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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cannabis Prohibition
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington D.C., United States of America. Photo by Brian Kraus

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cannabis Prohibition

The federally marked and historically important Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day is here again.  Generally lining up with Dr. King’s birthday on January 15th, it’s the third Monday of January, which happened to be on January 21st of this year.

One man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired an entire revolution of nonviolent protests. His impact helped lead the country towards racial equality. Leaving a massive impression on society, we take this day to honor and celebrate the progress we’ve made so far and make plans to continue that progress and finally reach Doctor King’s dreams.

Dr. King’s echo even today in modern day society and politics, dipping into cannabis prohibition and touching on other critical subjects for the country as well. Statistically, over the years, there has been repetitive evidence indicating an unfair targeting in cannabis-related arrests for the minority community.

Jeff Sessions decided to rescind the Cole Memo in January 2018, causing the racial equality conversation to rise-up once again within the cannabis industry.  The Cole Memo, in question, ensured cannabis prohibition would not be enforced using federal funds in states that had the plant legalized.

This was an Obama-era provision that gave reassurance to business owners and entrepreneurs that retained stringent compliance across the board to legally cultivate, process, sell, and possess marijuana. This provision, being rescinded, threatens now years of determined effort and legal battles to legalize marijuana to the extent it’s been legalized.

We look at a quote from the late Dr. King and note how it can be applicable today:

“In any civilized society, it is every citizen’s responsibility to obey just laws.  But at the same time, it is every citizen’s responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

Following the U.S. Attorney General’s decision to rescind the Cole Memo, cannabis consumer’s rights are at stake across even the states where the plant has already been legalized.  The layer of protection the Cole Memo offered from federal scrutiny for laws where the plant was legalized recreationally has now been threatened, altogether removed.

To date, 29 states have cannabis legalized for medicinal purposes to some degree.  10 states have legalized cannabis recreationally, as well as the District of Columbia.

This current change inspires cannabis consumers, business owners, entrepreneurs, and those that care about providing cannabis medicinally to patients that need it to write to their state representatives, fight for what they believe in, and get active in their community.

On this holiday, we reflect on whether Dr. King would have condoned cannabis.  A Christian pastor, some may question if he had conservative values to the point that he didn’t condone it.  However, knowing the racial bias cannabis-related arrests have throughout the country and understanding that it’s a victimless crime in the states that prohibit it make us believe he would’ve supported the cannabis movement.

Though Dr. King was never interviewed on his stance for cannabis prohibition, he did call an end to racism across the country.  It’s not a leap to say he would have support cannabis reform and legalization given the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition towards minorities.

In 2014, the U.S. was spending $40 billion annually on the war on drugs, with a focus on cannabis.  This $40 billion spent annually sentences low-level drug offenders – which are disproportionately communities of color – to time behind bars.

These numbers also found that Caucasian individuals were 13 times less likely to be imprisoned for a drug-related crime than an African American individual.  At a much higher rate, Hispanics, African Americans, and other minorities are stopped, searched, arrested, charged, and convicted for drug-related offenses.

This is still happening in the U.S., today, even in states right next to states that have the plant legalized statewide.  An injustice of this magnitude shouldn’t be tolerated anymore. It took one decade to end alcohol prohibition, but cannabis prohibition has lingered federally, sinking its teeth on the reputation of cannabis and hiding its benefits for far too many decades.

Something must change – and it starts with the end to marijuana prohibition.

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