The legalization of marijuana has swept across the nation as 30 states have legalized some form of marijuana, medicinal or recreational.
The move hasn’t only made the drug available to all in some states, it has also sparked the expungement of criminal records for people who may have previous convictions carried by minorities for decades.
Two cities in California have begun wiping away previous weed convictions after state prosecutors target marijuana convictions that directly apply to the new legalization law. The first day of the new year, California citizens voted on an initiative to legalize the sale and taxation of recreational marijuana.
In 2016, another initiative was introduced and passed that allowed for the personal recreational use and growing of marijuana. San Francisco along with many other cities and states have begun the expungement process for marijuana felonies or misdemeanors dating back until 1975.
According to the LA Times, “nearly 5,000 felony marijuana convictions will be reviewed, recalled or resentenced and more than 3,000 misdemeanors that were sentenced prior to Proposition 64’s passage will be dismissed and sealed,” District Attorney George Gascon said.
Harsher sentencing for small amounts of weed have disproportionately affected minorities. According to the ACLU, “blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.”
Over the years, the sentencing for black people has steadily increased, while sentencing for whites has remained constant. While whites and blacks have used pot at about the same rate, blacks have been almost four times more likely to be arrested for possession. In 2011, Lee Corell Booker, a 75-year-old disabled veteran with chronic pain, was sentenced to life in prison for growing three dozen marijuana plants.
“Alabama law mandates that anyone with certain prior felony convictions be sentenced to life without parole for possessing more than one kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of marijuana, regardless of intent to sell,” according to The New York Times.
The sentencing discrepancies between people of color and white people in relation to drugs has torn minority communities apart since former President Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971. Oakland, Calif. is one of the cities that intends to give those that have been previously convicted of marijuana charges a stake in the up-and-coming weed business.
“The city of Oakland has mandated that half of all weed business permits go to equity applicants or people who are low income and have a cannabis conviction, or who live in a neighborhood in Oakland that have been a major police target,” said Dena Takruri an AJ+ reporter.
As the legalization of marijuana sweeps across the nation with staggering state support, the federal government is fighting it head on. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has openly refuted the legalization of marijuana recreationally and medicinally.
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Sessions said. Sessions has even attempted to revoke Obama-era legislation such as the Cole memo that protects the rights of legal marijuana users and keeps law enforcement from harassing dispensaries and weed businesses.
According to a 2017 Elon University Poll, 80 percent registered voters in North Carolina support the state legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.
A further breakdown of the party demographics show that the support for medicinal usage rises to 83 percent with registered democrats and independents and 73 percent of republicans supporting the possible move.
However, the seemingly strong support erases when recreational use is discussed, as 51 percent of registered N.C. voters oppose legalizing marijuana for recreational use.