The cannabis prohibition traces back to the early 20th century when a combination of factors, including racial prejudice and economic interests, led to the demonization of cannabis. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act effectively criminalized cannabis, setting the stage for decades of aggressive law enforcement against its users. The consequences of this prohibition were felt disproportionately by marginalized communities, particularly people of color, who were unfairly targeted and subjected to harsh penalties.
Cannabis prohibition took a devastating toll on countless individuals and communities across the United States. Families were torn apart as loved ones were incarcerated for non-violent cannabis offenses. Lives were derailed as criminal records hindered educational and employment opportunities. Communities suffered as resources were diverted toward policing and prosecuting cannabis-related offenses rather than addressing more pressing issues.
The War on Drugs, which included cannabis prohibition, disproportionately impacted communities of color. Arrest rates for cannabis offenses were significantly higher for Black and Latinx individuals despite similar usage rates among racial groups.
As we commemorate October 5th, we reflect on the journey towards cannabis legalization and acknowledge that while progress has been made, the work is far from over. Many states have embraced cannabis reform, but disparities in cannabis policies continue nationwide.