Can Pennsylvania marijuana bill balance the scales of justice? | Pittsburgh City Paper

Can Pennsylvania marijuana bill balance the scales of justice?

Who’s getting the grass? Who’s getting the cabbage? 

Brothas, especially with locs, raise your hand if this has ever happened to you: You were most likely minding your own damn business. Maybe you were one of — or the only — Black person at a party. Perhaps you were just walking down the street, chilling in a park, on your way to school, or maybe it happened at work. Someone, often a white person, catches your eye and, never dropping their gaze as they move closer, a little too close, they lean in and ask, “Do you know where I can buy some weed?” 

Actually, I should be asking how many times this has happened to you.

Let’s also talk to the so-called “crack babies” born during the “War on Drugs” of the ’80s and ’90s. Ask the children born to stimulant-addicted parents how they feel about the current “opioid epidemic.” Specifically, ask them about the vastly different response by law enforcement, healthcare, sociocultural politics, and media representation. How it felt to have their parents get prison sentences instead of social sentiment. Even as infants, they did not get compassion but endured inhumane treatment in hospitals where the caregivers were told that, as babies, they “should not be touched.”  Just imagine these innocent children, not touched. 

We know that the United States’ drug policy and procedure depends on who is holding the psychoactive drug-filled pipe. It's obvious, as marijuana takes a meandering state-by-state path to legalization, as the internet provides everything from solid gold pearl-encrusted vape holders to cannabis vagina lube, to hemp-infused water or herbal blends you can add to your tea, incense, or blunt. White privilege comes into play in this new context because, again, this is America. 

We have to ask, "Who is getting the grass and who is getting the cabbage?"

Pennsylvania State Rep. Jake Wheatley is gathering support for a future bill, House Bill 50 which will legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in Pennsylvania. In a refreshing move, Rep. Wheatley and his state senate colleagues Daylin Leach and Sharif Street, who have introduced Senate Bill 350, are putting justice and equity in the forefront of their legislation. 

The Democratic House website states that “continued prohibition perpetuates a deeply unfair racial impact: Although African-American adults and white adults use cannabis at a similar rate ... a 2017 analysis of Pennsylvania arrest data found that African-American adults were 8.2 times more likely than white adults to be arrested for possession.” 

When asked how we can move toward equitable and just legalization in Pennsylvania, Rep. Wheatley responded via text: 

“One of the primary ways we can make sure that we have equity and justice in any legalization of adult-use cannabis would be to automatically expunge the records of any prior convictions. ... We could set aside a portion of those [proposed business licenses] for marginalized communities and entrepreneurs. This was done in other states with varying levels of success but would be a way to make the opportunities more equitable and just.”

Here, here.