Racist cannabis arrests put Black Americans at higher risk of Covid-19
The US’s war on drugs has plagued its communities of color for decades. As Michelle Alexander and Ta-Nehisi Coates have written, the program of drug enforcement and mandatory prison sentencing since the 1960s picked up where institutionalized racist practices such as Jim Crow and redlining left off. Jail sentences cut off access to basic freedom, and criminal records locked people of color out of opportunities for access to basic necessities, whether an education, a job, or an apartment lease.
Now, as Covid-19 ravages overcrowded facilities unequipped to handle the pandemic, those jail sentences are increasingly becoming death sentences. The New York Times has traced hundreds of thousands of cases, and seven of the top 10 coronavirus clusters it identified originated in prisons and jails. As of June 9 the Times counted at least 64,000 people infected in US jails and prisons, where at least 589 inmates and workers have died.
Even as cannabis reform sweeps the nation, offering Americans access to state-regulated cannabis-infused gummies and designer vape pens—and entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell them—poor people are still behind bars for possessing or selling the plant. Statistically speaking, there’s a very good chance those people are Black.
Read the rest of this story on qz.com. Become a member to get unlimited access to Quartz’s journalism.