Affirmative action for drug pushers? (I say yes)
By Scott Sumner
I’m not a huge fan of affirmative action programs. It’s not obvious to me why a Hispanic-American should be favored over an Italian-American when the fire department is hiring workers. But there is one type of affirmative action I can support—helping former drug pushers. Here’s the Economist:
[F]or a state seen as a Petri dish for socially liberal policy, California’s new regulations are notably progressive. For a start, they allow residents convicted of drug offences that would not be crimes under the new order to have their records expunged. Between November 2016, when Proposition 64 was passed, and September 2017, 4,885 Californians petitioned to reduce or void their convictions. Donnie Anderson, chairman of the California Minority Alliance, which champions people who have been harmed by drug criminalisation, applauds this initiative. “In the past, if you were white and caught with marijuana you would be let off. If you were black or Latino, you were not,” he says. A study by the American Civil Liberties Union, an advocacy group, found that between 2001 and 2010 African-Americans were more than three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as white Americans, despite similar consumption rates.
California’s law also allows those convicted of past marijuana crimes to enter the cannabis industry. Jolene Forman of the Drug Policy Alliance, a pressure group, says this is ideal for two reasons. First, it allows people who have been operating black-market cannabis businesses to become legal. Second, it gives people harmed by the war on drugs the chance to profit in the legal cannabis industry.
Better yet, former drug pushers will be given priority in some cities
In Los Angeles, residents with past marijuana convictions will not only be allowed to buy licences to sell the drug, but will be given priority. Under the city’s “social-equity programme”, low-income Angelenos who have previous marijuana convictions or who have lived in areas with disproportionately high rates of arrest for marijuana offences will be given preference when licences to open marijuana retail businesses are granted. Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento have introduced similar initiatives.
Given how drug pushers have been persecuted over the years, it’s about time we provided some compensation.
As a candidate, Trump promised to leave the marijuana question up to the states. In his confirmation hearings, Jeff Sessions promised not to make marijuana a priority for federal law enforcement. It turns out that all of those promises were meaningless.
PS. Also check out this Tyler Cowen post.