North Carolina Panel Urges Cannabis Legalization

The North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice has urged the state to legalize cannabis in order to achieve racial justice.

Marijuana legalization has been occurring at a lightspeed rate in this past month, during which Madison in Wisconsin, Argentina, and five states in the U.S. have legalized cannabis in some form, with Israel and Mexico preparing to do the same in the near future.

This is hugely beneficial from several perspectives, beginning with the libertarian perspective, which is that marijuana users will no longer be criminalized for what they choose to consume. Then there's the medical perspective, in which those suffering from ailments such as anxiety and insomnia will be able to access less-addictive, cannabis-based medicines, in addition to those who suffer from ailments such as epilepsy and Parkinson's, whose conditions can be greatly improved through medical cannabis use.

Lastly, are the economic benefits, most recently exemplified in Illinois, who recently surpassed half a billion dollars worth of cannabis sales since the state legalized cannabis in January this year.

However, as we've covered previously, the War on Drugs was initiated through a largely racial lens, the reverberations of which can still be felt today, with African Americans still arrested at a disproportionate rate to other races despite having a similar level of cannabis use.

The issue of race has been closely intertwined with the War on Drugs, and this is precisely what the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice seeks to rectify in their calls for the state to legalize cannabis.

North Carolina's Attorney General Josh Stein, who also announced the Task Force, has spoken on the proposed changes, arguing that "you cannot talk about improving racial equity in our criminal justice system without talking about marijuana."

"White and Black North Carolinians use marijuana at similar rates, yet Black people are disproportionately arrested and sentenced. Additionally, it is time for North Carolina to start having real conversations about a safe, measured, public health approach to potentially legalizing marijuana."

According to the Winston-Salem Journal, "63% of people [in North Carolina] convicted of simple possession of marijuana last year were non-white, even though people of color are only 30% of the population — and research shows that marijuana use is at roughly equal percentages among Black and white residents,  Earls said."

As it stands, the possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana risks cannabis users a fine of up to $300, and any higher amount of cannabis could land users in prison for 45 days.

North Carolina's new Taskforce is co-chaired by North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.