As legalization of marijuana continues to be debated on the campaign trail, Hartford City Council held a forum this week that focused on the effects that legalization can have on marginalized communities.
While medical marijuana is legal in the state, recreational use is still prohibited. At the Wednesday night forum, city councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez called for an end to marijuana criminalization, as a way to help marginalized communities.
“This prohibition has ripped a lot of families apart, denied our people the same economic opportunities as other more affluent communities and so, it is our entire hope, as a legislative body that these forums can ensure policy changes that will be recommended,” Bermudez said.
Rachelle Yeung, a drug policy expert, said that future legalization has to recognize the past impact of drug policies.
“It is an absolute farce to talk about an equitable industry while men and women of color continue to sit behind bars for doing an activity that wealthy white corporations are being enriched over,” Yeung said.
The ACLU finds that blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, yet black people are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Yeung believes that erasing criminal records is important in addressing the unfair justice system and cites California’s model as an ideal one.
“Expungement is a part of the legalization law in California. They have expungement and resentencing written into the state law” Yeung said.
Hartford City Council will hold an additional cannabis forum on August 29.