In a recent op-ed piece for The Guardian, Reverend Al Sharpton announced his support for Decode Cannabis, a new non-profit working to educate Americans on the importance of decriminalizing cannabis. Sharpton explains that the issue of cannabis decriminalization is a civil rights issue, with prohibition laws disproportionately enforced against minority and low-income Americans ever since their creation in the 1930s.
“For Democrats and progressives, the arguments have always been clear: generations of Americans, overwhelmingly people of color, have been imprisoned and starved of access to higher education, housing, and economic opportunities, and stripped of their inalienable right to vote thanks to non-violent acts,” Sharpton wrote. “Archaic drug laws have fueled wasteful government spending, and made millions of Americans who dream, achingly, of being their family’s breadwinner dependent on the charity of others.”
Sharpton describes Decode Cannabis as a “powerful new alliance of faith leaders, criminal justice reformers, healthcare practitioners, medical marijuana industry leaders and labor unions.” The reverend notes that while “these groups have labored toward shared goals” for years, they “have too often done so in their respective silos.”
According to the Decode Cannabis website, the group is working to set up “a national mobilization effort to educate Americans on the social benefits of a federal mandate removing Cannabis from the Schedule I.” The organization “will support important issues in the industry such as decriminalization, inclusion, women and minority business, civil rights, research, caregiver/patients rights, workers’ rights, safety & testing and responsible advertising.”
Still, Sharpton is not naive about the difficulties in pushing continued cannabis reform in the face of our current administration.
“This initial coalition is impressive, but it is not enough to succeed. At least not on its own,” the reverend wrote. “To notch proactive policy wins in the Trump era, we must not retreat to the comfort of those [who] share our viewpoints. We must enter the lion’s den – even uninvited – to confront and cultivate the prospective allies who will mutually benefit from this cause.”
The success of the cause for cannabis decriminalization will “determine whether or not the next generation of black Americans, Latinos, immigrants, and yes – the ‘white working class’ – fall victim to same racist and classist drug enforcement policies that brought oppression on their parents.”