White House Releases Report Acknowledging Racism Endemic to Marijuana Prohibition

As a part of President Obama’s effort to draw attention to and address problems with the criminal justice system, particularly racial inequalities, the White House released a report acknowledging that marijuana prohibition has contributed to racial inequality.

The report, which discusses obstacles to success for disadvantaged youth, notes that “A black individual is nearly four times as likely as a white individual to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though black and white individuals reported using marijuana at similar rates.” The statistics were drawn from an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) study.

Entitled “Economic Costs of Youth Disadvantage and High-Return Opportunities for Change,” the report was published Executive Office of the President.

Also detailed in the document is how a criminal record — even for a minor offense — can permanently alter someone’s economic future:

“Not only are over a million young boys and men of color missing from their communities, but when they return, the legacy of a criminal record follows them. Formerly-incarcerated and other justice-involved individuals face ongoing barriers to employment after release, including a lack of safe, drug-free housing; lack of job placement assistance; loss of aid eligibility; lack of other networks and forms of support; and legal barriers to holding certain jobs. Additionally, ex-offenders face additional scrutiny from employers. Only about 60 percent of employers in one survey said they might consider hiring an ex-offender.”

In addition to commuting the sentences of 46 prisoners incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses on Monday and speaking at the Philadelphia NAACP on Tuesday, President Obama performed an interview with VICE News at the Federal Correctional Institution, El Reno in Oklahoma on Thursday. This makes him the first sitting president to visit a federal prison.



Photo Credit: Brad Clinesmith

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