Satan to murder. What foes have wrong about marijuana and Ohioans can get right with Issue 2

Dan Malchesky is a Fisher College of Business student at Ohio State University specializing in finance and economics.

With “yes” votes on Issue 2, Ohioans have the ability today to not only legalize the recreational use of the drug but significantly impact the criminal implications many already endure.

Since medical legalization of marijuana in Ohio, over 60,000 individuals have been arrested in the Buckeye State on cannabis-related offenses.

In addition, the FBI Crime Data Explorer was able to compile that police made well over a quarter million marijuana arrests across the country last year.

Dan Malchesky

President Joe Biden has expressed his opinion on marijuana reform stating, “Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

Suddes:Anti-weed Ohio lawmakers can kill legal marijuana even if voters approve Issue 2

This is all very true as African Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white individuals further highlighting the issue of racial disparity in the criminalization of this drug. However, none of these issues are new. Cannabis has been racially associated and criminalized dating back to the nineteenth century.

History of racist marijuana policies.

Prior to the early twentieth century marijuana was a fully legal cross-border import.

By 1890, the marijuana hemp plant had replaced cotton as a major cash crop in the southern U.S. states.

However, the level of intoxicant was low at this time until the early 1900’s when a revolution in Mexico forced many to flee to America bringing cannabis with them.

Mexican migrants introduced the practice of smoking cannabis leaves in pipes and cigarettes leading to many states prohibiting the plant.

How weed was linked to Satan, murder, jazz and Black and brown people.

Ohio voters are deciding it adult-use marijuana should be legal here.

The term “marijuana” was a Spanish term employed by Harry J. Anslinger in replacement of the word “cannabis” to purposely associate the drug with Mexican immigrants.

Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, consistently used racial strategies to press his anti-cannabis beliefs onto other Americans.

More:Will ‘reefer madness’ take over Ohio if Issue 2 is approved? What did it do to Michigan?

Anslinger’s anti-marijuana campaign did not hold back the use of racially motivated remarks exclaiming, “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use.”

Due to its medical uses and profitability, the ban of cannabis was hesitant leading up to the 1930’s.

In the end, Anslinger’s campaign was successfully capitalized using a key piece in the illegalization of marijuana, Licata Killings of 1933. Victor Licata, who was claimed by officials to have a marijuana addiction, did not have marijuana listed in his psychiatric reports or reported traces in him at the time of the killings.

However, Anslinger coerced the story of these killings to Congress successfully achieving his motive and passing the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act effectively illegalizing marijuana in the United States.

In a 2022 report responding to the growing discussion of the legality of cannabis, the NAACP believes “Redressing America’s Racist Cannabis Laws,” cites Anslinger’s capitalization of “racialized fears” in passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.”

How do Ohio feel about weed now?

Today, support for legalization in Ohio differs vastly by age, religion, and political party.

The Baldwin Wallace Community Research Institute reported “majorities across most demographic groups support Issue 2”, including 66% of Democrats, 50% of Republicans, 59% of independents, and 71% of respondents ages 18-49. With a recent majority showing significant signs of support towards the bill, 2023 could be the year it passes. 

As Ohio awaits the passing of Issue 2 certain laws and regulations that come with the legalization of the drug will later be determined.

There are currently no social equity provisions beyond the 15% set aside for minority-owned businesses that were subsequently struck down in court. The Ohio State Moritz College of Law elaborates on the proposed initiative for an act to control and regulate adult use of cannabis, “The initiative includes establishment of the cannabis social equity and jobs program in the interest of remedying the harms resulting from the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana-related laws.”

Marijuana grows in the Cresco Labs medical marijuana plant in Yellow Springs, Ohio, on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

In addition, The Moritz College of Law has researched marijuana’s impact on arrest rates concluding,  “legalization lessens the absolute number of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system overall, more needs to be done to specifically address racial disparities.”

Exemplifying states such as Washington, marijuana arrest rates among people over 21 fell dramatically after legalization of marijuana possession and rates stayed at similar levels following the opening of the retail market, as released by the National Incident Based Reporting System.

All drugs are abused.

The question we should be asking ourselves is, how do you regulate the abuse, protect the public, and not charge taxpayers for the problem?

Regardless of the passage, the problems still exist.

Individuals everyday are experiencing a set-back in employment opportunities, housing, and education due to barriers that the criminalization of marijuana has set. 

Dan Malchesky is a Fisher College of Business student at Ohio State University specializing in finance and economics.

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