How times have changed. The money behind the New Big Tobacco, marijuana, realizes that they cannot incarcerate young Black men and boys as they had in the past. Instead, the New Big Tobacco now seeks to incarcerate the minds of young Black men and boys through altered states of being high.

And since high-potency marijuana is damaging to the brains and health of our children and adolescents through the age of 25, the New Big Tobacco and its allies can damage the health of young Black children and adolescents. The same people who counsel society on public health and the need to vaccinate, social distance and take other precautions during the ever-present Covid-19 pandemic are championing recreational marijuana. Their credulity is severely undermined by their work to get our children and grandchildren high on marijuana.

Some have been persuaded to sacrifice the public health of our children and adolescents with promises of great riches to be had by opening up cannabis stores in communities of color in general and Black communities in particular. Federal banking rules will be changed to facilitate this scheme to get rich. Marijuana will be taken off the federal drug list to launder the pain that pot addiction represents. There will be ten-percent set-asides for minority–owned pot shops.

“Hooray” they say! Profiting on the pain of our young. High potency marijuana increases paranoia and anxiety among the young. Suicidal ideation, or thinking about killing oneself, increases for a particular age group of young women six-fold. The gray matter of an adolescent brain does not fully develop until about age 26. Cannabis alters the size of the young person’s gray matter permanently. Some thinking functions get transferred from the damaged part of the brain to not-as-damaged parts of the brain.

Why does one take any chance with the health of our Black, Hispanic, white, Asian and other youth? To the “science is real” dogmatists, why do you think the American Academy of Pediatrics is dead set against pot for our young? It is the science. It is the data. Does the story “As Pot Legalization Spreads More Teens are Lighting Up” sound familiar to the reader? And now we are encouraged to open pot shops?

The New Big Tobacco will try to get our children and grandchildren hooked on pot with cannabis strands such as “Girl Scout Cookies.” To facilitate their deceit, there are edibles in the nature of gummy treats to mimic those delicious gummy bear sweets from Germany. Maybe they can get your children hooked with pot-laced brownies? Disregard the infants that will be rushed to emergency rooms for ingesting brownies and gummies, focus on the damage to the health of our children and adolescents through age 25.

The New Big Tobacco is so intent on incarcerating the minds of young Black men and boys that in Connecticut they examined past arrest and conviction rates for drug offenses in particular neighborhoods so that they can place Black-owned cannabis shops in those exact neighborhoods, thereby assuring the incarceration of the minds of children and adolescents in these communities. How cynical.

Life is a gift. We should be grateful for every day, as no day has been promised us. Instead, the New Big Tobacco, its allies and facilitators inside and outside of the Black community, are working to get as many children and adolescents to use this poison for the young by locating it right where they live. Should the suburban customers not like the price of licensed and taxed pot, the New Big Tobacco will have some young men of color selling unlicensed and untaxed marijuana and other hallucinatory drugs around the corner at a lower price, thereby exposing these sellers to prosecution as the tax man is unlikely to sit idly by while potential revenue for the always-hungry state goes uncollected.

Prison and sentencing reform and recreational marijuana are two separate issues with the former able to be addressed without getting our children and grandchildren to smoke and consume high potency marijuana. W.E.B. DuBois wrote of the Talented Tenth of Black lawyers, doctors, engineers, professors, business owners leading the Black community to a better future. At no point would Mr. DuBois have countenanced addling our children and adolescents on a mind-altering drug.

In the 1970s there were advertisements by the United Negro College Fund to solicit contributions towards the tuition and schooling of young Black students. The tag line of the ads was that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Today, some have decided that the minds of our children and adolescents through the age of 25 can be wasted in exchange for riches for the few for selling marijuana. How sad.

It is not too late to block these cannabis shops from being established in Black neighborhoods. It is not too late to question the strategic aim of putting shops specifically where the minds of children and adolescents can be incarcerated in altered states. Please stop this madness. Repeal the legalization of recreational marijuana for our children and adolescents through age 25 and beyond as children watch and mimic what the adults do.

Peter Thalheim is a Stamford delegate to the CT NAACP biennial conference at Foxwoods on October 22 and 23. This commentary is his personal opinion and in no way reflects a position of the Stamford NAACP branch or any other NAACP organization.