial cannabis laws
Without a doubt, prohibition was enacted with a racial agenda and propaganda: to correct a black and Mexican drug abuse problem. Whether it was a slave working on a plantation owners field or a jazz musician lighting up before the stage, cannabis was mainly used by the African American society in the early 20th century. Today, despite equal usage rates between blacks and whites, blacks are more likely to get arrested for marijuana use or possession.
Between 2001 and 2008 it was estimated that over 8 million American citizens were arrested for cannabis, making up more than half of all drug arrests in the US. Unfortunately, the consistent trend in cannabis drug arrests is still motivated by racial bias and this normalization should be addressed sooner than later. “Marijuana legalization has to be a racial justice issue, because it is a racial justice issue, fundamentally.” Jesse Williams
Babylon and the media are coming to terms with the green rush that is pushing like a tidal wave through America. A cultural shift in California has already taken place where marijuana legalization has normalized behaviour that was once covert and illegal. Today in California you may purchase cannabis as easy at it is to buy a millers beer. With the recent news about financial institutions such as Paypal lobbying support for the SAFE Banking Act, which will allow these companies to do business with cannabis companies.
The “New Normal” by Spike Jonze, featuring Jesse Williams is a short journey through America’s complex history with cannabis. It's meant to highlight the fact that cannabis was normal during America's birth as our forefathers partook and encouraged its cultivation as an economic resource. It was normal then and should be normal now without disregarding the social justice component that hovers over the blooming industry.
They’re selling it, and buying it, but it’s not that big of a deal, because they’re human beings with potential in their lives, and that’s okay,” Williams says. “But when black and brown folks do it, we’re thrown in cages for the rest of our lives, shot in the street, and then it’s justified in the news because someone might have had some marijuana in their system.”
While the legalization of cannabis at a federal level seems to be as closer as it has ever been in the horizon, it is essential to address these notorious social justice issues so that the plethora of wealth creation opportunities that stem from legalization, are equally accessible for black, brown and white citizens alike.