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  • Skyla Jewell-Hammie

Criminalization of Marijuana: Many BIPOC Individuals Incarcerated When Recreational Dispensaries Are

The happiness that many weed enthusiasts felt once marijuana was legalized in most states was short-lived once the nation realized just how much marijuana is criminalized, especially towards Black and Brown communities. The truth is: recreational weed is a privilege, and many don’t acknowledge the depth.

Between 2001 and 2010, over 8 million Americans were arrested for weed possession. According to a report made by the ACLU, that is one arrest every 37 seconds, which represents thousands of people wronged by the criminal justice system.

Although marijuana use is about the same between Black communities and their white counterparts, Black people are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for possession of the plant.

During the highlight of the “War on Drugs,” and during the last of the cocaine epidemic, the late 1980s law enforcement during this time started to shift to an “easier target.” The target is no other than marijuana.

Because of the swift change, marijuana became the “drug of choice to look for,” within law enforcement in the past 20 years. This change caused police across the country to utilize more resources towards harsh marijuana laws, according to an ACLU report.

In 2010, 20,000 people were incarcerated in the US because of marijuana possession. 889, 133 marijuana-related arrests were made in 2010, which is 300,000 more than arrests for all violent crimes, according to ‘The War on Marijuana in Black and White’ (ACLU, 2013).

But dispensaries keep earning a profit; profit the same as a popular, overly-expensive, grocery store.

According to Marijuana Business Daily’s 2016 Factbook, an American dispensary averages $974 annually per square foot of dispensary space.

This means that dispensaries can earn almost the same as a Whole Foods store on average, in an entire year, according to GPS Global.

More than 23 states have legalized marijuana, where some dispensaries can produce their own“flower” to be distributed communally. So, while marijuana becomes more readily and easily accessible, innocent lives are still in jail. There is no doubt institutionalized racism has everything to do with it.

There needs to be a complete stop to marijuana possession arrests. Not only is marijuana a plant that has proven to help medicinal patients, but it is also another advantage the justice system has over Black and Brown individuals. The justice system needs to rework reforms for policing low-level offenses similar to weed possession.

A 2020 analysis made by the Albany Times Union between July 9, 2019, to July 9, 2020, found that 97 percent of the time during that year, those arrested or ticketed were Black. Only four white people were charged with marijuana offenses during that year.

This contradicts the common claim that Black and white people use weed at around the same rate.

An analysis of racial profiling in Louisiana recognized a clear disparity in the arrest rates within the community. The analysis reported the findings“difficult to explain” when compared to different rates of crime commission.

So this leaves us with the question: when will justice be served for the Black community that stays being target by law enforcement? Videos have surfaced on social media of certain police officers planting drug paraphernalia in Black peoples’ cars when there was no evidence of any drugs in the car before the traffic stop.

While weed enthusiasts celebrate legalization with a joint, Black and Brown people are rolling dust between their fingers, waiting to bet let go of the scrutiny from the justice system.


“How Profitable Are Cannabis Dispensaries?” GPS, 29 Oct. 2020,,space%20(Johansson%2C%202018).

“Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests.” NORML, 3 Mar. 2021,

“Report: The War on Marijuana in Black and White.” American Civil Liberties Union,

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