REEFER REDRESS: USING THE RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY AS A VEHICLE FOR REPARATIONS TO VICTIMS OF THE WAR ON DRUGS

For decades, people of color have been disproportionately policed and incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. Today, as marijuana becomes recreationally legal in more and more states, and as white people have begun profiting from the very thing that many African Americans are still serving time for, more and more civil rights activists have begun to advocate for the implementation of some kind of reparations program for the victims of disproportionate drug policing.

While the idea of cash reparations is still opposed by most Americans, two of the more promising possible alternate methods of providing reparations to victims of the War on Drugs are intentionally prioritizing African Americans for legal marijuana dispensary licenses and earmarking a portion of taxes on the sale of legalized recreational marijuana into a fund specifically for reparations. Given the success of the reparatory equity programs in both Oakland, California and Evanston, Illinois, an ideal reparatory marijuana equity program would be a combination of these two programs. Such a hypothetical hybrid program would provide reparatory justice to those in need using the funds generated by a tax on recreational marijuana sales while favoring equity applicants for marijuana business licenses. Since this program would avoid using a racial classification on its face, it would be analyzed—and likely upheld—under a rational basis review against a challenge brought under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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