As many of us were freely enjoying our Memorial Day weekends, Dequantes Devontay Lamar was arrested for possession and intent to distribute marijuana, along with five of his associates. In the music world, because we doubt this is how his grandmother refers to him, the 27-year-old is known as Rich Homie Quan. Whether you’re a proud Stan or simply can’t stand him, it’s worth understanding why the possibility of a 30 year jail sentence for the rapper is incredibly troubling.
For starters, the criminalization of pot speaks to truly antiquated attitudes about the drug. Twenty five states states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form. Eight of those states, including D.C. will allow you to use it for recreation without a doctor’s prescription. Meanwhile, as funding for social services remains in a consistent state of flux, do you know how much the United States has spent on the ‘War on drugs’? One trillion dollars.(Yes, “trillion” with a T.)
Another important fact: half of this country’s drug arrests are for marijuana possession, with Blacks being 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for it. If that doesn’t sound like obvious evidence of racism, consider places like Lawrence, Pennsylvania, where Blacks make up less than 5% of the population but are a whopping 10 times more to be arrested.
Considering the ways that arrests and incarceration hurt families and job prospects, one may wonder why states continue to advocate for the criminalization of weed? Why on earth would someone want to funnel Black, brown and poor Americans into a system of mass incarceration? Racism, bigotry, the $74 billion dollar business that is private prisons? Hmm, what COULD it be?
As Rich Homie Quan prepares for his day in court, suburban white women come out of the closet as “pot moms,” facing little more than social repercussions and the legal marijuana industry continues to grow without adequate inclusion of the Black folks who have been most harmed by efforts to keep it off the streets, be reminded that the old “no justice, just us” adage often remains true.