As Connecticut lawmakers consider police reform and accountability legislation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, they should join several other states around the country in recognizing that our antiquated drug policies play an instrumental role in the over-policing of communities of color.
"The number one pretext for stopping young Black and brown youth is cannabis," said Steve Hawkins, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit that advocates for marijuana legalization in the US. "And with that aggressive policing targeted at communities of color, it has been a recipe for there to be violent encounters along the way."
Matt Simon of Manchester, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project in New Hampshire, said cannabis legalization is essential for improving police relations in the state with its communities. He noted that in the so-called "live free or die state" applications of cannabis laws are racially disproportionate and used to justify searches and make arrests.
“Next year, we’re optimistic that a lot of states that stalled out this year will pick it up and take this issue on and pass it,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for Marijuana Policy Project.
Speakers, including those from the cannabis and entertainment industries, religious institutions and law enforcement, discussed how racism fueled the war on drugs and how targeted criminalization is behind the criminal-justice system today.
Actor, comedian, filmmaker and cannabis entrepreneur, Seth Rogen shared support for expungement of criminal records for cannabis crimes in a recent panel discussion at “Reimagining Justice: Race, Cannabis, and Policing.” The online event was organized by Marijuana Policy Project and sponsored by Pax and Rogen’s cannabis brand Houseplant, and it brought together a variety of guests to discuss topics surrounding cannabis policing and race.
The Marijuana Policy Project's Steven Hawkins, who has held senior roles at Amnesty International and the NAACP, emphasizes legalization as a "civil rights issue." He’s now guiding the organization at a moment when the American public may be receptive to the idea as never before.
Seth Rogen and his movie-making partner Evan Goldberg appeared on Marijuana Policy Project's "Reimagining Justice" Zoom program on July 15. Rogen started by calling the drug war "racist" and apologizing for his white privilege.