North Carolina is ignoring an opportunity to hugely increase its income and help its most vulnerable citizens.
North Carolina could increase funding for public education, safety programs, law enforcement training, mental health services and substance abuse programs. States like Illinois have proven this is possible through the legalization of marijuana.
The American Civil Liberties Union found that African Americans are about four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in North Carolina, despite similar usage rates. Though African Americans make up 22% of North Carolina’s population, they make up 50% of the people arrested for marijuana possession. Racial disparities in marijuana arrests have not improved over the last eight years, and in some areas, they have worsened.
The U.S. used the war on drugs to target communities of color, leading to huge numbers of people incarcerated for nonviolent crimes but with no decline in community crime. Not only would legalized marijuana boost public funding, but the tax revenues from sales could also be used to cover the administrative and expungement costs for communities of color and help undo historical wrongdoings from the war on drugs.
Marijuana could become our new cash crop, replacing tobacco. Tobacco gives big payouts to tobacco companies but otherwise does not help the citizens of North Carolina. Just with the approval of hemp growth and sales, N.C. farmers have seen large increases in income, and some rely less on tobacco. Marijuana would bring even more income for farmers and our state as a whole.
North Carolina needs to take this opportunity to help itself prosper and care for its citizens by simply catching up with other states and legalizing marijuana. The potential public funds could help North Carolina make sure all of its communities have access to services they need.
— Brittany Borras
Editor’s note: A 2018 report by the Center for American Progress notes that crime rates have declined since 1990 and that incarceration has a negligible effect on public safety.