There is a good AP story about how initiative 71, the marijuana legalization measure on the D.C. ballot, puts racial justice issues front and center in the drug policy debate. Unfortunately, it allows opponents of the measure to get away with claims that are simply not based on facts. The piece concludes with:
Some voters remain skeptical of legalization out of concern that marijuana is harmful to young people. Leaders of an anti-legalization group known as Two Is Enough D.C. argue that District residents already suffer enough from drinking and smoking, and don’t need another legal drug.
“Where are the liquor stores in D.C.? They’re in the poorer communities; they’re in the communities of color. There’s more cigarette, tobacco advertising in our community,” said Will Jones III, the group’s lead organizer. “Marijuana has been used to unfairly target our community. Nevertheless, to say that if we have it legal, that’s going to deal with the problem, I don’t understand that logic.”
Actually, if we look at the data we see that D.C.’s liquor stores are not concentrated in poor communities or minority communities. Based on figures from D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration we see liquor stores are spread relatively evenly across the entire district and there are in fact slightly more liquor stores in the whiter and more prosperous parts of the district.
Wards 2 and 3 are the wealthiest and have the greatest percentage of white non-Hispanics. While wards 7 and 8 are the lowest income and have the largest percentage of African-Americans resident. Wards 2 and 3 have more actual liquor stores and grocers licensed to sell beer and wine than wards 7 and 8.
|Wards||Population 2010||Liquor Stores||Beer and Wine Grocers|
It is perversely ironic to see a drug warrior trying to make up facts to claim it is the drug policy reform groups that are part of some plot to hurt minority communities. The racist motivations behind our first drug laws are well documented. Studies have proven how economically devastating the drug war has been to black men, and data shows our marijuana laws continue to be enforced in an extremely racially biased manner.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy
Photo by Mike Licht under Creative Commons license