There are many arguments that can be made in favor of the legalization of marijuana, from its health benefits to claiming it to be less dangerous than alcohol; proponents of legalization have leveraged many different angels to make their case. One angle we haven’t heard too much about however is racial disparity amongst those who are jailed for it, and that’s the angle Obama played in a recent interview with the New Yorker.
“African American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties,” said Obama.
He argued that the legalization efforts made in Colorado and Washington should be accepted and studied for their effects, saying that “It’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
In 2013 the ACLU released a report from “The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests,” which is more than likely where Obama’s comments stemmed from. Within the report it states that marijuana laws have “had a staggeringly disproportionate impact on African Americans,” but doesn’t go near any other drug laws and their effects on individual races, only marijuana. It argued that the arrests show a “staggering racial bias” and because of it marijuana should be legalized.
The report also shows that some of the most disproportionate rates occur where Democrats run the town such as Washington D.C. and other metropolitan areas. One possibility for the cause of the disparity that is overlooked by the ACLU and Obama is that African-Americans in those areas may sell or use marijuana more than other racial groups, causing the likelihood that they’ll get arrested for marijuana related offenses to be higher.
These comments are contradictory to his previous statements where he’s acknowledged that African-Americans commit more drug related and violent crimes than do other races. His own Justice Department released a report in 2011 that stated young African-American men make up 1% of the population but commit 27% of the nations murders.
(Read More: Coming Soon? Marijuana Smoking Clubs)
Obama did backtrack in the interview though, and turned to income inequality as another possible source, saying “Middle class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” which suggests that the justice system is somehow biased against the poor and once again ignoring the fact that less middle class children get involved with drugs to begin with since their environment is completely different.
He did however acknowledge that legalization of marijuana could lead to people pushing to have other drugs legalized such as meth and cocaine, but stopped short of saying that it would be reason enough to halt a legalization push.
His approach to this is very similar to the approach he took on gay marriage when he quietly redefined his views on it. For a long time he was against it, then reversed course and said he was ok with it, and now he pushes for “marriage equality” just about every chance he gets to do so. He justified it by saying “The nature of not only politics but, I think, social change of any sort, is that it doesn’t move in a straight line, and that those who are most successful typically are tacking like a sailor toward a particular direction but have to take into account winds and currents and occasionally the lack of any wind, so that you’re just sitting there for a while, and sometimes you’re being blown all over the place.”
I know one thing is for sure, with this administration being masters of misdirection I wouldn’t be surprised if this is just another smoke show to redirect attention away from something else that’s happening.
(Read More: Obama: Alcohol Is More Dangerous Than Marijuana)