Legalized Marijuana

After the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) act on April 1st, the bill now moves to the Senate which would require 60 votes in order to pass, leaving tensions high. The MORE act would deschedule and decriminalize cannabis, as well as expunging past criminal convictions related to marajuana. Despite passing the house vote and popularity shown in public opinion, it is believed that the bill will not pass through the senate. Though two thirds of Americans support the legalization of marajuana, there are also fears about the negative effects legalization could have on society.
Marijauana has a long history of controversy. Past legislation regarding cannabis directly targeted minorities and people of color. In the 1930s, Harry J. Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, expressed his belief that the use of marjuana had “Negative effects on degenerate races,” referring to latinx and black americans. He also spread false and racist information about cannabis use including, “Pot’s supposed threat to white women’s virtue.He believed that smoking pot would result in their having sex with black men.” Over the years the stigma about marajuana continued to target people of color. This led to not only harmful sentiments and stereotypes about these groups of people, but also disproportionately high incarceration rates as a result of its use and possession. According to a report done by The American Civil Liberties Union, “Black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared with their white counterparts despite using it at similar rates.” The decriminalization and expungement of cannabis convictions would have a direct positive impact on minorities due to the extensive history of marajuana related racism and high rate of convictions within these communities.
Those who oppose the MORE act and other bills that would legalize marajuana cite driver safety and increased drug usage as reasons for their aversion to ratification. In one poll conducted by Forbes, 79% of those who opposed marajuana feared it would lead to “an increase in the number of accidents involving drivers.” Additionally, 69% of opposers considered marajuana to be a “gate-way” drug and were apprehensive about the risk of potential abuse of other substances. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states, “Some research suggests that marijuana use is likely to precede use of other illicit substances and the development of addiction to other substances.”