America is in the midst of an attempt to right the wrongs of its past. Ending racially motivated police violence and creating equal opportunities in employment and education have become major priorities for the socially and politically conscious in the last several years.
Marijuana legalization and regulation might sound at first like an issue separate from racial disparity, but some cannabis advocates are saying the two are very closely linked. TV host and philanthropist Montel Williams says that marijuana and racial injustice go hand in hand, according to Extract.
“If I can give you guys one thing today, I need you all to take this away: You need to become voracious, knowledge-seeking animals when it comes to cannabis,” Williams said in the keynote speech at the Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo in Fort Worth, Texas. You can listen to the whole talk here.
“Why is marijuana illegal? Anybody know?” asked Williams. “Marijuana was made illegal not because it was a drug. It was made illegal because of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. And why did that happen? People like William Randolph Hearst and DuPont.”
Williams went on to detail the history of cannabis prohibition in the country, which he says was the result of major textile and paper companies feeling threatened by the hemp industry. These businesses passed anti-marijuana laws, the TV host contends, by playing on racial bigotry in white society at the time.
“The biggest reason they stated that marijuana needed to be illegal, was because marijuana made white women want to have sex with the ‘n’ word and the ‘s’ word,” he said.
The 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was far from the last time that America employed drug laws that unfairly targeted minorities. Books like The New Jim Crow and groups like Black Lives Matter have tried to fight mandatory sentence drug laws which many contend create a system where minorities have been forced into lives approaching second class citizenship.
Williams has been a vocal marijuana advocate since he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999.