Legalizing Pot Is A Good Buzz, But Bigger High Is Social Justice

By Joe Garofoli
San Francisco Chronicle

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Californians go to the polls to vote on legalizing marijuana, there is something to keep in mind about what has happened so far in Colorado. As Joe Garofoli points out, “A central argument for marijuana legalization has been that people of color are disproportionately subject to pot-related arrests, even though they don’t use the drug more than whites. Legalization was supposed to even out the arrest rates, but that hasn’t happened in Colorado.”

DENVER

Many Californians will vote to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use Nov. 8 because — hell, yeah! But many of the rest of us are hoping for a longer, deeper high from legalization. We’re hoping it brings some social justice.

That benefit of legalization, I fear, is being a bit oversold in California. Ask Candi CdeBaca. Legalizing pot hasn’t started to solve decades of inequities in her neighborhood because not enough people there have made social justice a priority.

CdeBaca was born and raised in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood of Denver, a poorer, predominantly Latino neighborhood. It used to be an industrial hub — the Purina pet food factory is still open nearby — and there used to be a cabinet-making plant across the street from where CdeBaca grew up. But like in many big cities, a lot of those industries moved away, leaving behind empty warehouses. Then Colorado legalized marijuana for adult recreational use in 2012.

“A lot of the progressive people here, we thought legalization would impact us favorably,” CdeBaca told me. But CdeBaca, who is the executive director of Project VOYCE, Voices of Youth Changing Education, thought it would bring jobs to a community that desperately needed them.

On paper, the industry delivered. A Denver Post survey this year found that Swansea — because of its low rents, vacant warehouses and zoning laws friendly to weed businesses — had one of the highest concentration of cannabis businesses in the city.

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