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Lost Boys, Invisible Men: Racialized Policy Feedback after Marijuana Legalization

Nyron N. Crawford
PAQ, Vol. 47 No. 3, 327-346 (2023)

One benefit of legalizing marijuana in the United States was that reform would end racial disparities in law enforcement and the negative effects of the so-called War on Drugs. However, the communities that have been most harmed by cannabis prohibition are benefiting the least. Apple-esque weed dispensaries now operate as legitimate storefronts while Black men, specifically, continue to be punished for past marijuana-related crimes. Yet, the research to-date has not paid sufficient attention to this emergent problem—that policy change predicated on reducing racial disparities has not sufficiently addressed past harms of prohibition. This paper takes a conceptual approach to explore and adapt theories about how justice-involved individuals might become alienated after reform. It begins by exploring data from the Black Voter Project (BVP) to explain Black support for legalization of marijuana, then provide a critical policy analysis on how current reforms have the potential to exacerbate racial inequality among Black men.

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