Politicians Who Built Careers During The War On Drugs Now Try To Profit From Legal Cannabis

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Written by Dana Sanchez
war on drugs
After years of blocking cannabis proposals, former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) joined the board of a Canadian marijuana firm. In this photo, he listens to Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., speak at the Des Moines Register Soapbox, Aug. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Former politicians are lining up to profit off the end of their war on drugs, NBC News reported.

Government officials who helped craft enforcement policy for the war on drugs starting in the 1960s have admitted the policy was designed to undermine Black communities and fragment the political left,
Jenni Avins wrote for Quartz.

African Americans and Latinos constitute 31.5 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 46.9 percent of arrests for drug law violations in 2017, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. More than half the states legalized medical cannabis by 2017 and some had decriminalized it. Yet 90 percent of the marijuana law violations in 2017 were for marijuana possession only.

After years of blocking cannabis proposals, former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), is the most high-profile hypocrite, according to NBC News. He and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld — a long-shot presidential candidate — have joined the board of the Canadian marijuana firm Acreage Holdings.

Both men own 625,000 shares of the firm and if the company is sold for $3 billion — which could happen — both stand to make a fortune, New York Times reported — as much as $20 million.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and ex-Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, both Democrats, are on the board of Northern Swan Holdings, a cannabis investment firm in New York. As elected officials, they never even co-sponsored a marijuana bill until Crowley was facing a primary challenge from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, NBC reported.

“It’s great that these powerful men have seen the light after long public careers built, in part, on their staunch support for the failed war on drugs,” Matt Laslo wrote for NBC News. “Being motivated by money is certainly their right, but it seems that, as part of these conversions, they should also feel a moral obligation to help right many of the numerous wrongs of the war on drugs that they helped perpetuate.”

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Launched in the ’70s, the war on drugs decimated entire communities. Many of those arrested, especially lower income, couldn’t recover because their felonies stayed on their records. Many have been locked out of the U.S. economy ever since.

African Americans have been arrested for decades on marijuana charges at rates disproportionate to the rest of the population.

Ten states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. Just one of them took steps to ensure that minority communities would share in the economic windfall of legalizing a potentially $3 billion industry

Illinois just became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana in a historic bill that established a taxed and regulated pot market while also addressing social equity.

For the rest, it was a missed opportunity to redress inequality, New York Times reported.

Black lawmakers have successfully blocked legalized recreational marijuana in New York until they get assurances that Black communities will benefit. They want to be assured some of the money will go toward job training programs and that Black entrepreneurs will get licenses to cultivate or sell marijuana.

Some lawmakers say marijuana legalization has perpetuated inequality with wealthy, white investors often profiting from the fledgling industry.

Black entrepreneurs in Colorado said they were banned from qualifying for licenses because of marijuana-related convictions. Just a handful of Black people are amongthe thousands of cultivation or dispensary license holders there, and continue to be arrested on marijuana-related charges at almost three times the rate of whites, New York Times reported.

“The legal cannabis industry is in danger of becoming one more chapter in a long American tradition of disenfranchising people of color,” Avins wrote in Quartz.