If Connecticut legalizes recreational marijuana, it is the black community that will suffer most.
I understand that lawmakers are facing massive budget shortfalls, and naturally want to find a way to generate more revenue.
But when it comes to marijuana, we have to weigh the potential profit against the victimization that drugs target.
The cost in this case is our safety, the health of our children, and our efforts to fight addiction and mental health struggles. These costs will be felt across our state, but the pain will be strongest within black communities.
Our communities have a history of facing greater challenges. We see large achievement gaps when it comes to education. We struggle to address mental health and substance abuse. And while increased funding often goes to our cities, it doesn’t always make it into our communities and classrooms. Money isn’t always the answer either, especially when it comes to marijuana. The more marijuana sold may mean the higher the profits, but it also means more users, more abuse, more danger, more distraction for our youth, more addiction, and the list goes on. In Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, the state spends $4.57 for every $1 in marijuana tax revenue to pay for the services needed to combat marijuana’s effects.
For generations we have struggled to address the societal issues caused by drug use in our communities. Encouraging the use of drugs will not bring us any closer to resolving those issues. It will not end the pain of addiction. It will not end the illegal drug sales that will occur to compete with the state-run market. It will not end the violence our children experience and the danger on our roadways or on our street corners. It may make the state richer in the short term, but will also make problems in our community worse. Even if that money comes to our cities, it could never pay our families for the harm to our children and the community that legalization will cause.
Yet at the State Capitol, in a rush to get support from legislators in our cities, lawmakers are proposing what they see as incentives for legalization. For example, in exchange for marijuana legalization, we’ve heard about proposals to wipe records clean for those convicted of drug crimes. We’ve seen proposals to encourage people to set up marijuana dispensaries in our cities. And we’ve seen proposals that give those responsible for spreading drugs in our communities, the same people convicted of crimes that often involve violence, a leg up by allowing them preferential treatment to get licenses to sell marijuana before everyone else.
While these “carrots” – as some may view them – have been offered, the end result is more drugs in our cities. More addiction, more safety threats, more problems.
Jesus was sold out by Judas in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. What will be Connecticut’s price?
Whatever it is, our communities will be the ones paying.
Rev. Bruce V. Morris
The writer is Associate Minister at Macedonia Church, and a former state representative for Norwalk’s 140th district, which includes South Norwalk.