Decriminalizing Marijuana Will Make Our Communities Safer

Congressman Troy A. Carter, Sr.
Congressman Troy A. Carter, Sr.

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced an alarming rise in drug abuse, violent crime, and other indicators of collective trauma. Sadly, many of my constituents feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods. And they have good reason.

According to NOPD, carjackings are up 47 percent between 2021 and 2022. Homicides are also up more than 51 percent as compared to last year – with more than 80 since the start of this year. Instances of violent crime, drug abuse, and homelessness are reaching crisis levels.

These are extremely pressing issues that urgently need law enforcement and public health resources devoted to them. We need all the support possible to help prevent, intervene, and apprehend violent criminals and their weapons and we need them now.

One tactic that can help is to stop wasting precious resources on marijuana offenses. 

In this period of crisis, law enforcement simply cannot afford to chase and imprison small time pot dealers while violent and random crime are on the rise nationwide. The ACLU issued a report finding that states waste over $3.6 billion annually enforcing cannabis laws. This is money, time, and effort that would be better spent investing in true community safety.

Not only is it far too costly, it is out of step with our country’s values. Americans overwhelmingly support marijuana decriminalization, with 91% reporting that they believe marijuana should be legalized. Cannabis is already legal for adult recreational use in nine states. In Louisiana, and 20 other states, we have legalized medical marijuana

We need to get our priorities straight and focus on public safety, social justice, criminal justice reform, and equity in policing. That’s why last month, the House of Representatives passed the MORE Act, which would federally de-criminalize cannabis for adults, advance historic criminal justice reform by expunging cannabis convictions, and open new opportunities to prosperity for minority-owned cannabis businesses and for the many who have been negatively impacted by cannabis criminalization. This legislation now awaits action in the U.S. Senate.

Despite reform laws passed in 47 states, including Louisiana, the enforcement of federal cannabis criminalization continues to disproportionately harm Black people and people of color. Further, it prevents many from accessing the benefits of the legal cannabis marketplace. Black people and people of color are four times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges – and are often targeted for longer prison sentences. Because prior cannabis convictions bar many individuals from entering the cannabis industry, nationally only one-fifth of cannabis businesses are minority-owned and only four percent of owners are Black.

The war on marijuana is a costly relic of the past whose only true outcome was negatively impacting Black communities and communities of color. We must make the right call, end the racist war on marijuana, and refocus our law enforcement efforts to where they matter most: fighting violent crime.

Congress is long overdue in marijuana reform and decriminalization, but we still have to pass this bill in the Senate and have a long journey ahead of us to achieve true social justice and criminal justice reform. We must ensure that even as we depend upon law enforcement to help keep us safe, we expand on what that means for our communities who historically have not felt safer by police.

President Biden has proposed a budget that puts more police on the street for community policing and hires more agents. It funds body cameras, crime prevention, community violence intervention, drug treatment, mental health, criminal justice reform, and reentry for people coming home after incarceration.

Even during this concerning surge in crime, we must continue to expand accountability and transparency measures within the ranks of law enforcement to protect our communities from misconduct or violence from those who have sworn to protect and serve. Let’s rebuild a sense of public safety that keeps everyone safe and holds bad actors accountable

We have big challenges ahead, that’s for certain. However, we can make progress today and help our nation learn from the mistakes of our past by decriminalizing marijuana and building towards a safer and more equitable tomorrow.

Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *