America is in the middle of a "green rush," as states across the US legalize marijuana, letting people finally grow and sell the drug legally for recreational and medical uses.
But there's a big problem: This green rush is, by and large, disproportionately shutting out black Americans as a result of racial disparities in the war on drugs, leaving many unable to participate in the legal pot market, from growing to selling.
Over at BuzzFeed, Amanda Chicago Lewis wrote a phenomenal in-depth look at why this is the case. You should read the full story.
But here are two charts, one from Vox and one from BuzzFeed, that help demonstrate why black people are left out of the legal marijuana industry:
1) Black people are disproportionately likely to be arrested for drugs, even though they're not more likely to use or sell drugs
2) States prohibit people with criminal records from participating in the legal marijuana industry
The short of it: Throughout the war on drugs, black Americans have been more likely to be charged, arrested, and convicted for drug possession, even though the research shows they're not more likely to use or sell drugs. And since states by and large prohibit people with criminal records from participating in legal pot markets, black Americans are disproportionately likely to be left out due to criminal records that, paradoxically, often reflect actual experience in growing or selling marijuana.
But it doesn't end there. Lewis explained for BuzzFeed:
Even without a criminal record, black people looking to get involved in legal weed face major obstacles. Sarah Cross, the chief operating officer of Green Rush Consulting, estimated that it takes at least a quarter of a million dollars to start a legal marijuana business. After centuries of systemic discrimination in housing, employment, and education, black Americans are far less likely to have or be able to raise that kind of money. Small business loans are out of the question, because banks are insured by federal agencies, and the federal government still considers cannabis illegal.
In other words, systemic racism and racially disparate policies, such as the war on drugs, have had such a grave impact on black communities that even attempts to reverse those policies have left black people behind.