Given the title of the hearing, it is no surprise that the majority party witnesses focused mostly on how communities of color have been disproportionately targeted for arrest under cannabis prohibition, and how that has saddled a generation of young people of color with criminal records that impact their ability to secure gainful employment, access public assistance benefits, and obtain financial aid to attend college. Much of the hearing was about how cannabis legalization should take into account how to provide these residents of these communities with opportunities in the emerging legal cannabis industry.
“The data indicates that the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws and overall drug laws not only intensifies already existing racial disparities in the criminal justice system, but exacerbates distrust among communities and law enforcement without increasing overall public safety,” said Marilyn Mosby, the State’s Attorney for Baltimore, in her testimony.
Malik Burnett, a physician at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former federal policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance, argued: “In one America there are men and women, most of them wealthy, white and well connected, who are starting cannabis companies, creating jobs and amassing significant personal wealth, and generating billions in tax dollars for the states which sanction cannabis programs. In the other America, there are men and women, most of them poor, people of color, who are arrested and suffer the collateral consequences associated with criminal conviction.”