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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Catholic view on Recreational Marijuana Legalization

Studies show a failure to reduce disparity in black internment rates or create minority business owners

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As the Minnesota legislature considers legalizing recreational marijuana in the second of its two-year period beginning January 31, opponents of the move argue that the benefits to minority communities being promoted in other states — in the form of correcting racial disparities in arrests Or include minorities such as business owners – not delivered.

They say similar efforts embedded in Minnesota legislation are also destined to fail. Anti-marijuana advocates, including the Minnesota Catholic Conference, say the safety and health risks to all communities greatly outweigh any benefits of legalizing the drug for recreational use.


Judson “Kim” Bemis

Blacks, for example, who were disproportionately arrested across the country for marijuana use or possession and other crimes, continued to have marijuana-related arrests at a higher rate than whites—even as overall marijuana arrests decreased—in two states, Colorado and Washington, which Recreational marijuana legalized in 2012, according to a 2016 study by the Juvenile and Criminal Justice Center in San Francisco.

A 2008 Washington study found that the arrest rate for marijuana offenses among blacks was 877.8 per 100,000 people, more than double what it was among all other races, which was 390.5 per 100,000. In 2014, the rate of arrests for marijuana-related offenses, such as using marijuana in a public area or driving under the influence of marijuana, fell to 57.2 per 100,000, but for non-blacks it fell to 27.3, the center reported.

In Colorado, the arrest rate for marijuana-related crimes among blacks was 601.3 per 100,000 people in 2008, and for non-blacks it was 293.3. In 2014, the arrest rate dropped to 242.2 per 100,000 among blacks, but it also declined, to 103.8, among non-blacks, according to the study.

“Obviously the forces that contribute to racial disparities under Prohibition linger after legalization,” such as police spending more time in poorer, black neighborhoods than in white ones, arresting street drug dealers and not investigating what might happen in poorer, black neighborhoods, and a failure to investigate what might happen in black neighborhoods, Mike Mallis said, Senior researcher at the center who compared the data, The apartments and high-rise apartment complexes.

Men said the persistent racial disparities in the arrests went against what advocates of recreational marijuana legalization had promised. “I think it’s something that people who advocate for marijuana legalization have to respond to,” he said.

Ryan Hamilton, a government relations assistant at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, said government surveys show that blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly the same rate. Despite this similarity in use, research has found that black Americans are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. So, at least in terms of possession offenses, there is a discrepancy in how marijuana laws are enforced.”

Will Jones, director of communications and outreach for Smart Approaches Marijuana (SAM) in Alexandria, Va., said he’s reviewed similar studies across the country. It’s a mixed bag, but in some of the 19 states where recreational marijuana is legal, overall arrest rates for blacks have actually increased, even as fewer blacks and others have been arrested for certain marijuana offenses, such as possession, he said.

“What we have found is that fairness in the war on drugs is a great concept,” Jones told the Catholic Spirit newspaper. “But no country has been able to do that.”

“Decriminalize, but don’t shop”

SAM, along with many other anti-marijuana activists and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, argue that marijuana should not be legalized. But it can be decriminalized, with penalties more appropriate to the nature of the offense.

“We say decriminalization, but it’s not commercialized,” said Goodson “Kim” Bemis, chairman of Smart Approaches for Marijuana Minnesota, an affiliate of the National Group.

Bemis said a 15- or 16-year-old who was caught in marijuana possession shouldn’t be dealing with a criminal record that could make it difficult to find a job.

“A lot of minorities have been bothered by marijuana laws,” he said. “Being caught with two or three rubber marijuana bears can be a crime. It’s not straight. We’re calling for a tiered system. The first arrests can be like a traffic violation, and it’s not on someone’s record. At some point you need a stick. Three Or four arrests that could lead to a drug court or a more severe sentence.”

Minnesota’s legalization of recreational marijuana law, HF 600, passed the state House of Representatives last year and its accompanying bill in the Senate, SF 757, would erase criminal records for certain marijuana offenses and amend marijuana-related criminal penalties. But it won’t be able to reduce the disproportionate arrest rates for minorities compared to whites, an issue that goes beyond marijuana legalization, Bemis said.

