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Another Voice: Legalizing pot would further victimize minorities

By James Payne

It is certainly admirable when so many citizens in the State of New York are concerned with the unfair sentencing disparities of minorities regarding marijuana usage and the selling of it within our state.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes has sponsored legislation to legalize marijuana throughout the state, with very little concern regarding its impact upon people of color and the poor.

Although this legislation would be legal it certainly does not mean that it is right. The legalization of marijuana provides multiple of problems for marginalized communities that continuously suffer from the impact of economic and social deprivation.

The legalization of marijuana provides an excellent opportunity for those who can afford to purchase a license for the growing of cannabis to do so at the expense of the poor and minorities.

One of several arguments that are being emphasized is based upon the perception that legalizing marijuana would help to reduce the arrest and incarceration rate as it pertains to people of color. This is based upon the belief that the primary factor for the arrest of African-Americans is marijuana use.

In fact, race is the central reason for African-Americans to be “stopped and frisked,” in America and specifically within New York State. Several studies have also addressed the causal relationship between race and arrest when addressing disparities impacting African-Americans and other people of color. This legislation ignores the systemic impact of marijuana upon our children and its detriment regarding their development both mentally and physically. This legislation is a sedative with genocidal repercussions.

Marijuana legalization is not just a political issue, it is also about race. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, African-Americans use marijuana at the same rate as whites, but are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested than whites.

Marijuana is a gateway drug that can lead to dependency and other forms of crime associated with drug usage.

Can New York State afford a workforce that is intoxicated or students who will suffer the repercussions of poor parental decisions prior to and after birth, based upon the legalization of marijuana in the State of New York in order to appease an aristocratic mentality at the expense of the poor?

Why should marginalized communities fall victim to those that desire marijuana as their drug of choice?

The only likely result that can come from this legislation is that “the rich will continue to get richer,” while minorities in the state exist within a marijuana-induced utopia.

James E. Payne of Buffalo is a former president of the Black Educators Association.

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