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Getting High is a Civil Right

James Forman Jr.’s book Locking Up Our Own, which won a Pulitzer prize this week, shows how plans to decriminalize cannabis to help black people were derailed in Washington, D.C. in 1975, by black people.
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Elaine Thompson/AP

On April 7, Maryland’s legislature finally agreed, after months of haggling, on a cannabis bill that is designed to increase the diversity of companies licensed to grow, process, and sell medical cannabis. The state’s first round of cannabis licenses included not one African-American company, which caused Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus to protest. The African-American state legislators forced Gov. Larry Hogan to at least study racial disparities in the emerging cannabis market, to keep hope alive for a new bill that would help cannabis entrepreneurs of color into the pool of licensees. Ensuring minority ownership in the state’s medical cannabis market is one of the Black Caucus’s priority agendas this year.

“It’s a billion-dollar industry and we’re not going to allow that to start up and flourish in Maryland with no African-American participation,” said Black Caucus chair Del. Cheryl Glenn in The Washington Post. “Especially given the history of the incarceration of African Americans over the years because of marijuana. ... That’s ludicrous, and it’s unacceptable.”