by Kierra Johnson
If there was ever any proof that the war on drugs is not about drugs, it’s the latest numbers of marijuana arrests in Virginia. A Washington Post analysis revealed that even though marijuana has been legalized in the state, the majority of the people who are arrested for drug related charges are Black people. The original expectation was that legalization would narrow the racial disparity in arrests, but it’s been a year, and police are still targeting Black people at a disproportionate rate. By now, we all know the statistic that Black people use marijuana at about the same rate as any other demographic. Even the most out of touch person knows that weed is extremely popular across the board. So how is it that the media hasn’t figured out the true source of the racial disparity in the war on drugs?
Since its inception, the War on Drugs has always unfairly targeted Black and Brown people at alarming rates. In the 80’s, powder cocaine, which was associated with rich and white people carried a sentencing disparity of 1:100 when compared to crack, which was associated with poor people and Black people. This means that it would have taken 500 grams of powder cocaine to equal the same sentence as five grams of crack-cocaine. This caused a major disparity in how Black people were punished for the same drug, and it is still happening today, especially to Black people who use and sell marijuana.
Although Biden has initiated a federal pardon for offenders who were only arrested for marijuana, there are still a significant number of Black people who are either still in corrections facilities. There’s an even larger number of those who are struggling because of a drug arrest on their record. It’s time that the media recognized that unjust laws are only a part of the problem. Policing in this country, especially under conservative administrations like Governor Youngkin’s, has always been harmful to Black and Brown people since its conception. No amount of amendments and legalizations will ever change that. The racist culture of executing authority over marginalized demographics has a history that goes further than the current legalization struggle and the War on Drugs. Virginia, as well as all the other states need to release anyone who has been arrested on marijuana charges and expunge their records. It’s the bare minimum that could be done to bring equity to the policing system that would have Black and Brown people take the brunt of the punishment for drugs, while literally everybody else smokes Virginia into a fog. Anyone who cares about this issue should contact their representatives to acknowledge the blatantly racist treatment of Black people who handle marijuana. This has always been the solution, and it’s time that media outlets use their power to create more change, because clearly, the changes that were made aren’t working.