In Colorado, estimated searches by the state highway patrol fell by more than half after that state’s 2012 legalization of recreational marijuana, but search rates remained significantly higher for blacks and Hispanics from 2013 through 2015, SAM’s Jones said.

Jones said overall arrests of African Americans in Colorado actually rose from 2012 to 2018, possibly because marijuana lowers inhibitions, lowers the ability to make good decisions and increases confrontations with police.

Recreational marijuana stores, as in Colorado, also tend to be disproportionate in areas where marijuana demand is higher, with higher poverty rates and a greater number of alcohol outlets, indicating that when owners choose where to locate dispensaries, Jones said. They traced the data to low-income and minority neighborhoods.

The true good rooted in justice is fair enforcement, Hamilton of the Millennium Challenge Corporation said. He said that legalizing recreational marijuana – removing accountability – is a fair solution to disparate enforcement between races that goes against the Catholic Church’s teachings about human flourishing. “Because it suggests that our society is unable or unwilling to apply our laws fairly and therefore the only solution is to allow vice,” he said.

Minority business development?

Critics say the results have also been disappointing in efforts to involve minorities in the industry as farmers, distributors, and shopkeepers. In Illinois, which passed recreational pot in 2019, the cannabis lottery system was renewed and expanded last July to include more “social equity applicants” after it emerged that no majority of marijuana businesses are black, Latino, or women-owned, due to a failed system. Registration.

While percentages vary from state to state, minorities across the country own less than 10% of all businesses in the marijuana industry, Bemis said. In Colorado last year, 2.9% of marijuana businesses were owned by blacks, 7.7% by Latinos and 83.7% by whites, he said. According to U.S. Census data released in October, in 2019, approximately 18.7% of U.S. employer firms overall were minority owned.

Bemis said that even if minority ownership increases, it is not a good idea to own it, unless the owner seeks to sell the addiction. “You get repeat customers,” he said.

Attempts to include minority ownership of a marijuana-related business in HF 600 will also fail Minnesota, said Bemis, 68, a Minneapolis entrepreneur who has been involved in digital programming and marketing of addiction recovery programs.

The bill would create grants and loans through nonprofits and other organizations to help “social equity seekers” grow, distribute and sell marijuana. These applicants may include people who live in areas with a poverty rate of 20% or more, or that have experienced a disproportionately large amount of cannabis enforcement.

But starting a business costs a lot of money. Bemis said loans and grants can run out quickly. He said because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, banks are not eager to get involved.

“The problem is that their (many startups) have run out of money,” he said.

In the marijuana industry, this field is often left to large corporations and private investors. He said that large companies often take on presumed names that are difficult to trace, enlisting a minority to enter the deal and then take control of the company.

Over the past two years, the state has seen recreational marijuana legalization, a rise in crime, a larger black market for marijuana and other drugs, and an increase in psychosis and other mental health conditions, said Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois. But with pot sales of $1.9 billion and tax collections on those sales totaling more than $560 million, there’s no political will to talk about rationing costs, he said.

“All these things together are not in the interest of society,” he said. With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. “We’re just giving them another outlet,” he said. “It is not good for the public good.”

Marijuana and Church Teachings

This is the second in a four-part series on efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in Minnesota. These efforts have been opposed by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, which argues, among other things, that drugs fuel addiction, exacerbate mental health problems and increase the risks of drug driving. However, the move to legalize is part of a national trend that now has 19 states with recreational marijuana.

The series opened in the October 14 issue of Catholic Spirit with an article about the MCC’s opposition to recreational marijuana and its neutral stance on medical marijuana, which has been legal in the state since 2014. The story also addressed some of the policies involved. A second article outlined the ethical underpinnings of the Catholic Church’s opposition to recreational marijuana and other drugs. The third item was the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Assistant Bishop Andrew Cousins ​​on April 15 about recreational marijuana at the Millennium Challenge Center Catholics at the Capitol event in St. Paul. (Bishop Cousins ​​was ordained bishop of Crookston on December 6.)

Future series installments will explore the ways in which major alcohol and tobacco companies are investing in the push to legalize marijuana, and after the 2022 legislative session, review efforts to legalize cannabis in Minnesota and what that might mean for the future.

Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a series on the legalization of recreational marijuana. the first story It appeared in the October 14 edition.

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