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Racism: Has Marijuana Become A Racial Justice Issue?

Racism: Has Marijuana Become A Racial Justice Issue?

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racism issues in toronto and facing marijuana community

Legalizing marijuana should take into account ‘systemic racism’:

The Star breaks down arrests by neighborhood and shows disproportionate numbers of Black people when it comes to pot possession charges. Seems like racism is prevalent in the cannabis industry. Surprise, Surprise.

It comes to no surprise for someone of colour to see the racism issues happening within the cannabis community. For years, Black people with no history were just as at risk. Now, a criminal conviction could be three times more likely and you could be detained for bail. Toronto Police will arrest for small amounts of marijuana, even just a joint. However, an analysis done by the Toronto Star shows White people do not face this same issue.

This issue is not a surface marijuana issue but much deeper.  Now that system is coming back into racism, the community is saying “Not this time!”.

In addition, it seems criminal to go to a Conference or the Cannabis Awards and see a whole panel of million dollar white males in suits and yet our brothers and sisters are in jail for less than 4 grams of weed. This disparity is largely due to targetting of Black people by the Toronto Police and was and will continue to be an issue.

Anthony Morgan, a human rights lawyer and community activist, called the statistics “another example of the failed war on drugs.”

Taking A Look At The Statistics

As Canada moves toward the legalization of marijuana, the Star examined 10 years’ worth of Toronto Police Service marijuana arrest and charge data, obtained in a freedom-of-information request.

According to police records of skin colour, 25.2 percent of those people are Black, 52.8 percent are white, 15.7 percent are brown, and 6.3 percent are categorized as “other.”

For Black people, the rate of arrest is significantly higher than their proportion of Toronto’s population in the 2006 census, which is 8.4 percent. Whites represented 53.1 percent of people in the city.

“To me it’s just a straightforward case of racial discrimination,” said Sewell in an interview with Marijuana.com. “We found this previously in respect to the Toronto Police, that the number of arrests of Blacks are much higher generally, and here we had good data from The Star analyzing police records.”

Dealing With Systemic Racism

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The Ontario commission wants to find out which police interactions most commonly involve discrimination.

via Vice

Despite the police board having “all sorts of policies” to deal with systemic racism, the “policies are obviously not working because the practice is entirely different,”.

The community needs there to be more suggestions made so that police cannot lay charges on an individual. The individual should be accessible to consult with the Crown Attorney first. This policing happens in three other provinces already. Quebec, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia have seen those effective results. It will help with reducing the number of charges and eliminate targeted arrests.

In July 2017, the city had a meeting to discuss and address the issues. What was so aggravating about this is not one person of colour was “available” to talk at this meeting about the problems. But that wasn’t true. Many people of colour applied to speak and got rejected or weren’t contacted. Those several names came up during the meeting saying the opposition to this. Seems like a set-up for failure. Yet again, Toronto Police showed they didn’t want to hear this message.

The Toronto Police Accountability Coalition

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Said John Sewell, of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition: ‘What you’re saying in this report is . . . the police are going to make a culture change on their own, they’re going to pull themselves up by their boot straps. What nonsense! That’s not the way culture change happens in any organization.’

Toronto Mayor John Sewell, who is now the coordinator of TPAC stated:

“The rate of cannabis arrests across Canada disproportionately targets people of color, because there’s an association that [we] consume more cannabis than other nationalities,” said James. “a stereotype that sadly some in the police force, not all.”

It is disheartening to hear words like this coming from our representatives. Cannabis has always tied to a certain community. A targetted racial group. This allowed the ghettos to stay ghetto and then the rate of black imprisonment to say high. This also allowed for the White male to get richer, as the black man became yet another stereotype. Cannabis activist Jodie Emery spoke at the meeting to add her point of view on how to address this issue of racial bias:

“I said that we need to help build respect for the law, and I do respect the law but only when it’s respectable,” she said in an interview with Marijuana.com. “We know that marijuana law enforcement ISunfair. PEOPLE OF COLOUR BECAME TARGETS. When you continue to enforce these unjust laws, you breed contempt towards officers.”

What Happens To All The Previous Charges

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A Jamaican man who goes by the name Nature smokes marijuana outside the Trench Town Culture Yard Museum in Kingston, Jamaica, on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, where he works as a tour guide. Nature, like most adherents of the Rastafari movement, said he smokes for spiritual purposes.

via The Cannabist

Untangling criminal records for pot offenses from other offenses is going to be difficult and expensive. For any person. Let alone being of colour.

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The only route to clearing a record would be applying for a pardon, or record suspension — an expensive and onerous option that costs hundreds of dollars and require legal help. The application processing fee alone costs $631. The poor and racially marginalized would again lose out.

A criminal record for marijuana further marginalizes already “targeted and over-policed” black people by making them ineligible. Ineligible for many good-paying jobs, says Kofi Hope, executive director of the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals.

Faced with high unemployment, some Black youths turned to selling marijuana to make ends meet. Many whom are selling to…the white male.

“It doesn’t require a resumé, it doesn’t require a job interview, sometimes it doesn’t even require start-up capital. someone will just give you something on consignment,” he says. Besides, Black people constantly confront the expectationS of being dealers. “You walk down Yonge St. and people come up to you all the time, ‘Hey man, you got weed?’”

Selling To A Point Will Eventually Be Legal

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Weed being sold per baggie.

via Vice

Selling, at least in some forms, will soon become legal.  But, marijuana convictions will likely exclude people from jobs. Meanwhile, everyone from the Tragically Hip to Shoppers Drug Mart are cashing in on the new economy. 

The ties of cannabis to a person of colour is so common. Stats show, however,  that it is white people who are smoking more. The government and the community need to discuss the economic and social justice impacts of the proposed legislation.

“It’s the same story all the time in the justice system. Those who can pay for and afford justice will get it.”

The Star shared its findings with police before publication. Police expressed no concerns with the analysis but historically been critical of the Star. In many such comparisons, it is the only baseline available. For more data result, click here.

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