What the bill does is take one step towards addressing the War on Drugs, which for decades profoundly impacted the Black communities Thalheim is so concerned about. Concern would have been constructive in 1971, when President Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs, which legalized measures such as mandatory sentencing – actual incarceration – and no-knock warrants.
To be clear, this was a war on Black people: their bodies and their communities. Just one year later, a commission recommended decriminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana, but Nixon rejected those recommendations.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan doubled down. As Jay-Z stated in his visual op-ed “Drug dealers were monsters, the sole reason neighborhoods in major cities were failing. No one wanted to talk about Reaganomics and the ending of social safety nets, the defunding of schools and loss of jobs across America.” As a result of this discriminatory policy, America imprisoned more people, mostly Black and brown, than any other country.
Thalheim should also keep in mind that centuries of denying Black people their basic human rights through polices such as Jim Crow and redlining have prompted calls for reparations and course correction. The decriminalization of marijuana and the legislation that established the Social Equity Council is an affirmation of the devastation the war on drugs has had on these communities. The work of the Council is about more than prioritizing the localities of cannabis establishments. It’s about reinvesting in the communities that have been most impacted, through workforce development and entrepreneurship, so a young Black man can see revitalization in his neighborhood, not devastation and a lack of opportunity. It also makes the cannabis market, which will exist regardless, safer and less harmful through education and regulation.
Thalheim seemingly has no problem with the industry prior to the passage of this bill, an industry that is dominated by men who look like him, not the young Black men for whom he now speaks. Opportunities for entrepreneurship in any sector should not be limited to the privileged few.
Finally, I hope Thalheim will be as open to hearing from Black people as he is speaking for them when he attends the CT Conference of NAACP Branches convention this weekend.